If you’re wondering why I’m so twitchy and nervous at the moment, it’s because I’m currently teaching Harry how to use the toilet. Toilet training is stress on toast. That child’s bladder is a ticking time bomb. I need to maintain a catlike state of readiness at all times.
As Harry is discovering this wonderful world of toileting, he is rediscovering his love of nudity. More often than not, before going to the toilet (or lemon tree) Harry feels the need to remove ALL of his clothing, like he’s wearing some elaborate geisha costume. And he never wants to put them back on again. And it’s the MIDDLE OF WINTER. Sometimes Harry takes all of his clothes off just because he can. I don’t know what he’s thinking: “home time! Time to get naked!”, “Mmmm, this is a great snack, but what is it missing – ah, I know: nudity!”, “I don’t know about you, but I prefer to do my trampolining sans vêtements”
Yesterday afternoon, I was running late to pick up Matilda from a netball party because Annie had done an emergency-nappy-explosion just as we were getting ready to leave. I should say right here, that I could have picked up the phone and asked one of the other mums to give Matilda a lift home, but I resisted. I find it so hard to ask for help. I feel like I’m always the one asking and yet I’m never giving back. Besides, I want them to know I can cope. I don’t want them all to think I’m the crazy lady who had too many children too young. I am Superwoman, don’t you know?
Harry, meanwhile, was feeling very angry at the world and was expressing this anger by refusing to wear clothes. Any attempt to dress this young protester would result in extreme resistance and I had no time. I was already the worst kind of late. The kind of late that imposes on someone else. Someone I’m trying to impress with my superior coping skills. I think that’s when things got a little crazy.
“I’m only taking him to the house around the corner and back home again and he won’t be getting out of the car”, I reasoned, “why not take him as he is?”
I started with some threats “If you don’t hurry up and put some clothes on, you’ll have to go out with no clothes on!” and “I’m taking you in the car whether or not you’re dressed, so you better put some clothes on!” had no effect, so I picked up the young naturist and carried him to the car in a no-nonsense, “right! We’re leaving!” sort of way. All of a sudden, Harry panicked and started shouting “No! No! No!” I smiled to myself. I knew I could outsmart him.
It was as I put Harry down to get his clothes that I realized Harry was not cross at the idea of going out without clothes on, he just didn’t want to be carried to the car. Once I had put him down, this nature child strode happily to the garage, clad in nothing but his birthday suit, and climbed into his car seat.
I’m a great believer in natural consequences when using discipline. Sometimes children need to learn the consequences to their behaviour for themselves and this becomes a learning opportunity. So it was with some vague idea of natural consequences (au natural consequences?) that I strapped a naked three-year-old into his car seat. I draped a jacket artistically across his lap, but he promptly flung it off in disgust.
As I drove to the netball coach’s house, I formulated a plan of attack in my mind. I would park in the driveway and leave the children in the car while I ran to the door to fetch Matilda from the party. She would dash back to the car with me and we’d hightail it home. It would all be over in a matter of minutes and nobody needed to know.
The first thing that struck me as I arrived at the house was that I wasn’t as late as I thought I was. There were still parents arriving and chatting and returning to their cars by walking down the driveway, RIGHT PAST HARRY’S WINDOW. Meanwhile, Matilda was having the time of her life and in no hurry to leave. When I finally managed to extract her with her school bag, lunch box and netball certificate from the party, a group of excitable girls came with her. No sooner had Matilda looked into the car when she announced exultantly “HARRY’S NAKED! HARRY’S NAKED!”
So it was that a gaggle of giggling schoolgirls rushed to the car to behold a self-satisfied Harry smiling shyly with nothing but a seatbelt buckle to cover his shame.
The parents nodded awkwardly as I stammered out a lame explanation and, at the same time, it struck me that nothing shrieks ‘trailer park neglect’ like a small child who’s naked for no good reason.
As I drove off in crimson confusion (I think even my hair was blushing), I was beginning to doubt the effectiveness of ‘natural consequences’. There were no negative consequences for this inappropriate behavior. On the contrary, Harry had thoroughly enjoyed his nude expedition and was probably planning his next one.
When I got back home, I was setting the bath running when inspiration struck. This was always the plan. I am actually so organized that I prepared Harry for his bath an hour ahead of time.
I am Superwoman. That’s just how I roll.