Thirty-Nine Things Guaranteed to Cause a Four-Year-Old Meltdown

This is basically a companion-post to The 30 Things Most Likely to Give Me Parent Rage.

I’m pretty lucky to have a naturally easy-going small boy. We rarely have tantrums, and he lives in fear of the words “One… two…three!” (completion of the last word equalling the apocalypse/having to go to bed/related disasters).

But being pretty lucky doesn’t mean I don’t have to deal with some fairly ridiculous fits of rage, tears or snot. (And in one particularly fantastic case, the furious shouting of the words “Bummy bum!!!!” at me. It really stung once I’d stopped laughing.) After his tiring first two weeks of school, I’ve collected some pretty good melt-down guarantees that needed sharing…

  1. There’s no nutella left.
  2. They’re the wrong socks.
  3. He wasn’t holding his sleeve yet.
  4. He forgot to hold his sleeve and it’s now halfway up his arm under his coat.
  5. He asked for a green cup.
  6. It’s bedtime and he’s hungry.
  7. It’s bedtime and he’s hungry and mummy won’t let him have a biscuit and he doesn’t want bread and butter and he’s starving and he might actually starve and mummy doesn’t care.
  8. There are biscuit crumbs all over his bed.
  9. Someone said “Shhh.”
  10. There’s a hair in his mouth.
  11. There’s a hair somewhere on his hands that he can’t find.
  12. There’s a hair somewhere in the room that he’s pretty sure is going to come and find him.
  13. He wanted to be the first one downstairs.
  14. Peppa Pig is taking too long to download.
  15. I didn’t download enough Peppa Pig episodes.
  16. There isn’t time for more Peppa Pig.
  17. It’s bedtime.
  18. I selfishly tried to walk on the pavement next to him and not through several bins, which stopped him being able to walk along the train-track stripe of tarmac the whole way down our road.
  19. He didn’t want to be tickled any more.
  20. It’s time to tidy away the lego.
  21. A small lego brick won’t come off a larger lego brick.
  22. A small lego brick came off a larger lego brick when he wasn’t ready and is now somewhere in the region of the sofa but he isn’t sure where.
  23. I told him to put his own shoes on.
  24. I didn’t listen when he explained that he was too tired to put his own shoes on this morning.
  25. I put his shoe on wrong.
  26. There’s a label in his pants.
  27. His seat-belt has a twist in it.
  28. He was about to open the door.
  29. He didn’t want to close the door behind him as well as open it.
  30. I shouldn’t have told him it was his fault because he doesn’t like it when it’s his fault.
  31. I told him to go to sleep after he told me not to say that, and that means he won’t play with me again, and if he won’t play with me again then he’ll be unhappy, so I’ve just made him unhappy forever.
  32. It was time to stop building a sofa-cushion fort.
  33. Someone tidied away his sofa-cushion fort.
  34. Today’s attempt at a sofa-cushion fort wasn’t as good as yesterday’s one that got tidied away.
  35. He wanted me to do his seatbelt.
  36. He only wanted to do his seatbelt once today.
  37. I shouldn’t have told him to get dressed because it made him go and hide under the table and then he banged his head and it was all my fault.
  38. There are bits in his yoghurt.
  39. It’s still bedtime.
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How Not to Travel With a Four-Year-Old

I used to love travelling. I’d feel lighter and better the moment the train pulled out of the station or the plane lifted off the tarmac, and I’d look forward to it with almost as much enthusiasm as the holiday. I guess it was time off in my own head, while the scenery changed and I had an excuse to drink forty-six cups of tea and eat so many pastries I would be ashamed to write it here. I used to write on trains (imagine – actual WORK).

Then the Beast arrived in the world.

To be fair to him, he isn’t even a very beastly beast. He’s more a nerdy beast, or possibly just an average small boy who’s picked up the habit of verbalising everything from his mother. But fairness is totally not the point of this post. The point is that my little oasis of travel-euphoria is now a frazzled, constant-noise-surrounded gauntlet of irritation and the urge to have a paddy/cry/steal all the pastries and barricade myself into the first class compartment using suitcases.

So travel is now always exhausting. It also involves too much luggage. It also also involves the word “Mummy” being said at least once a minute for the duration.

But this particular lot of travelling was impressively aggravating by anyone’s standards. Setting off on a complex jaunt around the UK and Ireland – made harder by having got a tiny cut on my foot really infected so I was walking like a half-decomposed Walking Dead extra – things went badly.

Small beginnings

It started with the ham sandwich. Such a small thing; but of such small beginnings are the moments of greatest strife created. (I’m thinking the Garden of Eden, the Siege of Troy, and maybe One Direction.)

