My desperately-trying-to-be-perfect SAHM mantle is slipping. Forget slipping, it has crashed to the ground.
The day started off well. Miraculously we were both dressed, fed and watered by 9am and out the door for a playgroup session at our local Sure Start. We weren't even the last ones in. We played for an hour and a half, sung some songs and trundled off to the high street in our district to collect the new super-duper-high-calorie milk order and have some lunch. As a treat, we had lunch at a cafe and Wriggles had a good go at chewing the crusts of my sandwich as well as drinking a bottle of the new wonder milk. Although slightly over-cast, the sun warmed us and the air was clear so we walked up to the supermarket to collect some bits and pieces. The trouble started there. Not to be out-done by her toddler friends, Wriggles is far too interested in basically, anything other than napping, and is a little monkey to get down at the moment. I wouldn't mind, but without one she is a monster by 4:30pm and dinner, bathtime and bedtime goes down the drain as she is over-tired and answers only to the Bedtime Hour on Cbeebies. Her eyes were drooping as we started down the aisles and so I put up the cover of the pushchair so she could get some peace and drop off.
The next half hour was spent trying to persuade her that napping was infinitely preferable to trying to throw everything out the pushchair and pull things off the shelves. After a while, I gave up and sped round eager to leave. Everything done, in near record time, I suddenly noticed something wasn't right. There were two pink socks poking out the pushchair.
We came in with two shoes.
One shoes, I removed swiftly and placed in my handbag as one leg is far more flexible and she can take this shoe off with her eyes closed. The other leg, is normally safe and my handbag was out of space.
Well, safe no more. I will have to find a bigger handbag or some jeans with gigantic pockets.
We traced out steps back round once, then twice, then three times. Wriggles smirked and giggled.
I could feel my annoyance rising. Not only were we now wasting time in blasted ASDA, there was a really irritating in-store radio with a infuriating simpering woman on it waxing lyrical about Smarties, there was poor air conditioning and Wriggles was now trying to escape and chuck things simultaneously. Clearly naptime was off the radar. After round 3, I gave up and stomped off to the tills then checked in with lost property and customer service. Nothing.
I rarely loose my temper. In general circumstances, it takes a bit to get anything stronger than an "oh, SOD" out of me, far less a raised voice or anything physical. I know I'm quite critical of myself, but on the whole, I am a pretty laid-back flexible person verging on the indecisive and vaguely hippy. I like having a sense of routine but am far from lost without one, and 'make it up as you go along' could be my catchphrase. I don't loose it with Wriggles especially that often, and spent large chunks at present trying to remove her from the bin, stop her tearing pages from books or from stealing biros (honestly, I had hidden every last one high up and somehow she finds ones I never remember owning) and trying to scribble on the carpet. It doesn't rile me. It might make me do some deep breathing but not shout. I am used to recurrent refusal of food, things thrown on the floor and wasted. I walk away. So what the dickens am I playing at today? I am putting it down to ill-child-syndrome. After a hospital admission, I am often out of sorts. Exhausted mentally and physically and stirred out from having to recount every aspect of the whole sorry story of the last 22 months and pouring over bad memories so that the on-call consultant can get the picture. We leave elated at being let out again, but on a state of high alert trying to remember that things are not going to go downhill. Not this time, not now. My emotions are magnified and my responses less measured and lacking in reason. I feel such a magnitude of responsibility and sometimes with no-one daily to turn to for reassurance, the desire to get it right gets to me and rips out my instincts, temporarily replacing them with someone I don't recognise. Of course, in time everything is back to normal and I am left wondering what I was making a fuss about.
As much as playing hospitals, the reality is that this parenting lark can be hard graft. Just when you think you have sussed out your baby and are proudly imparting advice to those slightly further behind, things change and you have a new personality, new sets of whims, new routine and new parenting attitude to learn and quickly. Mostly, Wriggles is a delight but some recent toddler-ish habits and less attractive traits are creeping in (sleep regression, pouting, the emergence of some tantrums, shaking her head to everything, wilful vandalism of toys, thievery of possessions and lack of concentration on erm, anything). Suddenly I need to clarify my position on discipline, work a new routine which suits us both as a family unit and find tactics to avoid these toddler-isms wherever possible. I have no problem her being herself, but I do not want to stand back in la-la-land watching while testing boundaries becomes deliberate bad behaviour. Granted, we'd have a fair way to go, not least because she is lacking in some understanding still, but I do not want to be in a helpless position because I could have done better at the time. I want to continue being proud of my daughter-and that we did it by ourselves, together.
My mum is an early years worker and I have grown up hearing complaints of parents just not doing enough and I so want to be one of the good ones. Not just for anyone else, but for Wriggles to give her the best start I can. I want her to know she is loved and safe (but not immune to discipline when needed!) and to continue being a pleasure in mixed company and a delightful figure who commands attention for all the right reasons. Of course she is going to test my patience and press my buttons: we are both only human. I think I just need more practise! As much as I am looking forward to a period of time spent the two of us at home, I am also nervous. What if today is a sign of things to come? What if I have got used to bundling her off somewhere else a few days a week and just can't do everything alone? In my heart of hearts, I know that is just parent-guilt speaking. That horrible worm that burrows it's way into your psyche, making you doubt every move you make and pointing out that so-and-so down the road does it better.
It is a little like having a newborn, or equivalent. Everyone says airily "oh it's so TIRING" and you nod politely whilst thinking "how can such a small and sleepy baby be so disruptive?". Then weeks later, you are shrieking "why didn't you tell me what hard work it was! I'd have stocked up on restful cucumber slices, Mozart and gin if I'd known!". Likewise, everyone alludes to the Terrible Twos whilst your cherubs sucks on their toy's ears. Surely they would never...? Oh yes they will. Even the nicest baby has his or her wilful moments. Even Mrs So-and-So down the road. Just because she says it's all fine and they never have a speck of trouble, that is no reason to fall for it. We are all eager enough to trade stories with a comic edge, but more reluctant to share anything that shows us off at our worse. I can't remember meeting up with mum friends or going to a toddler group where everyone trades in expletives and the worst time they lost their rag. Because we all do it. Or will do it. And short of reading your children wrong and being genuinely out of control, they are not the worse for it. After five minutes anyway.
I left the smartprice vodka on the shelf. For this time anyway.