At midnight last night, I reached for the book on my bedside locker, then put it back. Before getting lost in the world of Upper-eastside Manhattan, I needed to have a think. To look back on the day, and trace where things went wrong. It wasn’t a terrible day, just a mediocre-not-great day. I spent far too much of the evening sniping and snarking and snapping at the kids, and subsequently thinking back on it with that sense of unease that comes with a bad parenting day. I didn’t lose it with anyone or roar at anyone – there was no one-off outpouring of built-up tensions. It was more of a drip-feed of irritability, which sometimes feels worse.
So what caused it? I needed to work it out, so I could avoid the pitfalls next time.
Maybe it was because I baked. We had almost nothing in the cupboards – the kids had porridge for an after-school snack (they were delighted) – so I decided to make oat bars and granola. There’s a recurring theme there, but porridge oats were pretty much all I had to work with. The oat bars were an unmitigated disaster – I followed the recipe to the letter, but they fell apart completely when I tried to cut them (not enough wet ingredients? anyone?). I ended up with a few misshapen pieces of brittle, and a bowl of very sweet granola. As well as the actual granola. And all of it ate into dinner-making time, meaning they were late getting fed, and late to bed.
Or maybe it was because my husband was away. Solo bedtime isn’t the Herculean task it was a few years ago, but when it’s compounded by a late dinner, a sinkful of baking bowls, and nothing to put in school lunches (more porridge?) it’s no walk in the park either.
Or maybe it’s because it was Thursday and I was tired, and I didn’t have the energy to make a concrete plan, so the evening was a mishmash of baking, homework, email catch-up, and picking up children who keep falling in their roller-skates (roller skating around the house is this week’s obsession).
Maybe it was just all of it, and maybe it’s just the normal cycle of parenting. Perhaps even with the best will in the world, there’s no way to avoid the odd irritable day. Being sunny and chilled out 100% of the time is something I’m unlikely to achieve (well, even 25% of the time realistically) so I guess second best is to think back on what went wrong and try to fix it next time.
This morning I asked the kids what they remember about yesterday.
“Roller skating,” said the eight-year-old. “I think I’m getting good. I’m going to spend five hours roller skating around the house after school today.” (Hence the hole in the door.)
“Making the ‘healthy oat bars’,” said the six-year-old, adding her own air quotes.
“Helping you make the granola,” said my own fabulous baker boy (I don’t know if he means the intentional or unintentional granola.)
I’m not deluding myself that just because they don’t consciously remember my irritability that it’s OK, but it’s reassuring to hear that it’s not the first thing that springs to mind. Onwards and upwards then, with a note to buy food, and stop baking. And if that fails, just buy more porridge.
Meanwhile, here’s why I’m encouraging my kids to tell tales: Tell-tale signs
This is why I think breastfeeding mothers are being short-changed: There is very little help for breastfeeding mothers in Ireland
Some tips on shopping for little girls, who may or may not want to look like North Kardashian: Bringing little girls shopping for clothes
And some (relatively defensive) thoughts on single-sex schools