Wednesday, July 25


Children are many things, but one thing they definitely are are great levellers. They are excellent at humbling us older "wiser" types by themselves and their defiant innocence and are also good at breaking down barriers between fellow parents that otherwise loom large. I think all us parents are guilty in some capacity of having looked at other parents whom often we know next to nothing about and view aspects of their child rearing with contempt, mild horror or snobbery. I would never do that, we might think. MY child would never dream of doing ... [insert here]....

Until of course, they do.

Even the most perfect and well behaved cherubs have off days. Even the nicest ones learn by pushing boundaries or going a bit loopy. Sometimes the little horrors that we adore and idolise have several off days in a row, leaving you wondering where an earth you went wrong.

In the early days, fresh with enthusiasm and ideals about How I Would Do Things, I thought I had a fairly watertight plan of action to things. Fast forward almost 2 years, and weary cynicism has crept in and the rulebook, or at least dratted baby books and parenting manuals, have been thrown out the window or are being used as doorstops. Of course I still make snap judgements about others much as I'd prefer to say I didn't, but now I do have more compassion for other strained parents and care far less about what anyone might think in turn of me. Not because anything is vastly different, just that like many of us down the road of parenthood, I have realised that babies and toddlers have personalities. They have wills of irons, minds of their own and some inherent behaviour that I swear they swap in code at baby groups that they all seem to do at one stage or another. Even the really nice ones.

And so, today I got bitten for the first time.

Wriggles was having a tantrum. She is teething and it was hot all day. Refusing to nap, I tried in desperation to get her to listen to storytime at the library. She crawled off and went up and down the stairs, shrieking loudly as she went. God forbid, a little boy was in her path, listening innocently to the lady reading a circle of angels a story. Shriek shriek shriek. To try and save the sanity of the little group who were previously shrouded in peace, I removed my small child to go and menace somewhere a few metres away instead. She roared in defiance. I was enjoying THAT PATCH OF CARPET! (I think was the translation). In her thrashings of displeasure, she gave herself a very minor bump of the head which made her even crosser and then sunk her teeth into my arms.

Then I broke the peace of the library and emitted a surprised and pained "OW!"

Although I was surprised at the timing, I was not surprised at the bite. I have been semi-expecting to get bitten at least once, as all the offspring of people I know (apart from those owning the very small) and those I don't whom I may have earwigged on, have been bitten in retaliation, confusion or experimentation by now. I have been under no illusion that I have a child so angelic she would never do such a thing, but have been suspiciously waiting for her to strike and pick her moment. Wriggles is far from a thug, but she is a toddler. A teething toddler who is beginning to discover the power of "no" and not always getting her own way. I do hope it is a one off, but I suspect it is heralding the departure of my snuggly baby and arrival of a foot stomper but (please!) equally delightful toddler-proper.

Like I warily expected the inevitable nibbling of my arm (nibbling sounds too gentle; I have marks to prove it) I expect her to shout at me, have tantrums, mortify me in public, cause me to snap and probably as a teenager tell me I've ruined her life at least once a year if not once a week. Not because I expect or think that she will be a badly behaved child, just that she is a child. And children make mistakes and learn and err, exercise their emotions for want of a better phrase! Even those where the sun shines from every orifice are not perfect. At least they are, possibly, but not every single moment of every day. Which means likewise, there probably isn't a perfect parent out there all the time. Even those that seem to have tripped out of a Boden catalogue with their 2.4 families, pedigree dog and Aga have crap moments when they curse the fruit of their loins and all their teeth/chattering/insults/mess/toys left out ripe for tripping over. 

I just wish they told you earlier!

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