I was at the end of my tether. My daughters, six and eight, had been bickering for hours. The big one pushed the little one off the top bunk. The little one whacked the big one round the head with a broom. They couldn't leave each other alone, but at the same time, they couldn't bear to be in the same room.
"If I hear 'Muuuuuummm' one more time…" my words hung in the air. The girls carried on, as if I was invisible. The sound of their whining pieced my soul. I couldn't take another minute.
"Right! That's it! ENOUGH!" I yelled this time, enraged.
Two sullen faces looked back at me. And then, with the attitude of a bad-tempered teenager, the little one rolled her eyes. Like the flick of a switch, her surly gesture knocked me over the edge.
"No TV for a week!" the words came out loud and clear. My girls blinked a few times, digesting the information and then came the backlash…
"What?! That's SO unfair!"
"You're the worst mum ever!"
"Make that a month!" I replied.
The girls exchanged worried glances and then, for the first time in weeks, fell silent. It was a blissful moment, but as I walked away a clanging voice rang in my head, "Oh Cat, what have you done?!"
Like most families, my kids enjoy a bit of TV. My usual rule is no TV on school nights, but go for your life on Saturday morning (otherwise known as Mummy and Daddy's special lie in).
In the school holidays they have some TV before we head out for the day – and sometimes when I'm getting dinner ready. It gives me a bit of quiet time to get things done, and frankly, sometimes it's the only way to get them to stop bickering. A month without TV was a big punishment. But who exactly was I punishing?
The first Saturday morning was hellish. Without the draw of the TV to entertain (and contain) them, my kids were standing at the end of our bed at 5.45am.
"What is for breakfast?"
"What are we doing today?"
"Where is my glue gun?"
The temptation to "accidentally" forget the TV ban was strong. Maybe I could let them "earn" back their TV privileges, or maybe they could "get me" on a technicality – i.e. watching Netflix on the iPad isn't technically watching TV.
But I held firm. If I let them off the hook on the first day of the ban then they wouldn't take me seriously if I made a similar threat (of course, I mean consequence) on another occasion. It was going to be hard for all of us, but the TV ban had to stay.
The kids got over it faster than I did. They found other things to do. They played outside with the neighbour's kids (and decorated our front steps!) They made slime (and left gooey sticky finger prints all over the kitchen!) They made things (and scattered the contents of the craft box to the four corners of the earth!).
Family movie night was replaced by the kids putting on a "show". Which was hilarious for the first five minutes and mind numbingly tedious for the next 115. My Saturday morning lie in became an opportunity to get the weekend chores out the way nice and early.
The kids were having a ball. I seethed. This was supposed to be a punishment for them, not me!
Somehow, we made it to the end of the month in one piece. The kids were nonchalant about getting the remote control back. I was jubilant. The main thing is that we all learned a very important lesson – TV bans do not make good punishments – unless you've been a very bad mum indeed.