I was awoken at 1:52am to the sound of my earbuds dying. I had fallen asleep during my meditation at 10pm and slept, for once, soundly, until that annoying little noise disturbed my slumber. At 3am my sleep is broken again, this time by the distressed cries of my toddler: “Mama! Mama!” Lurching down the hallway, I spend five minutes resettling him. Then, toilet. Then, bed. Then, 4am. The toddler again. Followed by the five year old. And then, everyone is in the bed, and no one wants to sleep anymore. It was night, and now it’s day, and where did the sleep disappear to?
Two boys are ready for the day, but are they really? The little one spends the first hour whinging, being intermittently antagonised by the bigger one. The first slice of peace happens once there’s toast making its way from the plate to his mouth. And then. I notice: There is vomit on the floor and all through the dogs bed. Good. I strip the mattress and pile the blankets, instructing my two year old to stay away from the wet floor, whilst fielding questions about the crucial location of a superhero colouring book from the older boy.
Arlo is half way through his toast when the window of plopportunity arises, and he decides to take his Lego with him, so that he can play whilst sitting there; he later reports to me. Initially, though, he comes out of the toilet to ask me if I have a pair of rubber gloves handy, in order to rescue a piece of Lego from inside the toilet bowl. Said Lego, a piece of armour, is floating in amongst pee and soggy paper. I was thrilled to have been selected to carry out this task for my child.
Following this, Aston takes only moments to revert to toddler tantrum mode, whereby an absolute necessity arises for him to be seated on the kitchen bench whilst I load ingredients into the Thermomix. I surrender to his two year old desires in the hope that it might buy me a few minutes of tranquility to make my god damn banana bread, which is of course, for the children. The moment lasts approximately two minutes, until he decides to lay on his tummy on the bench, and one of his adorable, fat little feet kicks over my full cup of hot coffee. Why, why, why. I become, what I feel in hindsight is unreasonably angry, with the latest little thing being the straw that broke the camel’s back. I am an angry, angry camel.
When I reflect on such a morning, I consider sadly that it is more a frequent occurrence than not. Most mornings are filled with chaos. Most mornings involve me yelling at someone, whether the children or the animals. Sometimes I just growl really loudly, and that scares everyone enough anyway. And, I always feel guilty afterwards.
I spend the aftermath of such an experience always wondering how damaging my anger has been to my innocent children. Today’s morning was particularly bad, with my younger son absolutely losing it over me having cut his toast, as opposed to…not cutting it. As I have every single day for over 12 months. I had to take him outside in the cold twice to calm him down, but I was angry…I wasn’t calm myself, which is counter intuitive. The little ones feed off the energy of the big ones, etc.
And those are the moments that I hate myself, for not being the lighthouse in the storm for my children. For not being that mother that floats around the house, angel-like, softly spoken even when the opponent is absolutely firing hard, and fast and unrelenting. I find it difficult, despite being someone who closely analyses her behaviour, to alter mine. Especially when my body and brain haven’t rested properly due to a nightmare of sleep.
Am I allowed to burst without regret? The fresh, cold air was supposed to calm a sad and grumpy boy down, but am I attempting unreasonably to reason with a two year old child, telling him to take some deep breaths through his nose whilst he alternates between squelchy sobs and banshee screams, and “I need a mummy cuddle” ? How do I keep my own acrimony in check without subsequently falling apart in contrition?
Being the parent in charge is both a beautiful and a challenging role. The beautiful moments, of which there are absolutely many, fill me with gratitude and love. The challenging moments force me to question everything about who I am, and the choices I’ve made. I suppose the benefits of the patience-testing are that they foster a longing for improvement, so that future me can reflect on the pandemonium without self-condemnation.
The so-short days are fractured with many opportunities for education, and as parents we mostly do seize those junctures without permanently injuring the emotional development of our children. What would be good to have is a radar, so that we can gauge child behaviour against parental response, and know that they are both within reason. And then respond in an adequately calm, even-tempered manner. Is there such a helping thing, in this day and age? Oh wait. There is. It’s called Experience, I think. Or maybe it’s alcohol. Or Valium? Or is it marijuana? Somebody let me in on the floating-mum secret, please.