Once upon a time I was the best parent in the world.
I was cool, fun and a pleasure to be with constantly.
I always had a smile on my face, from the minute I woke in the morning to the second my head hit the pillow at night.
I knew how to handle any situation. I was wise. Oh yes, my wisdom flowed like a perpetual stream coming second only to my ceaseless patience. I was so wise that it wasn’t just within my own four walls that I could encourage a zen-like environment – I also had the ability to know immediately how other parents needed to handle their kids, whether I knew them personally or just happened to be passing them in the store.
I wouldn’t punish my children. Oh no, we would discuss the problem and reach a mutual solution on how best to handle it.
And I never, ever yelled or lost my temper.
Then I had kids.
I’ve never been cool. Even as a teenager I wasn’t cool. I get moods and I get the hump sometimes for no reason at all. I have never been a constant source of fun and pleasure. Having children didn’t change this.
I wasn’t born with patience. Having children didn’t automatically provide me with an abundance of it. Wisdom is a work in progress too. I’m a long way off from where I need to be. I’m not even at the halfway point. A quarter-way is being overly optimistic.
Early bedtimes, grounding and removal of privileges are rife here. If I think you’ve overstepped the mark, my child, you’re going to get punished for it. I don’t care for your opinion. You knew the rule and broke it. Now you will receive the punishment you knew you were risking getting.
Ask my neighbours.
Or just listen out for me – you’ll probably hear me yourself.
Someone asked me this week how I manage “with all those kids”. It’s a question we’re asked a lot and one which is backed up with the assumption that “You must have so much patience!”. (Please refer back a couple of paragraphs for the answer to that, in case you missed it in your haste to get through this post).
I don’t make a habit of insulting my family. I don’t want to bleat on about how hard it is, how tired I get or how my head feels like it’s going to burst at times. My usual reply is that it’s not too hard, not as hard as people normally expect it to be at least.
This week was different.
This week I have been knocked-out tired. I have had no energy, not motivation and everything was an effort.
I have a seven month old, miserable teething baby. He’s always been such a pleasure. A good, laid back baby. But he’s grumbly and grizzly and not sleeping even when he’s sleepy. Why do babies do that?! You’re tired, child, so sleep! It’s not difficult. Believe me, if you’d let me, I’d be sleeping in seconds!
I have a toddler who’s getting into everything and his newly developed language skills are full of reasoning and debate. Reasoning in the way of answering “Because” when I ask why he’s done something he shouldn’t have. All the time. And his art skills show promise. I just wish they weren’t on the kitchen table.
I have a three year old who is not wanting to potty train AT ALL. He doesn’t want to and he’s not going to. This is the look I got when I first forced his new alien underwear on him on Monday morning.
And then he screamed. Not for minutes. Not even for hours. He screamed for the best part of three days.
Do you know how long three days is?
Do you know how much longer three days is when you’re head is pounding and feels like it’s going to explode?
Eventually, he screamed so hard for so long he fell asleep…
…on the potty.
I left him to it and enjoyed the peace. I even laughed when he almost toppled over a few times.
My five and six year olds are constantly tumbling, jumping, playfighting and fidgeting.
My eight year old shrieks high and frequently. So much so that my ears have been so close to bleeding on several occasions. He wakes up shrieking. He goes to bed shrieking. And he fills every minute in between rising and sleeping shrieking.
My 11 year old thinks she’s going on 25 and still doesn’t get that I am the one with authority over the others and not her. This causes discontent and arguments, i.e more noise.
My absent teens just cause me worry. I have no idea what they’re doing, whether anything we tried instilling in them is there or whether they are completely messing up their lives big time. I can’t protect them any more and I can’t lay down the rules that I know will keep them safe.
Next door has been having work done building a new conservatory. The builder used our five month old £600 fence to stand on or lean on or jump off.
I finally received my maternity notes back from my midwife. You might remember she couldn’t be bothered to test my urine or carry out any other of my ante natal checks. However, she did write in my notes that there are “7 children in room during booking”. I am sure that when they open my notes when it’s time for delivery that this is not going to be of any interest or use. Why on earth would she have needed to document that?
