Monday, 30 June 2014

School holiday rules and advice for my children.

Aren't they lovely? Aren't school holidays fun? 
Dear children,

The school holidays have begun.  I know you know this.  You have been counting down the days.  So have I, but in a different way.

We now get to spend lots of time together, which I love and also don't love completely all the time.

I do love that you see me as a bottomless pit of knowledge about the location of your clothing, toys, the finer points of the soccer world cup, the rules of rugby and the exact location and availability status of your friends.  Sadly it's simply not true and I know very little about these things.  I appreciate that you think I do though, it's very flattering.

Furthermore, I don't really like being asked questions about the above subjects continuously from 6:35am until 8:05pm every day.  Just occasionally please think of this and perhaps ask me how I am feeling, or would I like a cup of tea.

Apart from you making me cups of tea, I have decided that holiday kitchen hours are to be strictly enforced.  Once the bench is clear it stays that way until the next meal.  The fruit bowl is always available, so knock yourselves out.  Going into the pantry and stealing muffin bars will only cause you to lose access to TV, or your device, or your next playdate.

Believe me, all the above punishments are just as painful to me as they are to you, so just stay out of the pantry.

We are going to spend the larger parts of several days in a car together next week.  For the love of god, please don't ask "are we nearly there yet?" while we are still in Sydney.  This has happened every time we've ever driven to Brisbane.  The earliest this question has been asked is while we were driving through St Ives, which is 15 minutes from home and 11hour and 45mins from our destination.

To assist us all in getting along, I have put together a few other requests for the next two weeks.  They are simple and achievable, and if followed, will do a lot to make the holidays a pleasant time for all.

1. If you can stand anywhere else but directly in front of the TV screen, blocking it from all other viewers, please do so.

2. If you can choose between giving your sister a headlock as she walks past, and not, choose not.

3. If you really think Issy has hypnotised me into letting her have her own way all the time, please don't tell me.  It just makes me shouty and it's not true.

4. If you ate breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack 15 minutes ago, please don't tell me you're hungry.

5. If possible, please understand that being 'ready to go' means you are wearing appropriate footwear and a jacket (not thongs and a tank top), because WINTER.

6. If you really think that holiday cereal means everyone gets their own box of Coco Pops then I'm not sure which family you've been living in before this?  Because it's never happened and never will.

7. If you want me to play a game with you, please do not suggest Game of Life or Snakes and Ladders because they drive me mad. I will not play imaginary games but will happily help set up a cubby made of sheets.  I will also happily play UNO, Kerplunk, Yahtzee or Monopoly and I will help cook baked goods because I like eating them.  

8. If I tell you to turn off your device, please don't turn on the TV and vice versa.  Non screen time will be strictly enforced so you don't all turn into zombies.  This includes my non screen time.  I know I can be as bad as any of you.

Right, that's it.  A plan for the next 15 days.  May the force be with you all.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Does this count as a parenting fail or is it all in my head?

This.  But more animaly and colourful.
Over the years I've had to prepare and send my kids to many, many activities.  Notes come home, calendars are updated, essential items purchased, tasks are ticked off and we move on to the next.

When they were younger I found kid related activities, especially performances and concerts, very daunting.  It always seemed like a miracle when we arrived at the right place at the right time with the right stuff.

And mostly we did. Of course, there have been a few hairy moments.  

I remember receiving my first note about an end of year dance concert (Sarah was 4 (tiny tot), Josh 2 and Issy a newborn blob who spent a lot of time in her capsule).  I read and reread the instructions about hair, makeup (!) and rehearsal times.  I still managed to stuff it up, and with my 2 year old and newborn, arrived 45 minutes late to collect her from the dress rehearsal at the theatre.

Luckily a kind and very organised mother (her youngest (of 4) was the dancer, so she was all over it) had stayed with Sarah until I arrived.  She didn't make me feel bad at all.  But I was guilt ridden for days.

Over the years, we've done many more dance concerts, band performances, violin recitals, gym comps, choir showcases, sports carnivals and assemblies.  These days I am used to the drill, and on most of these kinds of occasions, I'm hard to rattle.

