Today is Monday. It is also the first day in what is fast becoming a very bleak and tedious half term. Half terms, in my opinion, should only be allowed in summer, when children are all smiles and ice-cream and muddy games of football.
It has been a mixed day. Most days as a parent are. I read a post on NetMums earlier today from a delusional new mum. She claimed that being a parent is not only fun, but it is also really easy and she didn’t understand why so many parents struggle. What a bastard.
I’m sure, like me, you’ll have seen those parent-bragging posts about how little Alexander or Violet ‘Spent all day composing their own symphony, and now we’re having some quality family time eating organic homemade kale flavoured ice-cream as a treat #proudparent’
Come on! Really? Those posts are such a small window into what family life is really like. We’re not doing each other any favours as parents by lying to each other about how excruciatingly tedious and soul destroying being a parent in 2015 is.
I love my children, they are the best thing that could have happened to my husband and I. Without them turning our lives upside down nearly 11 years ago, we would both more than likely be miserable and directionless, but.. I am teetering on the brink of becoming one of those shouty supermarket mums. I have had days when I have considered running through a window, screaming manically ‘I can’t do this anymore!’
So, this list is for all parents, whether you’re in denial or not. We are all heroes. Good job on getting through the day.
- Unnecessary Damage. When they draw on something new and expensive with a sharpie and then deny all knowledge of doing it. In fact they were asleep, and they have never even used a pen before.
- Lego. It’s creative and encourages motor skills. It also REALLY FUCKING HURTS!!! when you stand on it. No child in the history of the world has ever put all of their lego away after playing with it on the living room floor.
- The telephone. Expecting an important phone call? Having an adult conversation with a real live other grown-up? This will be the time your children choose to tell you they’ve glued something to the cat, that they’ve accidentally punched a sibling in the face or that their homework is due in yesterday. At all other times my children seem to have terrible hearing, it’s like a miracle. If I’m having a conversation with my husband in the narrow time slot between when my work for the evening starts and his has just finished, they seem to all of a sudden be able to hear every single word I’m saying – even from another room. The best part about this talent is they can then repeat back every single word you’ve said, sometimes they can even repeat it to people you don’t want them to repeat it to (See point 5).
- Meal times. When I became a mum, one of the things I was most looking forward to was cooking healthy and tasty family meals. My kids would look up at me adoringly as I dished up foods from around the world. I would teach them about culture and nutrition, like the W.I and Nigella rolled into one. Their friends would marvel at my culinary skills. I’m several years into this parenting business now. I can honestly say that there is nothing more soul destroying than when you’ve spent several hours baking and crashing about in the kitchen, preparing a family feast, only to be faced with glum looks and ‘Can I have tomato sauce?’ or ‘I don’t like rice anymore’ or my personal favourite ‘I have a tummy ache, I’m not hungry now’. Screw you kids. Fine. My middle class guilt will just have to cope with pizza and fish fingers.
- Birthdays. As your children get older, birthdays become an absolute bloody minefield of guilt and shame. Long gone are the days of throwing together a few balloons, some sandwiches and sleeping lions. No no, that doesn’t cut it anymore. So, I was chatting to my husband on the phone a couple of years ago, a month or so before my sons 9th birthday and lamenting this very fact. In jest, I said how amazing it would be if we hired a limo for his birthday, him and a few friends cruising around like absolute bosses for a few hours. It was a ludicrous notion, because they were 9, it was expensive and it was just a kind of throw away conversation. A couple of days later I was picking my son up from school when several of his friends asked me ‘Is it true that Zach’s getting a limo for his birthday?’ With my son looking at me with the expression of someone whose world was about to fall apart, I said ‘Yes, yes he is’. So yes, he got a white stretch limo for his birthday, complete with several complimentary sacks of jelly beans, some non alcoholic wine and in-built karaoke blasting Gangnam Style. For 2 hours, with no escape because the doors had child locks on them. Although looking back it was kind of cool, it was the longest 2 hours of my life. The trouble is the bar has been set now, so all other birthdays must match up to this. Whatever happened to cheese and pineapple on a stick and twister?
- The inability to follow simple yet vital instructions. I don’t know about you, but in our house there is a war going on between me and a never-ending pile of washing. Some days I go into the bathroom and find that the laundry basket is almost empty. Instinctively I know that it must be a trap and don’t trust it, because 2 boys under 10 produce more washing in the space of a couple of days than an entire army of rugby players does in a lifetime. Washing makes me really angry, mainly because I have to try and navigate through lego left on the floor (point 2), over several layers of toys and probably crisps, to find clothes to wash. It’s not bloody rocket science – dirty washing in the wash basket, clean clothes in your drawer. I must say this EVERY FUCKING DAY! at least twice, but for some reason, only known to my children, they can’t seem to manage it. Solution? there isn’t one, although I’m open to suggestions.
- If you have more than one child they hunt in packs. Sort of like Velociraptors. If you’re having a bad day, they know. If you have an unexpected bill come in and you’re having a mini-melt down, they know and can sense your fear. They will choose this moment, when you are weak, to raid the cupboards for crisps (even though dinner is in 5 minutes) They will merrily leave the house together and play football in a huge puddle of mud, even though they have just had baths, and they will not give a shit. It’s not that they don’t care, or that they don’t love you, they are testing your boundaries.. or some shit like that.
- Quality time always ends up in a row. OK, so I am partly at fault here. I spend too much time online, I think ‘Ooh, I’ll just check eBay quickly’ and then 3 hours later I’ve convinced myself that I should buy a vintage toilet brush or some rare vinyl. The kids are bored, I feel guilty for spending time unproductively, so I say ‘Right! lets have some fun kids! Anyone for Monopoly?’ Bad, bad bad times. Anyone that knows us as a family will know that my husband has passed on many of his qualities to my children, one of which is a quite frightening need to win at Monopoly. I know it won’t end well, but I press on anyway. Quality time as a family is really important, even if that means irreparable psychological damage. The last time we played Monopoly Josh (he’s 7) didn’t speak to anyone in the house for 2 days, because my husband wouldn’t sell him Old Kent Road (ludicrous I know, Old Kent Road is rubbish).
- How I instantly regret being all shouty and mean as soon as they go bed. I’ve read loads of book on parenting, how you’re supposed to use praise for good behaviour and ignore bad behaviour. We’ve used charts and naughty steps, grounding, threats and taking away privileges. It does work, but only sometimes, and only if we’ve all had enough sleep, and if the rest of the world has left us alone that day. As kids grow up they change so much, they learn so quickly how to push your buttons, it’s their job. Parents are buffers, we are experiments and our kids get to test on us what does and does not work in the real world. So, when night time comes and I flake out on the sofa with the biscuits I’ve hidden, I loath myself just a little bit for raising independent, forever questioning, little adults. I hate that they do this to me, I’m a mess all day, wondering why? why have you done all these awful things!? and then as soon as they are asleep I remember all the sweet and unique things they say and do, like ‘If I liked pink, what would I do?’ or ‘If everyone in the world all ate less, and spent less money on toys, would that mean that everyone has enough to eat?’ or the time when Zach gave his pocket money to a homeless man, or how Josh is obsessed with watching food challenges on youtube. Damn it!! They win for being awesome, and I suck for forgetting it.