Bank holiday was one of those dark, dark parenting days.
The ones I pretend don’t exist, when they drag their feet and scream and whine. And I drag my feet and scream and whine, and control them with threats and bribes. On those days, or in those mornings (I was never a morning person) I have a little theory about parenting.
The theory is that it takes a certain person to be the parent I’m trying to be. A positive, glowy sort of person.
You know those poeple who say ‘hello’ to you in such a warm tone of voice that you automatically ‘know’ that they like and accept you?
Who say to children ‘tell me about it’ and are fascinated by the answer, not secretly wishing that the kid would go away and read a bloody book by themselves for ten minutes?
Someone is down on their knees doing some kind of task, when a child lands heavily on their back. Instead of their natural reaction being ‘I’m busy! Git Orf!’ they turn around and laugh. And they go ahead and complete that task with a child on their back, while doing their best impression of a donkey.
*Sigh* exactly like them.
And you know the infant walking down the street as though considering overtaking a glacier? And you know that some parents don’t whine at them to ‘hurry up‘ or bribe them to go faster, but shout: ‘Look! There’s a dinosaur! Let’s catch it!’
(and of course, they’ve succeeded in raising the kind of kid who goes ‘Yeah! Let’s! I love catching dinosaurs!’ and not the sort who says, ‘Don’t be silly Mummy. That’s not a dinosaur.’)
Yeah. Well. Like them.
And in my dark, dark parenting moments, the truth is that I am not one of those people. I am a jaundiced, snappy parent.
On Bank Holiday Monday, I woke up at 7.00am feeling irritable. Tiddler was shouting. I let him shout for a couple of minutes because hubby was not in bed next to me, so I assumed he was already up and about and completely ignoring Tiddler out of pure laziness.
Then I remembered I’d given hubby a long overdue day off and that he would, by now, probably be dangling from a rock somewhere on a rope. (I exaggerate. But he’d probably made it as far as the motorway). So I swore and got out of bed. Going round the corner, I met Toddler coming the other way.
‘Mummy. Tiddler’s Crying.’
And I know that some glowy-positive parent would have put her arm around her, wished her a good morning and the two of them would have cheered up Tiddler together. Let’s just say that’s not the response she got.
The day continued in this vein.
7.05: Daddy hasn’t got any cereal in.
7.07: Or many nappies. Yikes.
7.09: Yes, Toddler, I know there’s porridge in the cupboard, but I don’t like making porridge….
7.11: Luckily it’s instant porridge with instructions on the side.
8.00: Daddy’s accidently driven away with the buggy in his car.
8.05: I can’t get this bloody Toddler-sling on…..
8.45: I know you think it’s funny, Tiddler, but I STILL can’t get this bloody sling on.
8.50: (Hurls sling to floor) BLOODY SLING!
8.55: Hang on, the old buggy’s still in the garage
9.00: Oh shit but the garage door is still off its hinges…..
9.01: Toddler, stop smiling and make sure Tiddler is safe for a minute while I break into the garage.
9.03: Hate spiders. Wound it be ethical to send Toddler crawling through this gap under the garage door instead, do you reckon….? And pass the buggy out? S’pose not…..
9.08: Look! A buggy! In you get, Tiddler
9.13: For F**ks sake I’m covered in oil now. Stupid door. I’m not going out looking like this! Back into the house, everybody…..
….and then i had to laugh, because while I was shouting and stomping like a two-year-old, blaming poor Daddy for everything that happened to go wrong, the kids had been having a lovely morning. They were now sitting on the doorstep waving to passing cars while Mummy waved her arms about. But they were soaking up Mummy’s display of stress-management like little sponges, no doubt. Ready for future use.
(Unsurprisingly, Toddler is ‘going though a phase’. She complains about every little bump and hurt. She says ‘no’ to me a lot.
‘Sorry Mummy,’ she said to me the other day, ‘but I’m too busy trying to concentrate on this.’
I wonder where she’s heard that before?
Oh bugger. Mummy fail).
But do you know? Mummy’s Bank holiday got better. Because once we got the ricketty ancient buggy into Sheffield City centre, I decided to be positive. That is, to say ‘yes’ when they wanted to play in the fountains. And chase pigeons. And choose some street food. And on the way back home, I forgot to get frustrated again. The kids and I kept the whole tram amused with our rendition of ‘Heads, Shoulders Knees and Toes’ and – to cap it all – Toddler said, ‘where are we, Mummy?’
-and I said, ‘Look! There’s a sign. Can you read it yourself?’ –
and Tiddler said, ‘W-e-st St-r-ee-t. West Street, Mummy.’
and the whole tram looked extremely impressed.
At least, in my head they did.
And on sunny, bright parenting afternoons like that, I have a little theory about parenting.
That being positive is a choice, like being confident: not something we are all naturally good at but something we can all practise.
After all, nobody is naturally always pleased to be interrupted by a Toddler when they are doing something. Nobody has a natural predisposition to pretend to be a donkey every time a child lands on their back when they are trying to weed the garden.
No. An innate predisposition to responding perfecty and positively to your kids is probably a fantasy. But it is still a choice available for us to make.
Just – anyone else find it cripplingly difficult?