And after one epic excursion failure a couple of years ago, I've also nailed the school excursion.  And even band camp, which is two nights away, but in early autumn and just up the road, holds no fear for me.  Any forgotten item can simply be lodged with a parent going up for their volunteer shift and all is well.

But now, we have upped the ante.  It's time for school camp. A proper one, far away with no recourse in case of forgotten items or homesickness.

Sarah left this morning for 3 days away.  She is going to Mogo which is very far south, and allegedly very cold.

It's fecking cold here so it must be freezing down south.  I'm a Queenslander, so when it comes to cold, I am a very delicate, sensitive flower.

We took the list supplied by the school.  We packed according to it.  It optimistically suggested we could fit a sleeping bag, pillow and towel, plus warm clothes for three days and toiletries into an overnight bag.  Once the first three items went in, the overnight bag was full.  So we moved to a rolling suitcase.

This allowed Sarah to add her onesie, ugg boots and a stuffed dog.

Because it's cold way down thar, we were also instructed to have beanies, scarves and gloves and a warm jacket.  On the weekend, Sarah and I found a half price jacket/raincoat at Kathmandu we were very happy with.  We then bought a fetching green stripy beanie.  It was also half price.  Bargain hunters.

So at 6:25 this morning we set off to pull the suitcase 50m to the school gates.  10m up the street I ran back for the travel sickness tablets.  20m further on we realised she didn't have a brush or hair elastics apart from the one she was wearing.  I sacrificed mine for the cause.  She wasn't worried and said she'd borrow a brush.

We arrived at school to find UTTER INSANITY.  Children ran and screamed in the half darkness.  Suitcases fell over. Children fell over fallen over suitcases.  Sarah waved at a few friends, but her particular cronies were not there so she stayed with me.  She's like that.  The madness swirled around us and as it did I realised many (not all) of the girls were wearing beanies with animal heads and dangly sides.

Probably half of them had this style of beanie.  Suddenly Sarah's black and green stripy number looked a little dull.

For a moment I was back at a school camp where EVERYONE had green army pants except me.  The feelings of not fitting in all rushed back.  My eyes darted around, counting animal beanies and funky earmuffs.  At least half, maybe a small majority.  Enough for a kid without to wish they had one.

I very briefly considered running back home for Issy's crazy earmuffs.

I also thought about driving to the (closed) chemist.  I wondered if the neighbours kids might have one.

I knew it was pointless.  Sarah (the stoic) pulled on her green stripy beanie, looped her colourful (thank god) scarf around her neck like I'd taught her and said hi to another quiet little soul standing near us.

More animal headed children whirled past.  The teachers started to call for order, Sarah kissed me and went to her line.  She seemed utterly unphased.  I was a mess.  Internally of course.

I kissed her and left.  There was nothing more to do.  She had everything she needed.  There were enough kids with boring hats on.  And she had her onesie so at night she'd fit in with the crowd.

You see, I have PTSD from my camp experience and I think that's what threw me.  But I don't think Sarah cared.  The way she acted, she certainly wasn't going to let a little thing like a boring hat ruin her first camp.

I got home, got on the treadmill, watched last nights Australian Story and cried and cried.  Partly because it was a very sad Australian Story and partly because I simply can't do everything for her like I used to.  And my baby was going awaaaayyyyy...

I really think it was me who was upset about the hat thing.  She may not have given it a second thought.  I won't know til Thursday night.  And by then she'll be so full of news and excitement about her three days away that it will be forgotten.  I hope.

I can tell you this, when Issy goes to Mogo in four years time, she shall have a silly animal beanie with dangly sides.

And no doubt be the only kid wearing one.

Images courtesy of imagerymajestic

Thursday, 19 June 2014

'That parent' strikes again...

What better bridge to use?  I hope Sarah's looks exactly like this one.
So today I became 'that parent' again.   The last time I think was just before Issy started school.

'That parent' hides in all of us.  In fact, some people don't even hide theirs, they're out there all the time.

Now I am not pushy.  It usually takes a stick of dynamite to make me face any type of conflict and when I am forced to, I'm in shock for days, even weeks.

