I lose my temper every day.

Sometimes these things aren't apparent to a blog reader. In fact, sometimes they're not apparent to many outside the household at all - I tend to lose my temper towards the end of the day, just before The Earl arrives with his cavalry, by which time we are usually out of public scrutiny. So I am telling you all here, now, for the record, so that you know.

Recently, Young Master has started to get the hang of peer interactions. After years (wasn't it centuries?) of trying to explain to him how people get along, something suddenly clicked and he got it. I didn't realise how much of a mental burden it was to me that he hadn't got it yet until after he got it. All of a sudden I can relax when he is playing with other children: I don't feel the need to anxiously monitor his interactions and head off potential disasters, whilst at the same time trying to stay well enough back that I'm not interfering unless actually needed - all whilst running after an early toddler.

He has also figured out how to handle me. Yesterday, I was stressed and distracted, trying to deal with a bureaucratic issue (that has not yet been resolved), spending way more time than usual on the phone and computer. Towards the end of the day I was writing yet another email when The Young Master appeared beside me, saying something. I didn't hear him, and I told him in a frustrated tone that I was still trying to sort out "this whole mess" and needed to send another email, but when I raised my hands to the keyboard he took them gently and gave each of them a little kiss whilst speaking in a soft tone. Distractedly, I gave him a smile and a pat on the back and lifted my hands to the keyboard again, whereupon he repeated his act, and this time I heard him: "Mum," he said, "I wish you would use these two hands to come and play my game with me instead of using them to type another email."

I blinked for a moment. Where the fuck does he learn that? But of course it worked, because I kissed his hands back and, looking into his face, assured him that I would come and play games in exactly two minutes, whether I had finished sorting out "this mess" or not. And I did.

I do marvel at how he gets these things. Did I teach him that? I don't think I did. Probably I taught him to be shrewish and hysterical and the rest he worked out on his own, as if by magic. If I can take credit at all, maybe it's for choosing a school where someone else could teach him good lessons - even then, I chose it largely on convenience, so not much credit at all.

The cynic in me says I did teach him that in a sense, but what I have actually taught him is not love or kindness or some other lofty attribute, but how to manipulate me skillfully for his own ends. When I go mad at him he hugs me and tells me he loves me. Result: I quickly stop being mad. One day he looks up at me mid-hug and says, "Mum, whenever you get mad at me I always give you a hug and tell you I love you."

"I've noticed you doing that," I reply. "Out of interest, why do you do it?"

He nuzzles my stomach and squeezes me extra-tight. "I just don't want you to forget." Even if it's just a tool of manipulation, can I really be upset that he has decided to manipulate me by returning anger with affection? So many times I've preached that the best response to abuse is empathy. People, I have said, don't set out to be mean just because they want to hurt everyone. If they are being mean, it's because something, somewhere, has gone quite wrong. Solve the problem: starting with sympathy. I find it hard advice to follow, of course, but I should be glad that someone in our house seems to be fighting fire with water, whatever his motivation.

I lose my temper every day. Recently I lost my ring, too, or I thought I'd lost it, but really I'd just dropped it into an obscure corner of my purse. The Young Master found it whilst looking for something else, and when he held it up to me I gasped dramatically and he flinched. "Why did you just gasp?" he wanted to know.

"I'm surprised to see my ring!" I answered. "I've been looking for it for a whole week and I'd decided it was gone forever and I was very sad about that, because I've had it for such a long time and it was given to me by an old friend."

"Oh. So you're happy?" he asked.

And I bent down to him and cupped his face in my hands and looked into his eyes. "Do I get mad a lot?" I asked guiltily, searching for the answer in his expression as much as his words.

"No," he said. "A bit. Sometimes you get very angry. But I know we can always be friends again afterwards." And he smiles and hands me my ring.

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