Wednesday, 14 December 2011

In which I mislay my temper

There is no evading it – on Saturday evening I was a naughty, shouty Mamma. This is clearly a Bad Thing, since one of the principal justifications of my return to the workplace was that I was becoming altogether too shouty when confined to the solely domestic sphere.

It was also in spite of the fact that Mr B took the little darlings to spend a few hours with their Grandmamma so that I could attempt (largely unavailingly) to reduce the home to some kind of order. A full five months of employment allied to the fact that I have had no time off since early September has ensured that we are running perilously low on supplies of tidiness, energy and meals in the freezer.

The mention of the freezer brings me back to my loss of temper. In common I would say with almost every family in the country, our kitchen affords the usual range of large labour-saving devices, such as electric oven, washing machine, dishwasher. The actual problem with these extremely useful implements is that the short-sighted or childless designers of these goods, for some reason which it is utterly beyond me to fathom, always make them with the controls at toddler height.

Nothing delights the Inexhaustible more than to play a game which I am starting to call ‘Washing Machine Bingo’. The implement has an alluring array of buttons which light up when lightly pressed for the selection of 'optional extras', also a programme-selection dial which you can turn to your heart’s content and which changes the numerical display at each turn. His favourite game is to select a laundry programme using the dial and then to press all the optional extras buttons until he manages to light them all and gets a ‘full house’. The challenge to this is that not every cycle permits one to select all the optional extras. When he manages to achieve a full house, he awards himself a resounding cheer and a round of applause. I admit it is at times entertaining to watch, but there are distinct drawbacks.

I can endure it when a) there is nothing in there, or b) the door is open and the machine will therefore not start. This is with the proviso that in the case of both a) and b), I have nothing else to do and can waste as much as a quarter of an hour watching the Inexhaustible play with the gadget.

I can NOT endure this when a) there is laundry in there or b) when there is laundry in there in the midst of being laundered. Especially if he manages to switch some of our more delicate apparel onto a boil wash. It palls entirely as a form of entertainment when I have anything to do. I must also confess to a degree of weariness at finding various small kitchen implements such as whisks, toys, or completely random articles such as my slippers, deposited in said washing machine, and discovering them only after an exhaustive search of all the sensible places in which a non-toddler would leave them.

With the dishwasher, I will grudgingly admit that it is not entirely the Inexhaustible’s fault. A modicum of fault lies with the machine which is extremely slow and far from efficient. This means that any interruption of its progress can delay everything for hours, if you don’t notice what has happened. The Inexhaustible delights in the dishwasher, particularly in switching it off mid-cycle when Mamma and Papa are busy and won’t notice. The upshot of this particular activity is that when one deluded parent says ‘the dishwasher must be finished by now, I’ll go and unload it’, said parent finds the machine full of dirty crockery, with cold, dirty water undrained at the bottom and no option but to start the whole, aggravatingly slow, process all over again. Once the maddening piece of machinery is in full flow, the Infant Phenomenon will without fail demand a piece of crockery or cutlery which is in the machine in a parlous state of filth.

The seriousness of interrupting either of these household gods in their appointed tasks really boils down to the enormous quantity of laundry and crockery that one family can use in a short space of time and the relentless frequency with which both these machines are called on to do their duty.

As for the oven and grill, with their built-in clock and timer… If I had a pound for the number of times the Inexhaustible has switched the oven on, set the grill to high, set the beeper to silent, changed the time on the clock, reset the timer and interrupted automatic cooking times, I would be an exceedingly wealthy woman. It is wearisome, to say the least.

My one consolation is that he is not yet strong enough to open the door of the freezer and spoil all the food within. It is probably merely a matter of time. However he is strong enough to drag a kitchen chair over to the counter, climb up on it and cause havoc at the stove, or on the work surface with whatever happens to be there. I probably ought to add that after one terrifying moment during which he wielded a carving knife, that no longer includes the knife block.

After a veritable gamut of these activities the other evening, Mamma lost her temper quite thoroughly. I am sure someone will ask me why, as the Inexhaustible is my second child, am I so put about by his activities? Surely I have accustomed myself to the wiles of this particular stage of infancy? The answer to this is that my children are bewilderingly different – of which more anon – and the Infant Phenomenon, like Miss Mary Bennet in Miss Austen’s Pride and Prejudice would 'infinitely prefer a book’.

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