A mother is shocked as realises she has set up an unpleasant model for her children.
|We stopped at the pedestrian crossing as an elderly woman coaxed her aging pug off the kerb-side. He was resisting her lead and as she tugged at him, and she looked up at us apologetically.From the back seat Cath piped up.
- Dogs are better than cats. Cath was grinning.
- No they are not! Lucy loved cats and Cath loved to goad her.
- They are. You can train them to do useful things for human beings like seeing eye dogs and rounding up animals and they are mans best friend.
- Dogs are kowtowing crawlers. Always licking you and wanting to be nice. It’s so sick. It’s worse than sick. Lucy pulled a face worse than disgusted.
- Cats lose their hair all over the place. Aaaand they eat mice.
- So do dogs.
- Not poodles or Bichon Frise or any crosses of those dogs. And they don’t eat mice. They are further up the food chain. Dogs …. eat cats. Cath was smug. Three years older and she knew how to say things like ‘food chain’ and sound impressive.
- Name one dog that has eaten a cat. And those dogs you mentioned are not dogs. They are sheep that bark. With wool not fur.
- Cats don’t care about their owners. Like you. That is why you like cats.
- I know. That is exactly what is so great about them. They don’t depend on you. And they are clean. They never poop in their own garden.
- Sure, they do it in the kitty litter thingy. Yuk. Now it was Cath’s turn to feign repulsion.
- Well I like cats.
- And I like dogs.
- That’s ridiculous.
- You are ridiculous. And stupid.
- Give me my Nintendo. Lucy insisted.
Cath held on tight to it.
- It’s my turn! Give it. Lucy pulled at it.
- No. Cath was determined.
- Damn it. You broke it. Lucy shrieked.
- I did not.
- You break everything. You bully me and you break everything.
- I don’t.
- You do.
- I don’t.
- You broke the Nintendo. Just now. Lucy was on the verge of tears.
- It was your fault.
- It wasn’t my fault.
The quarrelling and hostility over nothing was uncompromising, and it went nowhere. I wanted to switch them off. My family was damaged, without hope. Disagreements always got resolved in the most primal manner. I guess Jak and I had not set the best example. I wanted to believe it wasn’t our fault but it was.
- Be quiet you two. I said.
- But Cath broke the Nintendo.
- Not really. I heard the whole thing. I was unmoved.
- She took it out of my hand while I was playing with it. Lucy’s lips were pursed tightly and her eyes were beginning to water. She was preparing her face for a tantrum.
- You were not playing with it. I said staying calm. And you could have let it go.
- I was playing with it! Lucy folded her arms close to her body.
- Well, you two were talking about cats and dogs. I heard you.
I was completely out of my depth with them. I never seemed to be able to help them resolve things.
- I can play with the Nintendo and talk at the same time! Lucy was indignant.
- Hmmm. Do you girls think this could have gone better? I looked at them in the rear view mirror. Both were silent for a moment. It was me versus them now. For a second or two the warring parties were allies, as the enemy – me - reared its head and launched an offensive.
- She broke the Nintendo. Lucy broke ranks and tried again.
- You don think you had anything to do with it Cath? I watched her in the rear view mirror. She twisted her mouth and pulled it over to one side of her face, turned her head to look out the window and raised her eyes to the sky avoiding my gaze.
I waited for an answer.
- She broke it! I was holding it and Cath grabbed it from me. It was her fault.
This was creepy. I could hear Jak and myself – never accepting the blame for anything that went wrong between us. I imagined us having laid down an unshakable blueprint for relationships in our children and it alarmed me. I had to fix it.
- What if it was both of your faults?
Silence in the back seat.
- - Well? I repeated.
- But it wasn’t. I had it first and Cath pulled it out of my hands and then it broke. If she had not pulled it out of my hands it would not be broken. It’s her fault. Lucy was unambiguous in her interpretation of events. The larger picture not in the picture at all.
I felt my stomach squeeze and constrict, mutiny in my gut, bile rising up, an intensifying sick feeling. The car in front stopped at a red light. I had taken my mind off the road for a split second and had to slam on the brakes to avoid it. Goosebumps. I turned around now.
- Well this is how I see it girls! You argue about nothing at all. Distract me while I am driving. You make this trip totally unpleasant. You break the Nintendo in the meantime, and you can’t even accept that you both had something to do with it.
More silence in the back.
- I wonder where we learnt that from. Lucy said under her breath.
Things were not going to change in this conversation. I really had to talk to Jak.