Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best: I am a Bad Parent

Saturday, 20 January 2018

I am a Bad Parent

Today I am a bad parent. Today I let my toddler down. Her best friend, the one she turns to for guidance and for explanations that her parents clearly cannot give her; the one from whom she seeks counsel and self worth, had a birthday party. And I got the day wrong.

If you don't have children you won't understand this. If you have children and they have multiple interchangeable friends you will feel I am being over dramatic but if you have a child who is so raw with emotion that she cries at the sight of anyone looking anxious or disappointed or, heaven forbid, sad then you may be able to empathise.

I write this knowing that as she sleeps, she is gathering up her energy, dreaming of a day which she thinks will be filled with friends, fun and celebration (read cake) and I have to break the news to her. I need to tell her that it isn't going to happen and you would think at the grand age of 4 that she would have experience with this but I cannot give you another example. I am rootling, scraping and poking around the recesses of my brain for a time when she has had to deal with something similar.

Oh wait.

I remember.

It was the summer of '17 (not as catchy as '69 but just as disappointing) and my daughter was given an unprecedented starring role in the nursery summer show, despite being a mere 3 year old. She had been discovered. She was a star and this was her moment to shine. She was to be the straw-seller in the 3 little pigs show and despite routinely refusing to be clad in anything involving an inner seam she was willing to don a pair of denim dungarees in order to inhabit this role. This was a big thing.

The night before the show I picked her up from the nursery and took her home. She was her normal, chatty, delirious self  relaying all the excitement of the dress rehearsal they had participated in that day but as she took the last bite of her apple (read biscuit) I noticed some red, unsightly bumps on her forehead. I lifted her top, one hand over my eyes, dreading to reveal what I already knew was there. The chicken pox.

I felt sick.

I broke the news, explaining that she was poorly and highly contagious and therefore would not be able to take to the stage. She argued back that it was merely pink dirt and that she would be sick after the show. This was everything she had dreamt of for as long as she could remember, which in toddler life is about a week. She was desolate.

But that wasn't my fault. Sure, I felt keenly for her. I always do. Her heart is like an open wound with every struggle acting like a strong dose of salt, so when I see her crumple it pains me. I feel her pain acutely and curse anyone who is responsible. This time though, I did this. I was responsible. There was an invitation which I misread in haste. No one else was involved and there is no one else to blame.

Tomorrow I have to crush her little heart. I am not looking forward to it.

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