Monday, 16 March 2009

In which the Beast is back

Fingers wishes to send me to an early grave at the moment. He would not express it quite like that, I imagine. He probably wouldn't say anything, he would just stare blankly in mute defiance whilst feeding the dog a battery.

I don't talk about Fingers as much as Lashes, do I? That will be one for his psychiatrist to try and unknot in a few years time at my expense. I think about him quite as much, if not more, but in general our relationship is very serene, and rarely causes me much anxiety. He is funny and self-assured and stable. I think he's fundamentally All Right. What do you know about Fingers, so far? He is five and he believes he is a parrot. He is extremely secretive, orderly and verging on obsessive compulsive; an odd mix of exuberant and very, very careful. What I have not told you in that on occasion he is replaced by a shrieking satanic demon. The Beast.

This first happened when he was 11 months old. From one day to the next, our cheery blond baby learnt the art of the screaming rabid tantrum, coupled with rhythmic banging of his head against the nearest hard surface. For about a year thereafter he was unbearably cross - attacking his brother, hurling himself to the floor at the least imagined slight, terrorising his peers. The CFO and I were aghast at the monster we had created, if not entirely surprised. We combine a fine set of argumentative, bloody minded, stubborn, aggressive genes. They were bound to come back and bite us.

I was quite scared of him for most of that time, and we were only able to function at all if I made myself permanently available to appease his moods with Carrs Melts whenever the imperious cry of "CRACKER WAITING" rang out. We were living in an open plan flat at the time and the Beast would stagger menacingly over to the kitchen, wrap its small fists round the handles of the biscuit cupboard, fix me with a hard stare and terrify me into submisssion. If thwarted, the Beast's rages were earth-shattering. Often I would lock myself in the loo and call the CFO for moral support as the Beast raged outside the door. This was also the year he perfected 'The Ironing Board', a move he still uses to great effect, making himself flat, rigid and unmoveable on demand. This replaced the headbanging shortly after his mistaken attempt to headbang in the bath. Cue glug glug glug noise, look of intense furious confusion, great adult hilarity.

Somewhere around his second birthday, the fury subsided and the Beast was replaced with a funny small child with gigantic hair. He still had an almighty mutinous streak, and I treated him with a hell of a lot more respect now I knew what he was capable of, but acts of outright war seemed to dry up. Cautiously, we got on with living. I no longer needed to have a cracker in easy reach at all times.

Since then the Beast has meandered in and out of our life with great unpredictability. Right now, it is back. This weekend the Beast tried to cut Oscar's tail off with a very small pair of scissors. Later the same day, I heard muffled noises and came into the room to find the Beast sitting, implacable, on a struggling weepette. "FINGERS!" When taken to task, the Beast goes mute and indifferent. It shows no remorse. You will not hear the word 'sorry' pass the Beast's lips. Rather death than dishonour.

The Beast rivals Kafka in its sinister absurdity. Yesterday I made chicken. The same chicken I usually make.

"I will not eat this" intoned the Beast, thrusting its plate away with exaggerated disgust. "It is viande. I am waiting until you give me chicken".

"It IS chicken, Fingers".

"No, it is viande".

"It's chicken, I promise. I cooked it. It said chicken on the packet. It's chicken".

"No. It is viande. I am waiting for chicken".

Against my better judgment, the CFO muddied the waters.

"Chicken is viande". Fool.

"No. This is viande. I am waiting for chicken".

"Look Fingers. Look on this plate. That looks like chicken doesn't it? Well, that is where your chicken came from"

"That is viande. It is all viande. I am waiting for chicken".

"Shackass. Can you deal with this? He's beaten me. I'm going to lie on the floor of the loo and practise whale song".

He could rival an on-message politician on Newsnight in his single minded determination to be right. The Beast has a will of steel, and is willing to go to bed rather than eat "viande". If I am Neville Chamberlain faced with the Beast, always looking for the face-saving solution, the CFO is not. He fights wilful with wilful. Mexican standoffs are the norm. There is roaring. There are ultimatums. The house resounds with the menacing strains of "Je vais compter jusqu'à trois", a phrase the Beast interprets as a declaration of war, requiring full Ironing Board manouevre. The Beast is manhandled to its bedroom, fighting all the way, hooking its cloven hooves through the bannister and hanging on for grim life to impede our progress. It retires bloody but unbowed, unsullied by the demon viande. The adults require hard liquor.

Again, this morning.

"Fingers, cornflakes or Rice Crispies?"


