Like every parent I know, there are things that I never seem to learn but, in the interests of sanity, really really need to.
More haste, less speed? True every time I’m running late and try to strap the BSCB in the buggy with one hand, while putting on my Nikes with the other. Always optimistic/ ambitious/ unrealistic/ stupid I compound my fumbling misery by ordering The Eldest to fasten her own zip. She’s three. She can’t do this. But telling her to do it makes me feel better, like I’m at least doing something to regain control of the tardy train we are perpetually riding on.
Keep calm and carry on? Well, I’d love to, and sure I’ll carry on, otherwise the small people would be left rummaging through the bins for their next fix of fish fingers, but you try keeping the panic out of your voice when The Eldest decides to bear hug your legs. She pins them together so tight that you might as well be a pogo-stick, at the exact same moment the BSCB launches himself eye-first towards the fork The Eldest has wedged danger-side up between the cushions of the settee. Screw calm, I’m all about the shrieking in that scenario.
Aside from these cliches however, there are also lessons less obvious that I am struggling to learn.
Despite all the evidence suggesting it is a terrible idea, over and again I have allowed my children to take “things” to bed with them. A condition I call EEEE (End-of-the-day-Exhaustion-Evoked-Exaggeration) warps my ability to form Actual Thoughts and I become certain that to take “it” away is a surefire route to the small people NEVER SLEEPING AGAIN. I convince myself that letting them hold onto their “treasure” is the lesser of two evils and as a result we once allowed our daughter to take a new pair of shoes to bed with her.
To be fair to The Eldest, these ones were pretty spectacular. You will know the ones, you will have seen them all over the high street. They are the ones that Before Parenting you always dismissed as hideous, while labelling the parents involved as sartorially challenged, because who else would buy their child shoes with flashing lights in the soles? Now I know better because most parents just want to get out of the shoe shop with shoes the smalls will actually wear, and with everyone, you know, still alive.
So, to recap, The Eldest had flashing shoes, I was tired and suffering from EEEE, she took them to bed. After an hour and a half of lighting up her bedroom like a crime scene/ really shit disco, the silence punctuated by the smacks of the soles being banged together like really-shit symbols, she finally fell asleep like this:
It wasn’t worth it. I need to learn this.
I also wonder when will I learn to accept the reality about what The Eldest will eat at a picnic? Despite all of the types of food she does NOT like, it is remarkable just how perfectly picnic food suits her – she likes carrot, cucumber and bread sticks; she likes a cheese sandwich and a humous-filled pitta bread; she likes strawberries and grapes; and she really likes crisps.
Whenever we go to a picnic, shit-hot-adequate parent that I am, I prepare Proper Food. I wrap it carefully in tin foil and fill up the cool bag*. Generally speaking I don’t pack the crisps however, mainly because even a hint of a rustle of a crisp packet has her mewing like a starved kitten. No one needs that in their life so crisps are generally banned from the house.
So how is it possible that within minutes of arriving at any picnic, my carefully prepared offerings are rejected in favour of her plunging her entire arm into a family-sized bag of Walkers Sensations? She wanders around like a miniture James Herriot, elbow-deep in servicing the savoury goodness, and resists all of my efforts to tempt her to eat some Actual Food. I really need to learn not to bother.
The list of parenting lessons that I really need to learn goes on and on.
Don’t tell her about the Mermaid themed birthday party 5 weeks before it actually happens, unless responding to the question “Can I be a mermaid now” 5 times a day for the next 35 days is your idea of conversation.
Don’t tell The Eldest a bedtime story that features her in it unless you want to be wracking your brains every night for the next five years. That is 1825 plot lines – are you really sure you’re up for that commitment..?
Don’t laugh the first time the BSCB dives backwards out of your arms. You catch him with a giggle, a kiss and an exclamation of prideful-idiotic-wonder about what a risk-taker he is. He repays your misplaced smugness by proving you right every time you pick him up. So what if you’re also carrying a scalding hot cup of tea, I mean that just adds to the excitement, right..?
On and on and on, I could go. As I’m sure you could too – go on, make a girl feel better, what are the lessons you really need to learn?
*carrier bag – I don’t own a cool bag. I probably should, and was keen to look competent.