I’ve often thought about what great friends I have and how lucky I am to have met them through our kids: first you share a ‘hello’ as you recognise them in the playground; then it’s a shared raised eyebrow and telepathic message of solidarity at one of our kids throwing a tantrum; then it’s a chat in the blisteringly cold rain while we’re waiting on our kids being released from school into our care again. Next thing you know, they know you so well that they can say *exactly* the right thing to make you feel loved and accepted and forgiven and back on an even keel again.
Today those words were: “Man up!”
Maxi had quite a morning – up around 0630hrs and making the most exquisitely beautiful hand-made bit of paper shaped in a loveheart for her Daddy’s birthday. And I mean hand-made – she’d obviously spent hours ripping up tissue, toilet roll and paper into the most tiny pieces. When I found it leaking a river of gungy gunk from under my laundry basket, I didn’t stop to reflect on the hard work, vision and sheer technically brilliant craftwork she’d shown. Oh no. I just saw my newly-mopped floor being stained and my long-suffering laundry basket about to go mouldy. (Of course it will. Instantly). I grumped and helped her put the heart-paper under a pot instead.
She niggled at both her sisters. She tormented Midi so much about things that make her feel sick that Midi refused to eat breakfast. She niggled some more, so Midi whacked her murderously. She set off a siren wail; not a cry of distress, but a proper, stroppy wail. It feel like nails down the blackboard of my tolerance. When I feel anger at my little girl’s cry, it instantly makes me feel deeply guilty as an additional, fun, free layer. Kind of like a depth-glaze to my cross-ness.
As an encore, Maxi decided to make Mini cry. Then she sat at the breakfast table repeating the same nonsensical phrase over and over and over and over and over again, twiddling with and rattling felt pens, even when I took them off her. She ignored me when I told her to stop playing and eat breakfast or she’d be late. At 0830hrs, 2 hours after getting up, she was still in her nightie. I marched her into her room, picked up her discarded uniform (oh yeah, the one I stupidly bothered to iron when I felt ill) and gave it to her roughly. At 0845hrs she was still in her nightie, singing something in made-up words and annoying her sisters. I shouted. She jumped and burst into tears. At 0850hrs I flipped out at her skirt: it fit her when I bought it 3 weeks ago, but at that moment she’d tucked the front down under her tummy, pulled the back almost to her shoulder blades, and given herself a Man-Beer-Belly. I’m strict with myself about not criticising the kids’ bodies, but don’t want to give her bullies any ammunition, so insisted she straighten her skirt. I didn’t do it very sensitively, so she stropped and wailed and flounced. At 0855hrs I sent her sisters out the house and slammed the door on Maxi.
I started marching to school, intending to entreat the care of the younger pair off on any willing parent while I ran back for Maxi. When she saw I was really walking her sisters to school without her, she magically got her stuff together and got out the house. Yes, I was that Terrible Chav Mum, yelling at her in the street. Again. No self-control. Adult tantrum. With a croaky throat.
I ignored her and walked to school with the other 2, then felt deeply shamed as she came up to me at the gate and gave me a kiss goodbye, looking and acting like nothing had happened. Oh God. Either she’s not affected at all by this horrible morning and doesn’t realise why I completely lost my temper or she’s so used to me being angry that it no longer affects her. Guilt. Anger. Guilt. Anger. Guilt. Guilt. More guilt. She’s just a little girl. She’s not behaving like this just to make me angry.
I wailed at some friends that I couldn’t cope any more. They applied Emergency Pal Aid and talked me into a better perspective in the playground and in the street for a while afterwards.
The irony of my friends giving me the parenting that I needed wasn’t lost on me. If only I’d applied the same loving help to my little daughter when she was in the same boat as me not an hour earlier… Still, I know she’ll be having a lovely, supportive and happy morning in school right now. And until I get another opportunity to practice not being wound-up about things not worth being cross about, I’ve got 2 birthday cakes to finish baking that’ll soothe my guilt till home-time.
Rinse and repeat.