Author’s note: when reading this post, it’s important to imagine each word read out in as whiny, annoying a tone as possible. Plee-eee-eeease.
It starts first thing in the morning, at around 6:30am. The request could be anything – “can I go to the toilet / can I go downstairs / can I have a drink of water?” On cue I respond with “how do you ask nicely?”, thereby getting the required “please” .* I wouldn’t mind any of this. Okay, I would, a bit, but they are reasonable requests for little people to make. It’s just the tone that gets to me. I can’t stand the tone. Reader, my children whine.
At this point in time they whine all the time. They don’t even have to be upset. It’s just their normal way of talking. They can be making an entirely mundane request – “mummy, can I have some toast?” – yet each time it’s expressed in the most miserable way possible – “mum-meeee, you’re not giving me any toast!!” I don’t even know why they’re doing it. Overnight they’ve turned into Morrissey (albeit minus the racism). Just what is going on? Why are they so whiney? WHY? (And no, I’m not accepting “must be hereditary”. Bugger off, you.)
As soon as the whining starts I find myself thinking of those nature programmes in which animals recognise the specific cry of their young and drop worms or whatever into hungry mouths. I recognise the cry of my young and the response it provokes in me is similarly instinctive. It does not, however, make me want to feed them Coco Pops or Monster Munch. It makes me want to swear. A lot. I honestly feel the tension spreading through me, as though I’m doing yoga in reverse. I could be on one of those popular science programmes, wired up to machines, with Robert Winston providing a voiceover on how “the extreme rise in cortisol at the sound of her child’s voice produces a state of excessive pissed-offness”, before explaining that “according to recent literature such a state is typical of the terminally crap mother”.
I find the whining worse than anything I’ve had to deal with before. When babies cry for hours on end, at least they’re not saying any actual words. You can kid yourself that they’re actually expressing some profound Weltschmerz. It’s different when you’re being told that the reason for this grating sound is simply you not having buttered toast right up to the very edges. Similarly, full-on tantrums I can take. I tend to be able to assume a position of detached amusement because they’re so blatantly over the top. Whining is more insidious. It seeps into your soul. It destroys your ability to think clearly. It makes you really cross, but in a low-level, substandard way. No one else is yelling his or her head off so you’re not allowed to, either. Yet whining back makes no difference whatsoever.
Perhaps it all gets worse and worse. I dread to think what having a teenager will be like. Although in some ways, I don’t. Given my enduring disappointment with both myself and the state of the world, I often I imagine I’ll have deep sympathy for whatever it is my teenagers kick off about (especially if it’s merely Mummy being rubbish). But whining is just unbearable. I find myself pleading (in an unintentionally whiny voice) “why can’t you ask for Weetabix nicely? Don’t you see how sad this makes me?” Half-arsed emotional blackmail at breakfast – that’s what I’m reduced to.
I seriously think there should be support groups for parents of children who whine. Except if you went along to one you wouldn’t want to sit through someone else whining about their own child’s whining. You’d want them to shut the fuck up and listen to you for once. Hence, I imagine, the point of this blog post. Thank you for listening. Hey, you’re still here, right?
* Albeit in the confusingly phrased “please may you let me go to the toilet / go downstairs / have a drink of water?”, a godawful construction which I haven’t yet been arsed to correct.