I bought R a ham sandwich before we travelled. I thought he was going to eat the fecking thing right then and there. Instead, he chose to have a mouthful and then put it back in its small plastic box “for later.” Now this would have been fine had there been a single spare inch of room in our over-packed luggage for a ham sandwich in its small plastic box. Obviously, however, as anyone who has ever travelled with me will know, there was no room. You couldn’t have squeezed a pepperami into our suitcases.

So with a rucksack on my back, a handbag over my shoulder, two coats and R’s discarded cardigan over my arm and wheeling a suitcase whilst limping, I then had to carry a partially-eaten ham sandwich that R said he would definitely, definitely want later.

Now there is a rule to luggage that it gets more unwieldy the more times you put it down and pick it up again. By the time we were getting off the airport train, I was already struggling, and so I did the standard thing and said, “Gosh, do you think you’re strong enough to carry some of this stuff?” and was rewarded by R climbing over the suitcases and picking up the ham sandwich before getting off the train.

At that point, it was still funny. Ham sandwiches can be, for a while.

But that feck-bollocky sandwich never left us. It came with us through security (R got it its own box for the scanner, just in case). It came with us through duty-free where I had to talk R out of buying everything he saw as “a present.” I tried to leave it at the check-out but the “helpful” assistant ran after us with it, so it was still with us as we tried to find tiny shampoos and “a comic with a stethoscope” in Smiths. It came with us to the loos, where the only thing to do with it was balance it on a suitcase I’d had to wedge behind the door of the cubicle to fit luggage plus two people in, and which R became quite distressed about as it was “too close to the loo.”

By the time we had forty minutes to go, I’d spotted the champagne bar and was equally keen on sitting down and drinking to forget the ham sandwich. I might add that R had failed to eat any of it after four askings, despite apparently having enough room if I bought him the world’s largest toblerone or a bag of toffees. I figured we could both sit on the swivelly-chairs at the fizz bar and I’d do the drinking (self-sacrificing mother that I am). But R had different ideas. After a I perched on one of the high chairs, he sat mournfully on the ground beneath it next to our luggage. But R can do better than that. He waited until the waiter had poured me a glass of the cheap stuff and offered a plate of olives, and then with full Oliver Twist anguish held up the half-eaten ham sandwich and said, “Please may I eat some now, Mummy? I’m really hungry.”

I could see the people in the next seats staring at me, so I tried to come off not as a drink-obsessed, neglectful, selfish ass of a parent as I smiled at him and said, “Of course you can! Would you like an olive as well…?” (In retrospect, that second one probably didn’t help the yummy-mummy idiot image.) He shook his head, so I considered myself safe to focus on the champagne for a second. That was, until I heard a tiny, sad little voice from beneath me say, “I can’t open it, Mummy.”

I would have turned around to sort the sandwich out pretty quickly even if I hadn’t felt the steady gaze of those people next to me. I mean, I’m not mean, and R does heart-broken child in a lip-trembling way that would make Simon Cowell weep. As it was, I spun round and stepped down in one lightning-fast manoeuvre… and stepped on the fecking ham sandwich. 

I didn’t just catch it with my foot. I stood right, plumb in the middle of it with a decisive squelch.

I knew even as I felt it happen that there was no way it wouldn’t look deliberate. A hush fell over at least the nearest five feet of people, and honestly, if I’d cackled, “That’s what you get for interrupting my drinking, you child-scum you,” I don’t think they could have looked more like they wanted to call social services. R, naturally, pulled an absolute blinder at this point. He could have welled up; he could have had a tantrum and returned me to the unhallowed ranks of parent-with-difficult child. But no, R instead opened his eyes wide like saucers, flinched backwards, and said, “Sorry, Mummy.”

The situation was essentially unsalvageable, but I tried valiantly by asking R if we should go and get those toys we’d looked at for him, now we’d had a rest. I was still throwing the champagne down as we legged it, and I pretended I couldn’t hear someone calling after me, until it turned out it was the waiter, who was chasing after me to get the glass back.

“I’m so sorry. Wasn’t thinking,” or something equally squirmy left my mouth. He gave me a cold nod as I returned the empty glass – and then pulled out his trump card from behind his back.

“And I think this is yours,” he said, presenting R with a crushed ham sandwich in its little box.

“Thank you,” R said, taking it sadly as if it were his favourite pet and not a cheap ham roll.

“Aww, should I get you another one?” I asked him, feeling pretty bad about the whole thing as the waiter returned to his bar.

“No, I’m going to put it in the bin,” R said, with a sigh. “I didn’t like it.”

Don’t forget to like the post if you enjoyed it, and if you’d like to read more, follow the blog for all the ridiculousness it contains. Similar posts include The Thirty Things Most Likely to Give Me Parent Rage, The Eight Most Embarrassing Things My Three-Year-Old Has Said, and A Week of Imaggling: Or Five Days of Trying to Get a Four-Year-Old Out of the Door. 

You can also find Gytha on Facebook and Wattpad, and as @thegyth Twitter when she occasionally thinks of something to say.