There’s no such thing as a perfect parent – even the kindest, most calm parents have off days (and I suspect it’s a good thing for kids to know parents aren’t perfect) but apparently more than half of Irish parents feel they’re failing, and this feeling is amplified by the internet and social media. So from my tiny corner of the internet, here’s the story of yesterday – a perfectly (so to speak) normal day: not a particularly amazing day, not a terrible day. Just a normal day, of imperfect parenting.
My youngest came in at the crack of dawn, because he closely follows the Children’s Guide to Being a Kid handbook – rule 67 states that it’s imperative to get up earlier during school holidays than you’d ever consider on a school day.
And because my dial is firmly set to CRANKY unless I’ve had coffee and some time to adjust to being awake (this adjustment time comes in the form of reading Twitter on my phone) I sent him downstairs to have some of the sugary cereal they’ve been allowed since we moved in with my dad (an ill-thought out bribe to stop the flow of tears as we moved out of our house).
The first argument of the day came when I was rushing them all out to the car to bring one child to camp – some seriously time-consuming deliberation over what to bring in the car was making us late. My kids operate in first gear only when it’s time to go somewhere – no amount of telling them we’re late has any impact ever, but still, I try, and still, I snap.
The next argument was in the new house we don’t own yet – as I’ve told the kids, we’re 98% there: the bank transfer is making its impossibly slow journey to where it’s meant to be, but the keys-in-hand moment is still tantalizingly out of reach. “If we’re 98% can we park in the driveway this time?” one child asked. “Nope,” I told him as we step inside to meet a painter.
The discussion with the painter was interrupted 400 times by something “very important” (you know exactly how important that was) and there was an argument about someone calling someone something, then we hit the library and the supermarket, because that’s how exciting things get when it’s a rainy, freezing cold, grey Easter holiday Tuesday.
Oh wait, things got even more exciting in the afternoon, when we went to Carrickmines retail park – it’s not even a shopping centre, it’s a retail park, and we went there to buy – wait for it – a towel rail. That was the extent of our activities yesterday – much function, zero craic.
“Mum, no offence, but could we do something a bit more fun tomorrow?” asked the eldest as we sat down for dinner yesterday evening. A fair request, all things considered.
The day was peppered with rain, arguments over elbow room, eye-rolls, and snapping. Sometimes from me, sometimes from them. Not even entirely unreasonable eye-rolling and snapping, because what else was going to happen on a grey, wet Tuesday when we’re tied to camp pick-up and painter meetings?
When mine were smaller, I worried more about parenting fails – I wrote about sleep problems and dinner table dramas and mornings going badly wrong. These days, although I still mess up regularly, I’ve accepted that it’s normal, that it’s not the end of the world. They argue, I snap. They roll their eyes, I shake my head. They give out, I throw up my hands. They moan, I give up. And then we start over.
Last night, at bedtime, I put a plaster on my youngest’s knee and listened while he read a funny part of his book for me. I brushed my middle-child’s hair and listened to her tell me how much she loves soccer camp. I sat on the bed with my eldest, her head on my lap, chatting about the house that’s 98% ours, making plans.
It wasn’t a great day, it wasn’t a bad day, it was just a day. No pictures for Facebook, no medals for parenting – imperfect, but in my humble opinion, that’s truly perfectly fine.