In nearly 7 years at the school, I've probably approached a teacher with an urgent problem five times. And that's for all three kids.

I'm not saying the way I operate is good or bad.  It's just how I operate.  And today it happened again.

This morning is our school's yearly Information Morning.  All the prospective parents for next year come and have a little tour of the school, meet some teachers and watch some of the kids do their thing.  It's very lovely and I remember coming when Sarah was 4 and at preschool and being blown away by the stuff the kids could do.

This year the Concert Band and Senior Choir were performing.  Sarah is in both of these.  She is a big participator our Sarah.  Not a trace of the lazy cynic in her.  I can't believe we actually share DNA.  

Sarah also has Science on a Thursday morning. The science teacher has created much excitement by giving the kids a project to build their own bridge out of craft materials.  Sarah was to build hers this morning.  First thing.  While simultaneously playing in the band.  

To add complexity to the situation, where normally I'd force her to rummage through the house for stray bits of potential bridge material, I'd been at Spotlight the weekend before (disco party purchasing).  So she got lucky.  I was able to purchase her entire wish list of required items.

She has a glue gun with spare sticks of glue (oh what fun!), balsa wood, cardboard, pipe cleaners and goodness knows what else, I may have got a bit carried away.

The squeals of excitement when she saw what I had bought made me feel a little better about what I had spent.

(We also now all have our own set of knitting needles and are knitting scarves.  No scarf has yet made it past two lines before needing to be unravelled. Don't you love Spotlight?)

As I write this I'm realising that I was already financially and emotionally invested in this bridge, which may account for my actions this morning.

(Maybe I should have been a psychologist?)

So, the terrible clash of the science project and the compulsory band and choir performances at the information morning was a situation I was blissfully unaware of until this morning when Sarah came downstairs looking very crestfallen.

In her tragic, seldom used (and therefore very effective), nearly crying voice, told me she wouldn't be able to build her bridge because she had to play in the band and sing in the choir at the info morning and now she'd never get to do it and she'd been looking forward to it soooo much.

Then she sat at the kitchen bench and a single tear rolled down her cheek.  Just one.

Well didn't that just break my heart.  Trying so hard to keep it together because she is a big girl, but still utterly devo.

And out came my inner tiger.  She WOULD build her bridge.  Mummy would make sure of it!

Yes I know many of you are wanting to tell me to 'build a bridge...and get over it'.  Someone has already said it to me.  Yes, everyone is a comedian.  I tried to say it to myself too but I wasn't listening.  I had become 'that parent'.

Up to school I marched.  Saxophone in hand because Sarah couldn't carry her bag, bridge materials and a sax.  And because I'm surgically attached to the bloody thing.

Sounds good but very heavy.  Unless compared to a Euphonium or a Tuba.  
I found her teacher.  She was sympathetic.  They had only learned about the band obligation yesterday.  Science had been planned for weeks.  I said I totally understood.  Was there anything that could be done?  There were at least 5 kids in this situation.

She was totally kind and said they could build bridges in her class after morning tea if they so wished.  She suggested I also saw the science teacher.

So off I went to the science teacher.  Who said they could build bridges with her other year 5 class in the afternoon.

Two very feasible solutions. 'That parent' went back into her box (just a shade annoyed at how little she was needed).

I found Sarah peeping out of the after school care/warm up band room.  Told her.  Face lit up.  Brow still slightly furrowed but that's normal.  Sarah is mostly carefree, but always slightly worried (does that even make sense?)

.  People who have known her since she was a baby will know this face.

Job done. I marched out of school.  I have no idea if any other kids were even worried.  I have no idea if Sarah's class teacher and science teacher think I'm an absolute nutter.

She doesn't carry on much, my Sarah.  So when something upsets her I take it seriously.  I know I have to let her sort stuff on her own, and I'm learning to be hands off with reminders for homework and bag packing.

But that tear just smote my heart.   And I became 'that parent'.

She's back in her box now.  Anyone else had 'that parent' come out lately?

Photos courtesy of M-pix, Simon Howden

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The sleepover party...tick.

Multiple animal cheers.
Sarah turned 11 last weekend.

