It was a Friday, it was a small thing that triggered it, a thing that in retrospect was really not worth all the upset and the hassle.
The day I just couldn’t handle the testing of our four year old combined with the constant crying of a one year old and pregnancy hormones. Too often mums and dads pretend parenthood is a breeze. When asked how things are we say, “Fine”. In reality, on a daily basis it can be extremely challenging especially to the rational logic of an adult. Fine is the polyfiller of words, glosses over the cracks which you don’t want others to see.
My eldest is going through a phase at the moment of simply not listening at all. She hears, but she can often ignore what is being said if it doesn’t appeal to her. All children do this I’m told. That means I would have done it, you would have done it, our angelic little cherubs will do it. These words of wisdom do not help me deal with the fact that I am repeating myself day in, day out like a hot curry after a night out.
If any of you are old enough to remember the Charlie Brown cartoons I feel like an adult from one of those. Charlie Brown, his friends and his dog Snoopy could all understand each other fine. Whenever an adult spoke in the show the noise they heard was something like this,” wha wha wha wha wha wha”. All the cartoon children would look at the cartoon adult puzzled, and just carry on regardless not having heard or cared what was being said to them. This is how I feel, I’m being Charlie Browned every day.
It goes over their heads
My one year old is a screamer. I haven’t had this before. She can talk well already, but if things aren’t coming quick enough or how she likes them then she screams, and she doesn’t stop. A stern, “ah ah,” which means no in our house just results in short, bursts of a pulsating scream. She is not deterred at all.
So I’d had a full on morning of this, combined with severe tiredness, and raging pregnancy hormones. I decided to put the children in the bath. A change of room, scene, and environment may change their attitudes. It all seemed to be going fine until ‘bathgate’.
I’d asked my eldest to try not to splash too much. There is an adult, logical reason for this. Some of the stick on tile things on the bathroom floor are coming away and I don’t want them to get too wet and come up even more. I lift the baby out of the bath. Dry her, dress her, and put her in her car seat with a bottle hoping she may drift off to sleep while I’m getting my little girl out of the bath. Then I see it.
As I come through the bathroom door I see her tipping a full bucket of water out onto the floor. Not accidentally splashing, but purposefully pouring loads of it everywhere. She looks at me, continues, and gives me a defiant smile knowing that what she is doing is not what I want, Boom! A small volcano erupted inside me, rose up through my chest and bursted out of my mouth. ”What are you doing, no!”
Of course we all know what she was doing. She was doing what I guess all children do. Testing the water – literally. Testing it to see what will happen if she defies the rules of the adult world. It’s the Pandora’s Box syndrome….don’t open it, don’t open it – oh too late, disease, sickness and bad things have now flown out into the world – there they go.
I told my little girl off, but inside I was so upset that I’d been completely ignored again. This is when I lost my ability to function like the adult of the house. “ Right out the bath now,” I said, “stand up”. Then I swiftly realised I hadn’t washed her hair. “No, erm sit down again I’ll wash your hair”. “ Right now out the bath”. Then from the other room….scream, cry, scream.
This all resulted in mummy meltdown. After drying my girl, taking them both downstairs and putting them in the front room in front of the tv I went into the kitchen and cried. I knew it was pathetic. I was crying over a four year old being a bit mischievous and pouring water on the floor. But really I was crying at the lack of control I’d had all day. I was crying because I was knackered, I was crying because none of my usual techniques of restoring order were working. I was crying because my pregnancy can sometimes take its toll. I was crying because I just wanted all the mayhem to stop for a few minutes so I could just be me.
At this point my other half who’d been outside came in hearing all the commotion. Luckily, he gets it. He understands how frustrating it can be when you are being Charlie Browned and screamed at, and so he sent me to bed, abandoned his planned bike ride, and took over looking after the kids.
After I while of crying about the water, I realised how stupid it was. If I’d have kept my cool I wouldn’t be so upset, and a calmer reaction with less attention probably would have sent a signal that the water tipping was a pointless exercise. But when a mummy meltdown hits these rational thoughts are lost.
Thankfully, I’ve only had one of these big mummy meltdowns in a year and a half of managing two kids, so I think that’s ok. I’ve been on the brink, and had less dramatic episodes, but only one like that day.
Maybe it is just me who is rubbish at being a parent. Maybe I’m not calm enough, open minded enough, and experienced enough. Maybe I’m a ratty cow. But if you find yourself in the middle of a mummy or daddy meltdown, try to remember that in the end it’s not worth it.
One day these little cherubs will be 16 and sitting their exams. 21 and going out on a date. 30 and getting married, and maybe having children of their own. Is a bit of water on the bathroom floor really going to hurt anyone or shape how they turn out as adults? I doubt it. Is it going to affect these precious milestones in their life? No. Are they going to remember the meltdown? No, not if they are infrequent. Are you going to get stressed by it and remember it – yes.
So here is the advice that I am telling myself. Try to stay calm and keep perspective on what is happening, what is important. Try to discipline the children without getting too cross or too complex. And if they do have children of their own when they grow up you can impart the advice that you’ve lived through, “don’t worry they all do that”.
(First published May 2013)