Last week was a bad week. I know this because I kept breaking into tears in front of friends, and now I’m consulting Toddler Taming to find some new strategies. Or at least to remind me about the things I already know work and don’t work so I can then reflect on the current daily battles and decide which to fight and which to try to ignore or deflect. Not forgetting step three: negotiate agreement on plan with Mr H so we achieve the holy grail of calm, consistent parenting…well, try to.
No, it definitely wasn’t the week you want to have going into the Big Test of new non-working motherhood: six weeks of summer holidays. That week would be full of love and gorgeousness with my three year old, reward charts full of stickers and siblings who might actually play together for more than a millisecond. Instead I felt each smeared loo seat, each refusal to come down the stairs without a pick up, each episode of hitting or shouting, each jab and counter-jab of sibling fencing were arrows pinning me to a summer of despair, an abysmal mother finding no joy in her children, only willing the clock to reach 6pm each day.
Three things lifted me from such awful self-absorbed misery.
Firstly, friends. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. They are brilliant. What would I do without them. I can’t avoid them either (at least in term time), so when I feel like I want to hide in a black hole feeling sorry for myself, they force me to have the moment of light relief and human contact I actually need. Last week, they did much more – three chunks of time Littlest H was whisked off me, and precious time it was too. I read somewhere that people are three more times as likely to say yes to requests for childcare than people are to ask. Asking for help is hard, even if it’s in return for help I’ve given. I always feel bad foisting my child on someone else when there isn’t a ‘good’ reason like work or medical appointments. In reality, time to be alone is good enough. Even an hour can reset the balance and allow me to face the day with renewed vigour, patience and playfulness.
Secondly, books. Is there anything more uplifting than a really good read? I have started reading the books my book club read before I joined it, the latest of which is the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. What a fabulous little gem of a book. I loved it, it lifted me up and made me feel warm, positive and happy. Losing myself in a good book, even if it’s just for a few minutes at bedtime, recharges my batteries, reminds me I’m still me and there’s more to life than our little domestic enclave. I also found time to read some of the weekend’s paper on the same weekend I bought it, rather than the usual month later. The fact that I can steal an hour to sit in the sunshine with a coffee and read the paper undisturbed was definitely a pick-me-up, a sign life isn’t all bad and is getting more balanced as the littlies get bigger.
Finally, meditating the parent mantra: “Ommmmmm, it’s only a stage, it’s only a stage, it’s only a stage, ommmmmmmm.” Things Littlest H made an unholy fuss about a few months ago pass by unnoticed now. Teeth brushing for instance. I remember so well battles as described in Playing with the Holsby’s recent post, and now it’s a walk in the park (take heart Mrs Holsby). Putting shoes and coats on was a grinding battle of wills where now he’s sunny as you like about it. Only a month ago he refused to come to the table for meals, now he mostly gets up and tucks in without turning a hair. I have to hope the same will happen with walloping his sister and toilet battles. I know in my heart it will. In the meantime, Toddler Taming is now being joined by ‘How to talk so kids listen’ and ‘Raising Happy Brothers & Sisters’, as recommended by a friend today. I don’t care if reading how to parenting books makes me an ‘alpha mum’, or a control freak, sometimes I need to read wise words that help me think calmly and positively about ways to make it better. I used to read work books to find new ways of thinking and approaching my job, so why not now? This has got to be the hardest job I’ve ever done and it’s not like I can just resign to find a more suitable position, is it.
So on we go. Two days of summer holiday down, a few bumps already along the road but I feel hopeful last week was a blip. Seeing more of Little H is wonderful, I miss her when she’s at school. She’s both an antidote, a help and a fellow sufferer/enjoyer of Littlest H, so it’s great to have her along for the ride. My new books will wing their way to my door radiating more hope, and no doubt at least one gem will find its way into our lives, making us all rub along a bit more smoothly. And the glass will feel a bit more full for a while – until the next shift in behaviour of course, and who knows what delights await us then…