Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best: The Parenting Hunger Games

Thursday, 1 February 2018

The Parenting Hunger Games

Today I can honestly say that I was one of ‘those’ mums. The one who appears unable to control her feral offspring; the one looking broken, harassed and intermittently bewildered. I was the mum upon whom we bestow the half smile; the one laced with good intentions and heartfelt compassion, the one often accompanied by a conspiratorial nod loosely interpreted as “can’t they all be rascals sometimes?”.

Well I may be going out on a limb here, but I fear that that gesture is often tainted with a mere hint of smugness and a whiff of relief. Oh look, it’s not me today! The gods have spun their daily wheel of fortune, the violent whirring slowed to a gentle rhythmical revolution before ominously click, click, clicking into its final resting place. Today’s parenting ‘tributes’ have been selected.


Well today, that was me.


I should have known. It had been an inauspicious start to the day as, having thrown caution, knowledge and common sense to one side, I had attempted to free my 4 year old from the bind of night time nappies ignoring the fact that they were more often than not full to bursting on her morning liberation. Damn you mumsnet discussion threads! You had led me to believe that there was a chance that my pre-schooler merely needed to have that safety net removed. A little push in the right direction to encourage her to become more "bladder aware" when she is sleeping. It turns out she may need more of a shove.

Having leapt out of bed, awoken from the deepest, sweetest slumber by an anguished scream, I threw myself in her direction, ricocheting off the walls on the way to ambush what was a clearly an intruder trying to maim my first born. On arrival, I discovered that there was no masked man to wrestle but a deluge to wade through.

Pre-schooler bedroom at 0430

If you are yet to enter the toddler years, let me warn you, dealing with them when they have been woken abruptly is like dealing with an over amorous drunk, oscillating between uncontrollable giggles and inconsolable weeping with intermittent declarations of undying love thrown in for good measure. Having stripped everything that could possibly be stripped (child and selves included) we stumbled back into bed just before 5am dog tired and yet annoyingly awake.

Needless to say, this did not set me up for the day.

Sleep, why have you forsaken me?

The morning was a battle of wills, not so much with my eldest who was clearly fatigued from her nocturnal exertions, but with my near two year old. He is on the brink of being able to string together coherent sentences but will babble incessantly like every syllable is of paramount importance and then emit a blood curdling shriek when he realises that he is not being understood. This noise is also often accompanied with some act of defiance. This is not a fun stage.

I fear this is not the last time I will see him in striped overalls trying to break out of confinement

To top it all off we were being summoned back to the optician as my 4 year old had declared an inability to see the last line of the eye chart that was conveniently accompanied by an urgent desire for some spectacles which were uncannily similar to her best friend's. Odd how these things happen together. Still, we were to return for a reassessment to ensure that my child was merely a time waster but on this occasion I was to be outnumbered on the childcare front.

We entered the shop like a whirlwind with my son slipping his sweaty paw from my grip and running like he had stolen something. He was pulling all the frames available to him (at knee height) from their display before casually discarding them at his feet and moving on to throwing the meticulously piled leaflets into the air like oversized confetti, while I followed behind trying to rectify the situation and whispering "sorry, sorry, sorry" like an apologetic bridesmaid. I finally managed to bundle him under my arm in the classic rugby ball hold while I let the startled looking girl behind the desk know we were here. Just in case she missed our opening number.

Shame. Face.

We were ushered to a bank of seats at the back of the shop to await the optician but as soon as I loosened my vice like grip on the small one in order to remove my daughter's coat, he was off again, ducking and diving through the labyrinth of customer's legs. This time, a member of staff took pity on me and gallantly bestowed the gift of balloons on my offspring. Not just balloons though, but balloons on sticks. These are weapons in the hands of an unruly toddler and sure enough soon the elderly, poor sighted population of Edinburgh were being whacked in the face with an accompanying "BOOP!" resulting in instant transformations from looks of affection to utter bewilderment. As I wrestled the offending article from his sweaty hands I could see my saviour walking towards me, shrouded in a halo of light (which in retrospect could have been a loose light fitting). He was here, the optician, soon this hell would be over and I could manhandle the toddler back into the buggy.

Shame. Face.

No sooner had that sweet relief started to diffuse through my bloodstream than I heard a muted whisper of "Mummy I need the pot pot". My face fell as I slowly turned my head towards the source of such a wholly inconvenient declaration. Unlike her initial eye test, her appearance was so earnest and she had started to hop from foot to foot to demonstrate a sense of urgency.

The optician looked terrified. Clearly he was more used to dealing with the octogenarian population and was pre-child rearing in his personal life.

"Really sorry, but do you have a customer bathroom?"

"No, but there is a Gregg's a few doors down."

My face must have filled with instant contempt. I gestured to the hopping child at my feet and the kicking legs of the small one who remained bundled under my arm and he was off to ask the manager if we could use the staff one. She was clearly consumed with either compassion or an urgent desire to get us out of the shop as we were soon ushered to the employee's area. On a side note, why are the staff areas of shops quite so depressing? Is there really no where else to stow the mop than the communal bathroom? Is there no left over paint from the front of house that they could recycle to make their employees feel just a little appreciated? Anyhoo, I digress. There we were, in the downtrodden bathroom with me having to relinquish the toddler to expedite the toileting of the other but trying to maintain some parental control by intermittently shouting:

"DO NOT TOUCH THAT!"

"DIRTY, DIRTY!"

"DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!"

As I help my daughter dismount and rectify her multiple layers of clothing there is an undeniable high pitched whine and I am aware of a stampede of footsteps running down the corridor in our direction. I stand up and turn to see the toddler gripping a red piece of string with a wide smile and an evil glint in his eye.

"Mama! I did it!" Clear as a bell...

Toddler free to a good home.


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