Up until now, I have avoided the sleepover party.  I would think the reasons for trying to avoid a sleepover party are obvious.  But she has been invited to quite a few, and I knew my time was coming.

It was clear that despite sleepover parties being highly stressful and almost certainly sleep depriving, subject to hissy fits, homesickness and way, way too much sugar, it was my time.  It was Sarah's time.

Because, when she turned 8, I said she was too young.

When she turned 9, I said our house was too crap.

When she turned 10, our house was being renovated.

When she turned 11 I ran out of excuses.

I would just like to say upfront that I love Sarah's friends.  Many of them have spent many hours at our house, they have come (individually) for sleepovers.  They are a bunch of smart, funny, fabulous chicks, who are well on their way to becoming completely amazing young women.

Some are indeed showing a strength of personality that will serve them brilliantly throughout their lives, but can certainly be strenuous to manage on an 18 hour visit at my house.   Especially when at least 8 of those hours I wanted them to be asleep.

I know 10/11 year olds need more than 8 hours sleep but one must be realistic.

So at 3:30pm on Saturday, 7 little (but getting taller), fresh faced, very excited girls arrived at our house.

That morning I had spent 2.5 hours laboriously constructing a treasure hunt which I had fondly thought would take them at least an hour to complete.  They had to run around the school and local suburb, solving clues and completing tasks.

It clearly wasn't complex or long enough because 20 minutes later they were all back at my house, clutching their bracelet prize and looking at me with sparkling, sugar bright eyes, waiting for the next thing.

'Go and play'! I shouted (or should I say croaked because I have a cold and was losing my voice).  'Go downstairs and play and then you can do the chocolate game'.

They ran downstairs into the rumpus screaming.  Soon a lot of screaming from the back yard indicated they had chosen that as their screaming point.  A little while later the screaming moved across the road to the swings on the corner.

I counted down the minutes until we could leave for Teppanyaki dinner while hoping that everyone stayed happy and uninjured until then.  This was while intensely managing Issy who DOES NOT cope well when the attention is not on her.  She even had a friend over who I thought would dilute the situation, but she was relentless in her quest to follow the big girls.

Needless to say, they didn't want a bar of her.

Just before we had to leave they all came running and screaming back home to change for dinner.

Into their onesies.

Teppanyaki didn't know what hit them when 7 (8 including Issy) girls arrived for dinner in their onesies.  We had two owls, three giraffes, a panda, and two rabbits (I think).

With an almost unbelievable level of noise and enthusiasm, they caught their bowls, their eggs and their rice.  They ate their heads off, sang their lungs out and stuffed themselves with cake.
The cake.  With Onesies.

I was careful to prearrange the car seatings so everyone had a friend and carsick prone people were duly noted.

I made the bed up as one enormous mattress constructed of two pull out couch mattresses, Issy's old single bed mattress, lots of couch cushions and a cot mattress.  They all picked a pillow from the pile and settled into a possie.  There was no fighting about who was near whom because they were all sort of piled on top of one another like puppies.

I made a humongous bucket of popcorn which they devoured while watching movie 1.  

At about 8pm I lost my voice entirely.  The screaming continued but became intermittent, possibly during boring parts of the movie.

Midnight feast was requested at 9:30pm to eat during Movie 2.

At 10pm I went to bed, partly because I was exhausted from my extensive preparations, but mainly because I'd been out at school Trivia night til 1am the night before.  Self inflicted misery.

Needless to say they were all still wide awake at this point, so I asked them to stop screaming for the 54,321st time, and maybe to think about sleeping soon?  As I could only talk in a whisper I'm not sure if they heard me.

I asked Mike to stay up til eleven and speak sternly if he heard talking.  He was as tired as I so he may not have made it to 11.  I wouldn't know because I was already unconscious.  He said they were quiet(ish).  I suspect they just stopped screaming and started whispering.

We heard nothing during the night.  Not a peep, not a night visitor, not a scream.  We were two floors above them which was a very pleasant place to be.

According to them, they all talked for hours, like 3am or something.  Hopefully not the one who had a dance comp this morning.

By 6:30 they were all awake, there was a bit more screaming and they all ate pancakes.