"No, you can't have biscuits for breakfast. What do you want?"


"No. Not biscuits. What cereal do you want?"




"Shackafuckingjezusemann I need a cup of tea. Call me when you want your breakfast"


"Then what?"

"Papa cereal"

"We don't have any. Rice Crispies or Cornflakes?"

"I am waiting until you get me papa cereal [ndlr Chocolate Weetabix Minis, rare and precious. None left.]"

"We don't have any. It's 7 in the morning. The only place they sell papa cereal is 4 miles from here".

"Lashes can go. I am waiting until you get me papa cereal"

"YOU ARE NOT GETTING PAPA CEREAL. What do you want for breakfast?"


"RIGHT. If you don't want to eat you can put your clothes on"


"YES". Emma attempts to carry the Beast up to its bedroom in full Ironing Board. The Beast writhes and shrieks and hooks its arms and legs around stuff to impede her progress. By the time they get up two flights of stairs, everyone is exhausted. It is 7am.

In an odd way, I sort of like the Beast. I like the way the Beast does whatever it damn well wants. Look how small it is!

Often I look down while the Beast and I are locked in mortal combat and I am just astonished by how small it is. Small but deadly like one of those Honey Badgers. Lovely Beast. I am giving you a cautious pat, wearing thick protective gloves.


Hairy Farmer Family said...

Ah, crap! I think I have one of those, too.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Madame, I used to have one of those - And when he was at that age, I found myself firmly rooted on the other side of a door, gripping onto the handle, while HisBeastship raged and fomented like one possessed, rattling the handle on the living room side.

It does get better... and he will possibly be even more of a handful when he's a teenager dwarfing you, when neither you nor the CFO can man-handle him into his room, ironing-board style, any longer...

Just a thought... (...and I know you do love him!)

Liberty London Girl said...

Sweet mother of God. Although your children do look adorable & are worth every ounce of struggle, how you do it I will never know. All before 7am. LLGxx

mothership said...

One appears to have morphed, overnight, from adorable blonde, blue-eyed affable angel into the Beast's spiritual doppleganger. He has smelled two approaching and revolted.
I am toast.

Jessica K said...

My angelic middle child does this on occasion, had a bad year of it when he was 4 and we moved twice. He bangs his head on surfaces or becomes immobile, frowns, folds his arms, his face goes blank, he doesnt speak.
I keep him from hurting himself but dont even try to match wills with him unless I have no choice, I walk away until he is himself again.
It is all the more shocking because he is my sweet sensitive child. Maybe all the goodness and quietness becomes too much and everything comes out in a cinema worthy rage?

Cassandra said...

OH MANNNN!!! This is the bloody thing, isn't it? We TRY to get them to eat fruit and veg, don't we? But what they want is f*cking sausages and biscuits. NO ONE would believe that we've TRIED, would they? BUT WE HAVE, oh yes we have!

Z said...

I learned appeasement with my third child who was, for a while, impossible. At the same time my daughter was a teenager. As a result, I discovered that you give in at all reasonable times. Since I had to win all battles, I'd only enter into one if it was worth the effort.

Now, my grandson is occasionally impossible. When he is, I walk out of the room - or if he's a danger to others, put him out of the room. There's no reasoning with him and I'm too old to get cross.

I also know that every stage, lovely or evil, is grown out of.

katyboo1 said...

Yup we have one that is still a beastess and a small beastlet in training whose lip extends so far he looks like one of those tribal people who put plates in it.

Oddly the only one to do the ironing board was Tilly. I just used to put reins on her and then carry her about like Tom Cruise floating above the floor of the Vault in Mission Impossible. Can't imagine it would work on a five year old though, unfortunately for you.

pinklea said...

DD still has rages, and she is 21. It's still hard to deal with, but at least now I can leave the house at those times, safe in the knowledge that she will probably not set fire to it or seriously harm herself. After all, her audience is gone!

Zed said...

Like the time he strapped himself to some woman's leg in Animal Express thinking it belonged to you and no matter what the CFO said, he simply wouldn't believe that that wasn't your leg. Q and I dying from laughter probably didn't help.....

Halfwaythere said...

OMG Zed, I did that to a woman I thought was my mother when I was about 4. The sheer stomach dropping horror I felt when I finally looked up and it wasn't her (same/similar trousers) I still remember decades later.

I think, with hindsight, I was probably a bit of a Beast(ess). I definitely remember the carpet against my cheek and banging the floor quite hard with a tiny fist: it's real shame it's not really acceptable in polite society. Would be v useful when dealing with the truculence of a french postmistress, for example.

