Some things need no introduction, and some do. For the sake of helping you to understand my lack of sanity, I think an introduction is in order.
I am a middle-aged woman (which my daughter has been telling me since I was 30) and I am a proud mother to four children. Two are adults and the other two think they are. We have a number of pets from scaly to fluffy and, as in every household, we drive one another nuts. If you are a parent, then I didn’t need to introduce myself as my tales of woe will resound with parents everywhere. If you are a grandparent, then congratulations to you. You now get to view your spawn with rose-tinted glasses. I envy you!
I don’t think I am an authority on parenting. All I actually manage to do is survive it, barely. Some days I wonder what life would have been like if I had made different choices, but those are never seriously considered as any life without my four annoying children seems empty. Raising children is hard. Physically it is draining but one becomes used to the lack of sleep. It is the mental battle that never goes away. When they are babies you have to know in advance when they will be hungry. When they are toddlers you have to be aware of all electrical outlets because you know they entice little fingers. When they are ready for school you have to carry the massive weight of making the right decision regarding schooling, knowing that this can potentially destroy their lives. As they get older and become young teenagers you have to give them good advice. Generally, it is advice you would never take yourself, like turning your back on the bully and walking away or asking the bully nicely to please stop. Underneath your good advice you are ready to drop that bully the next time you see him but, having offspring who know you really well, they will refuse to give you the bully’s name.
Parenting is about knowing when to hold back and when to lose it. It’s about knowing when to hold on and when to let go and oh my word, it is about picking your battles. No sane adult can get into every battle ever raised and stick to their guns. No matter how many times you ask your kids to replace the toilet paper they are not going to. You can march them back to the bathroom every time and tell them to do it, and if they remember to replace the loo roll the next three times you have done well as a parent. Ultimately, one day they will live on their own and they will learn the hard way what the consequences of not replacing the toilet paper are. You never know what you have until it’s gone. It’s a lesson better learned than taught.
Being a parent is also about dealing with many different personalities and many different likes and dislikes. We don’t go paintballing because one child really doesn’t like the idea of getting shot. We don’t go zip-lining because two of the children are afraid of heights. We tried shark-cage diving, but I wouldn’t even get on the boat and, apparently, nobody is particularly keen on hiking. By the time we have eliminated all dislikes, discomforts and fears we can pretty much only go to the movies, so that is what we do. We sit in the same order every time and I whisper as the movie is about to start and as always, I get a filthy look from my son for whispering. About 30 minutes into the movie I become aware that my middle-aged knees are aching and that I cannot straighten my legs to get any kind of relief. The next hour is spent twisting and stretching while said son continues to throw me dirty looks. His anger actually masks his embarrassment at having with him, a mother who doesn’t just quietly blend into the background; and I do feel kind of sorry for him. By the time the movie ends, I have recovered from the guilt (and the joint pain) and as we walk out, I pinch my son’s bum.
“Mom, you can’t do that!” he says shooting me another one of his demon looks.
“I know,” I say.
I can’t really defend myself, so I say nothing more than that. He would never understand anyway. I am slowly paying my children back. Having friends over? That is when I jump into his room and say something stupid. Social school gathering? That is where you will find me sidling up to my youngest and breaking into dance. At the shops with me and looking grumpy? That is when I walk around like a penguin clapping my hands.
For the first five years or so, our children make life especially difficult, not because they intend to but just because that is how children are – tantrums on shop floors, refusing to wear long pants when it is seven degrees outside, refusing to swallow a spoonful of medicine, refusing to go to sleep, putting the goldfish on their pillow in the middle of the night so that they can tuck it in and keep it warm. It is mentally exhausting. You will never know true patience until you have a child – and you will never be sane again. What sane person pretends to be a pterodactyl? Only a parent whose child is obsessed with dinosaurs. Only a parent.
So that is me, a parent. What am I most proud of? Not my own survival but the fact that I haven’t, accidentally, let my children starve to death or any other one of the thousands of manner of things that could have ended their lives by now. It has been said that I am past the difficult age now as my youngest is a teenager. If you are a parent of a younger child and think that the terrible twos are difficult, just wait. There is nothing quite like a hormonal, moody teen to brighten your day. Instead of the ridiculous questions that your lovely child asked when they were still cute and little like:
“How much peanut butter can four bees eat?”
Now you barely get a word from them at all.
“How was your day, love?” gets a reply of “Fine.”
They grow so fast which is why I make a concerted effort to treasure every moment. I am treasuring every time I am able to make them blush, every time they wish they could crawl under a rock and get away from me or become invisible. I treasure every time I get the opportunity to break into song or dance while they are in public with me. Time flies and before long they will have all flown the nest and I will be that crazy lady that talks to her plants. There will be no more reminders of my sons without their smelly sweatshirts lying around. There will be nothing to trigger memories of my daughter when she has moved out with her pets and I no longer have to feed them. There will be no more cooking for insatiable tummies and no more having to buy 60 litres of milk every month.
Sounds awful right?
I can’t wait.
The kids will never forgive me if I reveal my true identity so…
Mum’s the Word