My turn for a tantrum
My oldest child is currently going through the "terrible twos". Within an alarmingly short space of time she has morphed from an engaging, affectionate little girl into a screaming, stubborn brat. It's as if she's got a TripAdvisor list of the 10 best locations in which to antagonise her parents, and top of that list are supermarkets, cafes, play centres and doctors' waiting rooms.
Even my tried and tested method of prefacing every instruction with the promise of Jaffa Cakes is proving less than foolproof. We're late for everything because she refuses to leave the house without putting her coat and shoes on herself; she's developed a habit of going rigid when I try to put her into a car seat; in the past week alone, I've forcibly removed her from at least four public places, alternately telling her off and promising her everything from sweets to a kitten if she'll just get in the car.
"It's as if she's deliberately thinking of new ways to annoy us," my exhausted husband said.
"Why would she do that?" I replied, trying to look puzzled. Mr Brighouse is one of those rare people who went straight from being a calm, good-natured child to being a calm, good-natured adult, whereas I devoted large sections of my childhood to tormenting adults. I think karma might finally have caught up with me.
"I'm hoping it's just a phase," I told a friend. "After all, this is normal at her age, isn't it?"
"Yes," she replied. "Then you get the terrible threes, then all the school problems, and then you have rebellious hormonal teenagers who live on the internet and only come out of their rooms to grunt at you."
I gulped. Is this the new pattern of my life? Am I destined to spend my days battling children in the classroom and my evenings battling with my own kids? Do I have to spend the rest of my existence modelling good behaviour, a stoical beacon of calm, goodness and virtue against which rebelling children can crash and learn?
Being a role model is exhausting. No wonder you hear tales of teachers losing it from time to time. It doesn't help that it's clearly OK to throw off the role model status the minute you are promoted out of the classroom. Those who wield power over teachers are free to lose their temper at will and speak to staff in a way that would never be tolerated if we tried it on students.
Maybe my toddler's got the right idea. She may have the self-control and moral compass of an Italian politician but at least her reactions are honest. Next time a suit with a clipboard asks me to show hard evidence that 31 children made substantial progress during the 20 minutes of my lesson that he deigned to watch, I might respond by throwing his clipboard on the floor and stamping on it before retreating under my desk for a lengthy scream. And, for the record, I wouldn't be enticed out by anything less than a grovelling apology and a whole packet of Jaffa Cakes.
Jo Brighouse is a primary school teacher in the Midlands