This made me annoyed.
We were supposed to be taking my mum out for a meal to celebrate her 60th birthday last Sunday. Two months of planning and organising. A table was booked for 17 of us. Presents bought, bouquet of flowers and cake ordered. And two days before she spits the dummy, hates the world and wants it cancelled. Ok-aay. Ah nothing new there. Any happy occasion will be spoilt by my mum. It’s the third guarantee in life along with death and taxes.
I spent the best part of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning laying on the sofa, feeling achey, sick and shakey with a thudding head.
On Tuesday I discovered my bank had blocked access to my account with no warning and no reason given. It took two days to ascertain that it had been flagged to the fraud department due to “unusual activity”. “Did you make the following payments?” the fraud department person on the other end of the phone asked me, before reeling off several payments. Well, yes, they were all my bills and my grocery shop. Who’d have thought I’d have been using my money from my account to pay them all?
On Wednesday afternoon we headed out for the middle four’s swimming lesson. The handbrake on the minibus wouldn’t release. Still feeling achey, sick and shakey I had to bundle the three smallest in two buggies and we all had to make a mad dash to the leisure centre. The sky had turned a menacing grey and I was sure we’d be drenched. We made it to the lesson with a couple of minutes to spare and I spent the lesson not marvelling at how well they were improving but worrying about getting caught in a downpour while trying to make the uphill walk home.
The laundry is never-ending and unforgiving. It just keeps multiplying. I think I’m making progress and then it appears that the dirty clothes in the basket have reproduced. I don’t want to fold and put away any more clothes! Sometimes I wish it were socially acceptable to walk around naked. Then I see my nude reflection and am profoundly glad it’s not.
I’m fed up of the floors looking like they haven’t been hoovered even though they’re done at least twice a day. The kitchen floor is also swept throughout the day. You’d never know it.
Oh, and my hoover keeps breaking.
More than once
an hour this week I have looked to the heavens and pleaded that “Lord, you have got to help me now because I just can’t do this!!!”
Parenting is not easy. It’s not always a pleasure and it’s not always just about the fun stuff. There are so many hard days when you’re a parent. Sometimes those days turn into weeks. Anyone who tells you different is lying.
But anything that is worth it is hard. If, God forbid, a tragedy were to happen tomorrow and my family as I knew it was gone, I would give anything, anything to go back to my tether-reaching week. If God answered my cries out to him with the question, “I can make this easier for you but do you really want me to?”, I would back away fast. No, no, no! I was joking! I can do this! It’s fine!!!
Be careful what you wish for, after all.
I can do this even on the days I think I can’t.
I can do this even on the days I think I can’t handle much more.
I can do this even when my head thinks it’s going to explode from the noise.
I can do this even when my children don’t want to know me.
I can do this all because I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I can do this because this is what I love and what I live for and one day, when I’m old and these hard days are over, these are the days that I’m going to be laughing about. These are going to be my memories and I’m going to relive them with happiness.
I’m going to laugh about how Paddy was so stubborn about potty training he claimed he was going to wear nappies forever.
I’m going to laugh about Cait’s bossiness.
I’m going to laugh about how I’d tell Harry fifty gajillion times a day to stop shrieking and how he wouldn’t.
I’m going to laugh about Eddie and Sid’s monkey antics.
I’m going to laugh at how I would always have to pull my foot back out of my shoes because there were several pieces of K’Nex in them. I’d laugh more when I admit that I still never thought to check my shoes first.
I’m going to laugh at Ben and Steph when their kids are teenagers and giving them a hard time. (Boy, I’m really looking forward to this one).
So yes, I can do this.
I’m off now to sit Paddy back on the potty, change another two nappies and get preparing dinner for tonight. I’m going to sort out the school books ready for Monday and I’m going to be a referee in several spats between now and lunchtime. I’m even going to yell at some point today. Then I’ll probably yell some more to the yelling kids to tell them to stop yelling (yes, I do know the irony). And probably hand out a punishment. Or several.
And know that one day the events that are thrown up in these chaotic times are going to make my best, most favourite memories, even though now I’m in the midst of it all and I just can’t see it.