Wednesday 8 October 2014

Tantrums and gingerbread men... Why parenting shouldn't be easy

gingerbread man, tantrums, parenting, mother diaries, parenting toddlers, toddlers, terrible twos, terrible threes, why printing shouldn't be easy
There are moments in parenting when you think you have quite possibly got it nailed. (Okay, so maybe nailed is not the word you would use, but perhaps you would say that life seems to be getting a little easier). Now I'm expecting another child I am told quite frequently by those with multiples about how my life will change again. Please note that these are the people who also chose to have more than one child and are the same people who warned me of how hard my life would become before I had child number one. It's as though I'm supposed to turn around and thank them for their predictions about how horrendous my life will become, because when people speak negatively over my life I feel a whole new sense of wellbeing and in turn I become such a better parent. Not.

Despite my nearly-four-year-old being quite a handful, he is nothing compared to what he was like as a baby. At least he now makes me laugh, he's independent enough to do things by himself and we can have an actual conversation rather than talking in gobbledygook. I would say that, on the whole, life is a lot easier. Sometimes, however, he likes to remind me just how fickle children can be and will decide to bring about a whole new challenge just to put me in my place.

The fact is, as a parent, there is probably never a moment when life suddenly gets easier. Take, for example, my day today. Albie woke up and thought: do you know what? Mum's had it too easy for too long – I will make sure that she has the opportunity to develop her craft as a parent further. And my day went a little something like this...

Firstly Albie decided to 'lob' random items around the house: his shoes, his toys, the remote control – and when I told him to stop it he looked at me and laughed. I managed to distract him by threatening the naughty corner and wavering the offer of a cinnamon bagel.

Next Albie decided to up his game by swinging from the curtain onto the sofa. I politely asked him to stop, to which he looked at me and laughed and continued. Hilarious. So I imposed other threats, such as no TV, and he stopped.

Then he went to the toilet and peed all over the floor.

Next I needed to get some things from the shops. Albie thought it would be a great game to try and push every item that was at the front of each shelf to the back of each self. This resulted in a domino effect of the rear items which cascaded down the back of the shelves. Before I could tell him off he darted to another isle, leaving me shouting "Albie!" in an annoying pissed-off-mother voice, which actually translated as 'I do mean business but I don't have a clue how to actually do business with a three year old. Somebody please help me.' When I eventually found him he was picking out which crisps he wanted and I only persuaded him to put them back by the promise of a snack at home before we went to visit a school later.

Next we went home and he had some grapes and he happily watched TV for a bit until the time came to leave the house MID PROGRAMME. This is one of the biggest parenting errors, ever. What, you mean you want to stop him from seeing what happens to Marshall on Paw Patrol?! How would you like it if the TV got cut off right before the X-Factor results? Same difference. But you realise that you really need to leave the house or you'll be late. How could I bribe him this time? "Albie, would you like to be a really big boy and turn the TV off all by yourself?" No. You see, the whole as-soon-as-they-can-communicate-makes-life-easier theory goes straight out of the window. I know from this point onwards I am royally screwed.

And so the fight continued as I tried to put his shoes on. He wanted to do it all by himself though. All by his really slow and easily distracted self (and we needed to be at the school within five minutes). There goes the as-soon-as-they-are-more-independent-life-gets-easier theory out of the window too. I ushered him out of the door but he was in no mood to walk down the road (and certainly in no mood to act like a prize pupil). As we walked I told him he could have a gingerbread man on the way home if he was a good boy and he reluctantly agreed to be compliant, but still with a face of thunder.

So we got to the school and he immediately climbed on the chairs in the reception. "Can you get down, Albie, please?" No. "Remember what I said about the gingerbread man?" He reluctantly got down from the chairs and lied on the floor instead. "Can you get up from the floor, Albie, please?" No. And so it continued until a member of staff came to show us around. She was all smiles and asked what his name was – to which he responded by giving her deadeyes and then refusing to look at her.

As the nice lady showed us round Albie shouted at the top of his voice "I don't like this school!" I reminded him about the gingerbread man and he then gave me deadeyes too, as though he now resented the gingerbread man. Albie was smart enough to know that I couldn't give two hoots about giving him a gingerbread man and that I was actually way more concerned with manipulating him into behaving in the way that I wanted.

I looked away for two minutes to discuss school dinners and after-school-clubs and I suddenly realised that he had destroyed an art display on the wall. I apologised profusely – but I was also struggling to multitask listening intently to the lady and watching my somewhat difficult child who had now discovered the school trophies and had the look of 'I would like to lob one of these' on his face.

When we got outside I told Albie he couldn't have a gingerbread man, to which he responded by having a full on melt-down in the playground and I literally had to drag him all the way home, screaming (that's him, not me, though I was close).

See how much easier my life is now?!

I am, of course, under no illusion that my life is going to get any easier with another child in tow. I have no doubt that when number two comes along that my life is not going to be a walk in the park, or at least not a leisurely one. But since when did we start measuring the quality of life by the ease of it? I find it odd that parenting is the only life experience where people are put off by a bit of hard work. Can you imagine if we thought that way about our careers? We would all forget about ambition; we'd scrap the training and apprenticeships; we'd shy away from promotions; we'd opt for unrewarding lifestyles. Ah but life would be so easy...

So please, if you would like to tell me how hard my life will become as a parent of two, go and tell it to someone who lacks ambition and drive for life instead. Having children is not about making life easy. Nothing will push you to your limits more, but nothing will be more rewarding (from my short experience anyway). The things I was warned about before having Albie have most certainly happened, but were they helpful things to say at the time? No. Because dread is not the same thing as dealing with something difficult and coming out the other side. Are things as difficult as people said they would be? Yes. And no. They are harder. But they are easier because they involve the person I love the most, who would not have existed otherwise. I'm grateful for the hard times because they make me who I am, keep me stocked up with good blog material and, like my son, give me more of an appetite for life than gingerbread.

Thanks for reading my blog. If you have any comments I'd love to hear them!