I’ve had lots of #parentingfails this week, more than I’ve had in the last few months at least. I’ve outdone myself, in fact.
I didn’t realise I was quite so stressed until these last few tense days of not being able to cope with anything small child related. Oh, they’re just doing their usual ‘I want it chopped up’ then ‘No, I said I didn’t want it chopped up’, or the first one taking off their shoes and socks by the time I’ve laced up the last one’s shoes and socks, thus initiating an endless cycle of shoving feet into shoes and finding discarded socks while impotent rage ebbs and flows through me. The little one has started saying ‘Reeve me ARONE’ like Scooby Doo without his Shaggy and the other two spend a lot of time trailing me, demanding that we order stuff online. Any stuff. Stuff that comes in boxes, most days, containing stuff inside to alleviate the heavy stuff that is happening right now outside of this house.
I’m not going to list the anti-Mary Poppins ways I’ve conducted myself as a mother recently, although that would be of tremendous confessional relief, albeit fleeting. What I am going to say is that I’ve forgiven myself. Because I have no choice. Every day, I have to forgive myself for the ridiculous things I do, even though I am an adult. For the times my beastly side beats my saintly side into submission and tramples all over my life for a day or two. Forgive, forgive, forgive.
You really couldn’t parent unless you let yourself off the hook for all the ways you have demonstrated how not to react, or behave, or sound, or just be on a bad day. You actually have to, as COO extraordinaire Sheryl Sandberg would say, lean in. You have to just go with who you are because your kids don’t have anyone else. You are their parent, for better or for worse.
Daily life has shrunk and I live in a small terraced house. That heady rush of doing is simply out of the equation right now. So everything else is magnified, including stress. Things seem several thousand times worse than they are. There is the hum of world stress in the background, and then your family – on some days – slides into a microcosm of these fears and worries.
It’s amazing really. For me, this existential terror hides itself among the ordinary, tiny things of everyday life and it pretends: this is what you are annoyed about. And so trying to piece together a carelessly chopped lasagna for a demanding four year old becomes monumental, a task which makes me shout and clang and bang unnecessarily.
The kids will always forgive you. You are everything to them. They trust you totally. But you have to let yourself off that sticky jam hook of parenting and keep going. Do better the next day, fall down again, get up again, then keep marching forward. Be the pillar of their childhood. Do the best you can. Forgive yourself.