And then at 9am it was over.  The screaming stopped.  I dismantled the enormous floorbed thingo.

I have been nervous about this party for weeks, but in hindsight I don't know what I was worried about.  They were beautifully behaved, they were polite, and kind to each other.  They have fabulous senses of humour and some of them are developing a clever, quick wit which I love (parents you may know this as talking back, but when it's not your own kid, you can't help but admire their debating skills).

I expect there will be some scratchy behaviour this afternoon.  And for that I am sorry.

I will be ready for my next sleepover in about 5 years.  Or maybe 20.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Dodging Bullets and Fighting Fires

Start dodging.
I was working in Josh's school canteen the other day...I know, how glamorous is my life?

Anyway, while I was there, several supply related issues in the hour leading up to lunch, which caused us to think we firstly didn't have enough rice, secondly we had enough but it was too soggy, thirdly we had too much rice and it was still too soggy and finally, we had slightly too much rice which was an excellent consistency.

This drama went on for about an hour.  While it was happening, it was quite stressful being in the canteen.  Being an expert in cooking rice for 5, I have no idea when it comes to cooking it for 155.  This allowed me to take a back seat in the drama and be assigned to making jelly cups.

After it was over, I said to one of the valiant and awesome canteen stalwarts how impressed I was with how they handled the potential disaster.  (Yes I know it's a first world problem but it was very real at the time).  She said, every day it was the same, dodging bullets and fighting fires.

Well didn't THAT ring true.

Dodging Bullets and Fighting Fires! I believe is what I do, and I suggest a large number of you do also. Every. Single. Day.  

If our lives were interesting enough to make a movie, this is what the movie would be called.

No milk in the fridge? Quick drive to IGA. Bullet dodged.

Birthday party in 20 mins with no present?  Raid present draw, add slightly used paper and homemade card.  Another bullet whizzes past with no damage.

Realise you have wrong number of car seats for the number of 6 year olds you must transport?  Next door has a spare, go and grab it.  Fire out.

And from this morning:
Come around corner to see Josh's school bus already nearly at the stop.  No other school kids there to wave it down.  Break into a frantic run and throw 9 year old onto it, tossing his blazer at him and grabbing his leaking drink bottle from him at the same time, shouting 'JUST DRINK FROM THE BUBBLER!".   Bullet and Fire at the same time.  Dodged and out.

Don't let it mesmerise you. Fight it!!  
Honestly the amount of these disasters that require evasive action before 9am mean that I'm a mess every morning until 9:30, at which point I have my first coffee.  

No matter how organised I am (or I think I am) the unexpected always comes and bites me in the bum.  I wonder, is there any point in trying to be organised at all?

Well, I've given it 5 minutes of deep thought and I think it is.  Because if we can control the things we know about, NEVER be complacent, and keep an eye out for the fires and bullets, we can expect a mostly peaceful life.

And then occasionally when things do completely go to shit we know we did our best, but there are some things you just can't prepare for.

Fought any fires or dodged any bullets lately?

Images courtesy of vectorolie and natara

Monday, 9 June 2014

Ice skating is a VERY dangerous sport. I shall not do it again.

So we have just experienced another weekend of birthday madness.  It happens every year, because we have somehow ended up with two girls born two days apart.

Four years and two days.  This year Sarah turned 11 and Issy 7.

My youngest child is 7! When did THAT happen?

As usual it ended up a bit mad.  We had my sister visiting from Brisbane which was lovely, we had family dinners planned, a quick birthday breakfast before her return flight, and we even squeezed in an impromptu lunch at Hugo's.

We occasionally sported an extra child which was considered extra fun by everyone.  In a bizarre twist, Issy had her mate at Sarah's birthday Chinese meal and Sarah had her friend with us for much of Issy's birthday.

Neither of them minded.  They're good like that.  They have named the 7th of June (the day between their birthdays) 'Sister's day'.  I hijacked this idea to have dinner with MY sisters.

Also, there were a few requests for activities by the birthday girls and who am I to refuse them?

So we went to the movies today (Monday).  And yesterday we went iceskating.

