I get this a lot, when my children are playing up in the supermarket. Or when they’re chasing each other around a car park, or having a loud argument in the school playground, and even when we’re on the beach and they’re being totally delightful.
‘You’ve got your hands full!’
Yep. And people are generally very kind, sympathetic about whatever predicament I’m in. Some of the kindest strangers have supported me in my plight to complete day-to-day tasks, in cajoling my children to listen to whatever it is I’m trying to get them to do, distracting them by engaging in conversation or just giving me the ‘we’ve all been there!’ look. However, sometimes, people can (probably totally unintentionally) make you feel like you’re the worst parent in the world with just a look, a roll of the eyes or worse, a very stony silence. Now, yes, I may be disorganised, probably mediocre, I may appear a bit clueless, lack lustre and dare I say it, tired – but I’m not the worst parent in the world. You’ll know if you’ve read Owl Handbag Lady has the last word, that commenting judgemental people can irritate the hell out of me and I have been known to bite back, but generally, the looks can keep me quiet, embarrassed and quick to leave a public place. Only when in my car will I be so cross and let down with myself, that I could cry, sometimes I have.
Keeping this blog has allowed me to see the brighter side to life raising 3 children. Do I love it? Absolutely. Is it easy? Ever tried convincing a rabid dog that it’s a good idea to sit on your lap and quietly eat a box of raisins? It’s even more difficult, when the rabid dog that wants to maul your face off looks like an angel and screams louder than a smoke alarm. No it’s not easy.
My youngest toddler, at almost exactly 2 years old is testing me and my husband beyond the limit that either one of our previous children pushed us to. She has tantrums more extreme, prolonged and intense than any other child I know. She cares nothing for who sees, who tries to intervene and how long we may have to sit on the floor in Tesco before she decides she doesn’t quite need the pair of red and blue socks in a men’s size 12 that she was insisting on 30 minutes before. She has no logic yet. Does this provide embarrassing moments? Without doubt. But for the majority of the time (out of the 12 waking hours we’re talking 11 and a half delightful) she is a sweet, lively, kind and gloriously funny child with so much love to give those around her. You don’t see that when she’s clawing at me as I try and ease her into a car seat, or screaming like a siren in the supermarket queue.
Being a parent has taught me some harsh lessons about my former self. I’m ashamed to admit – I’ve been a ‘tutter’, I’ve made suggestions to my husband about how a child might be better parented. No longer. My children, my youngest in particular, have taught me that there is no magical formula to placate a tantrum. There’s sometimes no answer to ‘what’s the matter?’ Or ‘why are you crying?’ And also, that everyone’s patience has a limit.
Just the day before yesterday on our holidays in Wales, our youngest had the mother of all tantrums in the middle of a very busy square whilst we tried to have a drink at a cafe. It came without a lot of warning, she wanted to go to the castle: now!
We tried to distract her with a drink, a snack, reading a book – all fruitless. She got louder, more wild and a blasting siren cry that was making people frown. I felt myself getting more wound up, more frustrated and the more this happened the worse she became. With one movement, Grandad (my dad) swept her up and marched her off for a walk. Hearing the screeches moving further away filled me with a huge sense of guilt. It’s one thing to endure your own child kicking, screaming and hitting in a rage, but to put my dad through that felt like a pretty unfair trade. I got calmer, talked to my mum, husband my older son and daughter. Five minutes went by and Dad suddenly appeared with a now smiling toddler, who said sorry to everyone and sat down like a little lamb until everyone had finished. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try as a mum and dad – it’s easier with a bit of extra help.
We may be making it up as we go along, we may not have the answers, but you can guarantee this family will not pass judgement on your tantrum-ing child. I hope one day me or my husband will be the one offering that much needed support. Until then, we have got our hands full, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.