Jo Frost: Extreme Parental Guidance

As a parent with a two-year old who thinks she's a mix of Mike Tyson and Buce Lee, I've got a vested interest in this programme. But will it help?
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As a parent with a two-year old who thinks she's a mix of Mike Tyson and Buce Lee, I've got a vested interest in this programme. But will it help?

I quite like Jo Frost. I like her grufty southern accent, and the way she waits to be invited into people’s houses like a chunky succubus. I even quite like her gravy-stained chubby cheeks. She’s a fine figure of a woman; she’s like Sacagawea, Big Daddy and Beverley Allitt all rolled into one. I must to confess, I have a private investment in this programme. Being the proud owner of a toddler happily established in her ‘hitting’ phase, I’ll take any help I can get. The rules are as follows;

  1. Only hit mummy
  2. In the face
  3. In public, so it looks as though she can’t cope
  4. With closed, white-knuckled, tear-stained fists
  5. When she’s least expecting it
  6. Preferably in a tea shop, or somewhere with fine china and old people

The good news - as predicted by nursery - is that the violence is starting to vary a little of late. We’ve moved into head butting now. The key to a successful butt is the element of surprise to which the victim is exposed; whilst watching Home & Away, for example. Or bending over to tie their shoelaces. By the time I’ve finished picking my septum out of my eyeballs, Ruby is quite happily ensconced in the sofa with a Fruit Pastilles lolly and Rastamouse. Toddler’s heads are deceptively heavy when they’re channelling the power of cold, dead hatred.

We’re no stranger to Ms Frost’s advice in this house. The naughty step is not an unusual occurrence, albeit a typically unsuccessful one. What usually happens is that Ruby perches on the bottom stair sobbing her heart out, and I relent after about five minutes and go to give her a hug therefore condoning her violence and negating the whole point of the punishment. I’m a shit mum. When she’s banged up in a Youth Detention Centre for knife crime in twelve years time, I’ll be plugging MDMA ‘to make her life easier’. Speaking of knives, Jo had her work cut out this week with a sulky-lipped twat of a child with an eating ‘phobia’, and a three year-old set on pulling out her own hair like an abused bird riding a bicycle in a dirty zoo. Thankfully, I’ve never had either of those problems with Ruby. She beats the fuck out of me, but she eats whatever you put in front of her; vegetables, fruit, fish. She even drank a bottle of Red Door when she was fifteen months, and asked for it again the next day. Stomach like the inside of a fallout shelter.

Rio, however, doesn’t like food much. He likes bread and butter and ice cream, but that’s about it. When asked to eat anything else in the world, he makes a noise that would make you happily take your own life with nothing but a plastic ball and a corkscrew. Imagine Dom Joly impersonating Old Yella being shot through the head. He throws himself on the floor, sobs into a pillow, kicks his legs and generally behaves like an arsehole. Come on, says Jo. There’s estates in Newcastle gagging for a bit of monkfish. Just try a bit. A little bit. Go on, just a little bit for mummy. What about one of these potato smiley faces? Go on, Rio. Just a bit. A little bit. But Rio stands firm. He isn’t daft. He knows what’s going on and he isn’t eating the shit on his plate. He’s a free spirit. He’s Che Guevara. He’s a food freedom fighter, a vegetable kamikaze pilot wrapped in a veil of cheesy beans terrorism. He’s not eating and fuck you. So they take him to a Harvester.

Personally, I could cope with the screaming. When you’ve got a two year-old who jumps from behind doors like a ninja midget and tries to kneecap you, you’d take anything vocal in place of black eyes and broken fingers.

He’s fucked.

His spirit’s broken. He eats two churchmouse-sized pieces of chicken and a thimble of gravy and everyone applauds like he’s just shit out a greyhound. Turns out, the key was in telling him to eat it. None of this, ‘now come on, darling. Just eat what you can’. No, the ‘you’re eating it, you’re not leaving the table until you eat it, and if you don’t stop making that brain-numbing noise you’ll sit on your own while we have fun and eat cake without you’ approach seems to work far better. They might have broken him, but at least he still has his hair; which is more than can be said for Katie.

I quite like Katie’s mum. She’s got egg down her blouse and her hair hasn’t seen a brush in months, but she has three layers of blue eye-liner on and enough lipstick to make her look as though she’s fallen on a rusty axe. She’s like a rutting boar at the gate of Estee Lauder. And she’s very (understandably) concerned about her (intensely dislikeable) child obsessively pulling her own hair out. Katie has pulled out so much hair she looks like a small lesbian with mange. Granted, this isn’t just down to the hair. It also has something to do with the sole gold earring (left ear) and the fact her mother dresses her like an unconvincing extra from This Is England, but there are some things that parents just can’t be told; that you dress your child like a bad lesbian being one of them. A clear connection between the need for a dummy and the self-inflicted alopecia is soon identified, and Jo comes up with a practical solution. Chuck the dummy, stop the self-harm and Lo! Rapunzel, let down your hair.

Unfortunately it doesn’t quite work out like that. Mainly because dopy mum forgets to actually get rid of the dummy, and after three hours of hideous screaming, Katie remembers it’s in the top of the bin and goes to get it. And falls asleep in thirty seconds. Next time slit the teat, advises an irate Jo. Slice it up good. She won’t be able to use it then. The benign look of total indifference on mums face says different. As long as the screaming stops. Please God, let the screaming stop. She can have the fucking thing until she’s thirty as long as there’s no screaming.

Personally, I could cope with the screaming. When you’ve got a two year-old who jumps from behind doors like a ninja midget and tries to kneecap you, you’d take anything vocal in place of black eyes and broken fingers. And that’s a cry for help. Anyone. Please. Just….help.

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