WV: colarnic.
Sounds painful.

tragicanon said...

oh sounds tough you poor thing.. looked after my sister's middle child once, he had a fondness for bricks and other throwable objects.. i could deal with that though, i had prepared myself for that.. what my lovely sister didn't tell me is that he also had a tendency to throw himself backwards 'in' his high chair when presented with food not quite to his exact standards and preferences, hence what is now only referred to as the 'broccoli-mash-incident'.. it involved the only ambulance i have ever had to call in my entire life - exciting stuff!

Mrs Trefusis... said...

Mr Trefusis and I are sitting side by side, he on the big computer, me on the laptop, both roaring with laughter. I look up to see why Mr T is laughing so hard only to find him reading your blog too. He's still laughing. I'm a faster reader, but the memory of what I've just read still has me in stitches. xxx

softinthehead said...

OMG ....I have no advice for you but much sympathy - I am relieved to say we didn't have one of those!! :) I sounds exhausting.

Kitschen Pink said...

Oh he sounds so cute! I just love it when children do this power struggle stuff. Shows a bit of gusto in their characters! Enjoy! (alternatively leave the room &/or put yourself to bed!) t.xx

Ali said...

I have one master 13 and one master 3, both part beast. Master 13's beast is going through metamorphosis - soon to be full-blown teenage beast. Not pretty.
Master 3 also asked for biscuits for breakfast this morning. Snap.

Lisa said...

You killed me with this! I laughed so hard until I remembered The Actors days of hitting the dirt and similar rages. Thank goodness they have stopped as he matures. Well, perhaps stopped isn't the correct term. It's more like lessened? Softened? Become less physical and more verbal with something akin to momentary lapses where he can only uses his mother's favorite word.

Wife in Hong Kong said...

Heartfelt sympathy. I think we all have a beast in us. I certainly feel like Fingers' beast at times.

Solo said...

That was so cute..;D
Hope to see more from you..;D

Mud in the City said...

I think it is time for your Empress quote now....

Bath Bun said...

I recognise that, but I call mine the Lawyer. He pursues his point or demand to the death irrespective of any logical, sane, or even reasonable explanation to the contrary.

Jaywalker said...

HFF - be brave. They have many redeeming features.

Woman - since he never eats, he remains pixie sized, but you are right, it can't last. Yikes.

LLG - badly. With very poor grace. And lots of swearing.

Mothership - arm yourself with crackers and prepare.

Jessica - wise words. Not engaging is the only way to emerge unscathed.

Cassandra - frankly, I'd prefer a biscuit to chicken breast or rice crispies too.

Z - I totally agree, but the CFO is of the shock and awe persuasion. Makes for very noisy evenings.

Katyboo - the vision of the floating MI Beastess made my evening; thank you.

Pinklea - argh. 21 you say?

Zed - yes! And laughter is intolerable to the Beast. It must not be mocked.

Halfwaythere - I wish I could do it too. Just saying fuck a lot and slamming things is less fun.

tragicanon - that sounds searing. Poor poor you.

Mrs T - you are too lovely.

softinthehead - it is quite exhausting. But funny. Soooo funny.

KP - yes, me too. I rather welcome it.

Ali - In Italy biscuits are totally sold as breakfast food. Maybe we should just give in.

Lisa - softer would be nice. I look forward.

Wife - yes. I could be very beastly indeed given half a chance.

Solo - oh yes, plenty more.

Mud - the Empress is foetal now. You must Nurofen her.

Bath Bun - as a lawyer I couldn't possibly comment. But I do not deny paragraph 21.

Persephone said...

Oh gawd. The hurling. I'd forgotten that. Younger daughter used to hurl herself backwards from my lap, which was a very awkward retrieval position, particularly with her feet ploughing into my abdomen.

We've had two shouting-in-public episodes over the past fortnight (twelve-year-old on the autistic spectrum) and I'm left wondering: "Developmental curve? Double mother goof? Hormones?" and worst of all, "Is this the beginning of a permanent development?"

From what I remember of five-year-old boys (and I've had the care of several), this is transitory, to be followed by some equilibrium at six and more transitory hell at six-and-a-half (which we've already discussed).

Mrs C said...

My daughter is wilfull to the point of making me apopletic. We spent the weekend in mortal combat. She is 8 and I can't help but think that this shit is small potatoes before the storm that will be adolescence.


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