Squiffy has always seemed to me to be a very intelligent child. Before he was two you could have proper conversations with him, and he could count to ten in French before he could in English. As a three year old, he has an incredible vocabulary and sense of humour. However, because of this he gets bored easily and has started to understand the benefits to him of a well-timed tantrum. Having no children myself, this obviously makes me very well qualified to lecture my sister (who is equally as strong willed as her child) about the role she plays in dealing with these tantrums. Easy.
It was all going so well...
We walked down to the Barbican from town, stopping to take random photos (A Ford Escort, a stone...) on his V-Tech Camera and chattering away about how utterly excited we were to be going to the aquarium (amateurish attempt by me and Mr G to distract him from the fact he had a massive wobbler last time he went).
Inside, we were having loads of fun looking in rock pools, learning why some starfish only had four arms (legs?), and I even managed to nip in the bud the beginnings of a tantrum over a jigsaw, so started to feel quite smug at the obvious natural parenting gift me and Mr G seemed to have.
That was until Squiffy stopped dead in his tracks at the start of a dark gangway, clung to my legs and went
"I don't want to go down there!"
"What's the matter, poppet?" I asked
"I'm frightened! I don't want to go down there!" He whimpered.
This went on for a few minutes whilst several other, presumably sedated, children strolled past us. I could feel myself starting to get flustered as I realised we were probably about to encounter the giant shark hanging from the ceiling that had freaked him out a few weeks ago. This wasn't supposed to happen!
"Right, come on! We'll run through and Uncle G will go first to make sure it's safe" I sang enthusiastically.
"Come on Uncle G! Off we go!" And with that, I scooped up Squiffy and confidently trotted along towards the next exhibit.
The beginnings of a warble started to ring out around the auditorium as we stood at the top looking towards the giant tank and Squiffy spotted above us what had previously scared him. A giant model of a whale suspended from the ceiling, along with a killer whale. I tightened my grip around him in anticipation. And then:
"Oh. It's just a whale!" He said dismissively.
"YES! YES IT'S JUST A WHALE! HA HA HA THAT'S RIGHT! YES JUST A WHALE! HAHAHA" Me and Mr G laughed manically, simultaneously breathing massive sighs of relief whilst giving each other a knowing look - "Oh my God, we're going to be amazing parents!"
With a heartfelt reminder that if we all behaved we would be getting a special ice cream afterwards, I suggested that we go down and have a closer look at the fish. Everyone seemed to be in agreement so off we went. Suddenly, Squiffy spotted the model of the baby killer whale and stiffened.
And then the screaming started.
I looked at Mr G nervously. "What the...?"
Various attempts at distraction/ understanding/ ignoring/ laughing all failed miserably and by this point, we were standing in a high ceilinged auditorium with a three year old shouting between hysterical sobs, "I don't want to go to the aquarium ever again!".
When I realised nothing was working, we decided to move on to the next section, something of a tunnel, through which his cries of "The whale is scaring me!" could be heard echoing at either end.
Pretty soon I took the executive decision that we were leaving, and without saying anything to the screaming three year old, frantically tried to find the way out. I walked into a class room type thing where lots of Stepford families were sat peacefully cutting out fish shapes and gluing glitter to them, that was until my nephew hollered "I hate the aquarium!" and they all stopped what they were doing to look at me disapprovingly. Realising this was not, in fact the way out, I chortled loudly as if I was totally in control of the whole situation and not at all bothered, and finally found what I thought was the way out.
After a bit more foot stamping, wailing and rolling around on the floor (all of which I had to pretend to ignore), I realised this was not in fact, the way out, and I was now trapped in a garden with an agitated child, needing a wee, and the only way out was back through the bloody whale room. What the hell was I supposed to do now? This was not in the "Tantrums" book I'd read in preparation the night before.
Mr G finally caught us up after staying behind to find the sharks, and like a military operation we whisked him through practically the entire aquarium and back to the outside world. As our luck would have it, the bridge over to the Barbican was closed for a boat to go through so we were able to stand amongst the crowds of waiting people (aka a massive audience) as my nephew declared to everyone that he was not catching the bus home, but was going to walk the two miles instead.
"Alright love?!" I laughed to a stressed out Mr G.
"Just so you know, I'm still having an ice cream!" He informed me.
And so we sat there, feeling evil as we hastily woofed back our ice creams, giving ourselves brain freeze in front of a totally unbothered toddler, to teach him a very valuable lesson.
The lesson I learned from that entire episode was that as many people have long suspected, I have absolutely no idea how to look after a child and am now seriously reconsidering my own plans to start a family.
As quickly as it started, the tantrum was over. We then had fun on the bus home and the rest of the afternoon passed by without any further incident.
Later that evening after Fiver had been to pick up Squiffy, my friend came to pick me up for an evening out at around 5:30 and I was sound asleep. Presumably dreaming about all the stuff I missed at the Aquarium...