Iceskating is not my favourite.  I foolishly took Sarah one day when she was in Kindergarten and had a pupil free day.  Both the other kids had preschool/day care and we did have a fun day together.

Since then, every chance she gets, she asks to go.  And about 50% of the time we say yes.  Mike has also been caught out and spent two hours gliding less than gracefully around the ice rink at Macquarie.  Which, can I add, is not convenient to drive to AT ALL.

Last time I went, I took Sarah and two mates.  It was early 2013 and they were all 9.  They were all capable of staying upright and didn't need me, so I settled down smugly for 2 hours of fiddling with my phone and watching them fondly.

Oh foolish smugness.

Less than 10 minutes into the session, one of Sarah's friends was sideswiped by an inexperienced skater and hit the deck.  With her face.  Cue teeth through tongue, chipped teeth, possible fractured jaw.

The drive home was interminable.  Sarah and her uninjured mate tried valiantly to cheer their poor little injured friend up.  She was far too badly injured for that, and cried piteously for her Mum all the horrible 45 minute drive home.

I rang ahead of course, and by the time I got home, the emergency dentist was waiting for them and her Dad had managed to get home from work (he must have levitated he got there so fast), he opened my car door, tenderly lifted his wounded chick from the car and climbed into the front seat with her in his arms.  He was not letting her go, seatbelts be damned.  His wife was at the wheel, she screeched out of the driveway and they were gone.

Sarah and her mate waited 2 seconds of stunned silence before bursting into simultaneous floods of tears.  As did I.

After a bit of jaw wiring and a few weeks of soft food, our poor little ice skater made a full recovery.  And everyone is still talking to each other. Are good friends in fact. But none of us adults will EVER forget that day, or be able to think of it without shuddering.

So, nearly 18 months later, we were back at the place of terrible memories (for me anyway, Sarah has bounced back with the elasticity of youth).

Sarah- zooming with no nasty memories.
We paid, got skates, changed skates because the size was wrong, laced, relaced, changed skates again because they rubbed, and got out onto the ice.

Before the terrible injury.
And really, for about 40 minutes it was FUN.  But the evil iceskating fairies were out again.  I'd alternated taking Issy and Josh around.  Sarah and her mate were having fun, (although the mate had done the unintentional splits a few times),  I was just about to swap Issy for Josh when he arrived in a rush, and cannoned into me, falling to the ice behind me and taking me off balance.

At which point I lost my footing, and as I tried to rebalance, lifted my skate and put it down hard into Joshie's little shin bone.  He let out a scream, just as I realised what was under my skate blade and picked my foot up again, losing my balance properly and stacking it completely.

Josh was howling in agony, somehow we got him off the ice and lifted his jeans up to show a nasty scrape and a growing bump.

I thought I'd broken my boy's leg.  I felt sick.

And once again a trip to the ice rink was cut short by injury.  Although, thank goodness, not as serious this time. We were there for less than an hour.

Not everyone was sad to leave. Turns out Sarah's mate had done the splits one too many times and was ready to call it a day too.

Issy made me take her round once more (because it was her birthday).

This is also before the injury.  This is why we are smiling. 
By the time we had packed ourselves up, Josh had calmed down and could bear weight on his leg.  Thoughts of the emergency department began to fade.  Thoughts of a stiff drink began to take their place.

It takes more than an injured brother to keep this birthday girl down. 
I am NOT going iceskating again.  It is very dangerous.  Way too dangerous for my nerves.  I'd rather take them rock climbing.  I'll belay for hours if I know I don't have to watch my child (or someone else's) in agony with a skating related injury.

Yes I know it's just bad luck, but I'm not going to tempt the evil ice fairies again.  Sorry kids.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Democracy? dictatorship? Our family is a bit of both.

Good for countries, not always for families with small(ish) children.  
Is your family a dictatorship? Or more of a democracy?  Some sway more towards the democracy, while others are ruled by an iron fist of totalitarianism.  And as with most things in life, a middle ground is preferable.  Complete democracy gives far too much power to the offspring meaning the lunatics end up running the asylum, and dictatorship makes one person the mean, stressed out bad cop which is simply unsustainable.

