Every single mother has had and will continue to have those moments. Those times when banging your head on the wall is highly preferable to parenting your child at that particular moment. If you even try to deny it, you’re an alien. So it was with a slightly unhealthy glee that I read a short story by Enid Blyton in her Bedtime Stories.
Right from childhood, I’ve never been a fan of Ms Blyton. I always found her prose unimaginative and her plots boring, preferring the naughty wickedness of Roald Dahl. However, I do recognise that Blyton’s stories are easier to digest for younger children. Or at least those that didn’t watch Rambo at the age of seven (I made full use of my dad’s penchant for falling asleep in front of the tv). So I have a few of her books, mostly from op-shops for Iris’s benefit.
I love that Iris is old enough now for proper books and we’ve been going through different ones for the past year. We started with The BFG, which was so warmly nostalgic. Then we read George’s Marvellous Medicine and I realised that a lot of Dahl’s work seems to be him having a go at people he doesn’t like – the rancid grandmother in George’s Marvellous Medicine, the disgusting couple in The Twits, the mean farmer in The Fantastic Mr Fox, the list goes on. “The Other Little Boy”, which is about Ronnie, who is particularly naughty to his mother, also seems to be in this vein with Blyton taking a jab at horrible little brats. At the height of one of those head-banging moments, Ronnie’s mum threatens that she might just get “another little boy” because Ronnie is so rotten to her. Ronnie takes this as an empty threat, which you would think it was.
However, lo and behold, another little boy appears. It is vaguely implied that this boy, Dan, is an orphan. However, Blyton glosses over the logistics of how he came to be there. Anyway, Dan turns out to be the perfect child, of course.
Ronnie first tries to bully Dan into leaving. However, Dan stands up to Ronnie’s rubbish. Then he tries to bully his mother into getting rid of Dan. This is what she says: “Certainly not, Dan has no mother at all. He has never had all the things you have had – the joy of helping his mother, having her kiss him good night, telling her his troubles, looking after her when she is tired, sharing everything with her. You don’t want those things, Ronnie, and you said you wouldn’t mind if I got another little boy.”
So his usual bratty behaviour failing to get his desired results, he tries guilt. He goes to his father and asks, “Don’t you like me, Daddy? Don’t you love me?” To which his father replies, “I love you, because you are my son, but I can’t say I like you very much, Ronnie. Why should I? You are rude and selfish and unkind. I shall always love you and back you up, but whether I like you or not depends on yourself and your own behaviour.”
So Ronnie sees the error of his ways and promises Dan he’ll be good to his mother. Dan agrees to leave only if Ronnie does what he says, which he does of course and everybody lives happily ever after.
Obviously, this is never going to happen and I’d never go so far because, thankfully, Iris is mostly a wonderful child. I mean if your kid is that bad, it does say something about your parenting as well. The mum in this story is clearly a pushover who does no disciplining whatsoever. BUT, it’s a great one to mildly, with one eyebrow raised, threaten waywardness with. Or just to chuckle over as your child(ren) give(s) you horrified looks of indignation. Heh.