Belle went out for lunch yesterday for a friend’s birthday and afterwards they went into town to browse Poundland for hours and laugh at pigeons or whatever it is young people do nowadays. When I picked her up she was a little over-excited; a mix I suspect of the coke she had with her pizza and the thrill of being in town with someone other than her mother.
She immediately started to tell me about this toy she had seen in Wilko.
“It’s amazing!” she trilled. “It’s a tiny basketball hoop inside a ball and every time you get the ball in it cheers. I really loved it!”
“Well that sounds lovely,” I lied.
“Can we go back and buy it?” she asked. “I didn’t want to get it without asking you as I didn’t know if you would think it was a waste of money.”
This made me a teeny bit sad. Am I really that controlling that she won’t spend £3 without my approval? And if so, why won’t she do the dishes without me practically having to twist her arm up behind her back?*
I suspect the answer to the first question is yes. I do have a rather unattractive habit of believing that my thoughts and opinions are right and that people really should listen to me if they want to do things properly. I am bossy, (school reports called me a ‘natural leader), and often overly critical. It makes me a bit of a pain to live with sometimes, a fact I am well aware of, and yet often I really just can’t help it. I couldn’t tell you the number of times we’ve gone into a shop, I’ve told Belle she can spend her money on whatever she likes, and then sighed and raised my eyebrows as she has presented me with a succession of plastic shite.
This is the sort of conversation for example that happens in my head if someone doesn’t do the dishes to the standard I would like them done, which is ironic as I don’t think I generally do a very good job of them myself:
‘Ergh, there is still food on this plate. Don’t say anything though, just say thank you. But then how will they know they haven’t done a good enough job? They don’t need to know, what they’ve done is fine. Is it though? Wouldn’t I be doing a good thing by pointing out the mistakes so that they can do a better job next time? No, just shut up, why do you have to criticise everyone all the time? I just want to help! No you don’t, you want to feel superior, just keep your mouth shut and be grateful someone has washed up for you. OK, you’re right, I won’t say anything.’
And then I do anyway, like some sort of Tourette’s style tic that builds up until I can’t hold it in any more.
“I’m just going to pop back this plate back over here for another wash,” I say, sounding, in my effort to be casual, like a pompous ass.
Then I hate myself for a few minutes. Then I do it all again next time.
Back to the story…
“It would get me interested in sports,” Belle said, clearly still trying to justify the spend, “and it cheers every time you get the ball in so it would be good for my self-esteem!”
(What have I created?)
“It sounds really fun,” I said, faking genuine enthusiasm, “let’s go back to the shop and get it now.”
She looks excited and surprised. “Are you sure? I won’t get it if you think it’s a waste of money.”
“It’s your money to spend how you like,” I reassure her, “let’s go.”
And so we do. And I smile throughout, metaphorically punching the voices in my head in the face.
How much control do you have over how your children spend their pocket money? More importantly, do you ever have conversations in your head like mine or am I just a freak?
*I would never actually do this. How would she wash up properly with only one hand?