(Can I just say, in my opinion, when you're running a country (as opposed to a family), a democracy is by far the better option).

Our home fluctuates between the two, although possibly with a slightly stronger leaning towards dictatorship.  I do sense democracy will come into its own as the kids get older and better at arguing.  And potentially, capable of cooking their own dinner if they don't like what I'm doing.  From what I understand of teenagers, they don't respond well to dictators, so I possibly need to improve my democratic style over the next year or two.

For now, I just shout a lot of instructions about shoes and lunches and musical instruments and count myself lucky if they respond without being asked more than 3 times.

Some situations lend themselves well to democracy.  I am quite willing to discuss birthday party ideas, cake styles.  They wear what they want (almost always).  I don't mind talking through potential playdates, possible sleepovers.  Heck, I'll even let them give me holiday ideas even if some of them are unlikely to occur.  Disneyland for 2 weeks?

There are times though, when I'm completely running a dictatorship.  Do as I say.  Do not argue, do not talk back, do not stall, don't drag your feet, pretend you haven't heard me or lie and say you've done it when you haven't (your teeth are yellow and I'm not an idiot).

Don't ambush me.  I do not respond well.  Especially not in public for something even slightly unreasonable.  Dictatorship.  Trouble will always follow the ambush.

Don't nag me.  If I've said no, I mean it.  I often say yes.  I'm not a big meany.  Benevolent dictator I am.

Here are a few examples of how our household sways wildly between ideological philosophies:

This is me dictating. 
Do NOT just pick up your device and start playing it on a weekday afternoon without asking first (BTW the answer is no).  You will lose it for 24 hours.  And no, just because you have to catch a bus to and from school doesn't mean you MUST have your phone every day.  Millions of children cope daily without this and so shall you.

Result: Dictator.

If you have been lucky enough to receive a generous joint birthday gift which has enabled you to purchase a rather nice piece of technology, don't stretch the friendship by continuing to request an ongoing membership related to this technology.  Or the technology will vanish.

Result: Dictator.

If you wish to play, watch TV, go to a mate's house and you haven't done your homework/music practice/speech/news.  DON'T EVEN ASK.  You are wasting your time.

Result: Dictator

Don't like the party ideas being suggested? Sure we can discuss.  I'm happy to delay a party (we have 1 autumn and 2 winters) to the warmer months so it can have a pool theme or we can go to Waterworks.  And while my default cake is your new age with some type of appropriate decoration I can be persuaded to look at the Women's Weekly cake book.  Just don't ask me to do the swimming pool again because I might have a nervous breakdown.

Result: Democracy

Don't fancy the dinner? If it's early in the day you can attempt to negotiate a change, although your chances may be slim.  I have been open to menu changes before when faced with sufficient convincement.  I know one of you hates tacos and another of you is firmly against spag bol but what am I to do?  Until someone other than me starts cooking the dinner I think I have higher voting rights than people who are merely eaters.

Result: Democracy than can quickly become Dictatorship if the wrong angle is taken.

Lunch box contents are available for change up until they go into a school bag.  As long as you don't try something insane like swapping your grapes for Oreos I'm usually responsive to requests.  But please don't tell me that thing you loved last week that I just bought three boxes of on special is no longer your favourite.  Just take it quietly to school and swap it with your mates.

Result: Democracy

At 7:30 on a Sunday night, after a weekend that included a birthday party for every single person in the house (including the grown ups), 4 games of sport played and one spectated, a Sunday of musical workshops, playdates and a long drive to Parramatta and back, don't come to me and say you have news on Monday which needs to be 2 minutes long with palm cards.  It will not be pretty.

Result: Madhouse, total breakdown of government, followed by a coup by the father.

So there you have it.  I still don't know which one I'm running.  It depends on the day, the time of day, whether I'm fasting (I'm doing 5:2 and not eating makes me grumpy) and how utterly ridiculous the request is.  Sometimes ridiculous requests are so off the wall I can't help but go for them, and other times they just make me all cranky pants.

Poor kids, they've got a madwoman in charge, I think that's the upshot of this post.  And poor Mike, who never knows what kind of government he's coming home too.

What sort of operation are you running?