This is not a newsflash. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a parent, and you already know that parenting is hard. I like for there to be reason for the hard days though, and this week I learned that sometimes there is no reason.
Like Monday morning. I woke up cross. So did everyone else. The breakfasts that the kids eat every other day weren’t good enough on Monday morning. The six-year-old was lying on the couch. The small boy was crying because I’d stirred his Ready Brek and should have let him do it. He wanted a new bowl of unstirred Ready Brek. I knew he just needed to eat and he’d stop crying, but the more I tried to get him to eat, the more he resisted. Then he pushed the bowl away. It flew across the table. I roared at him. And that made everything just fabulous. Not (as my six-year-old is fond of saying.)
He ran off sobbing. Sensing the impending meltdown (mine) the six-year-old ran to the table. The right place but for the wrong reasons.
I made up with the small boy and resolved to be better, but already knew I was on a downward trajectory.
Everything in the house looked messy, nobody was cleaning up but me. The three laundry baskets were overflowing. Toys were everywhere. Then they pulled out more toys. Then they took out the art stuff. Then LEGO. I shouted at them to tidy up. They did. Right action but wrong reasons.
The sun was shining, so I suggested Cabinteely Park. Should we bring a picnic? My head said yes – it would feel more like a day trip to them, like we did something “good”. My heart, on the other hand, said “Don’t do it – you’re in crappy form, just have lunch at home.”
Undecided, I asked the kids. “Picnic! Picnic!” they said. So I looked around the kitchen for picnic stuff. No suitable bread. I’d make pasta salad. I asked what they wanted in the pasta salad. “Nothing, just plain pasta,” was the answer. I packed up three little bowls of pasta and anything else transportable that I could find, and started to get the kids ready. That somehow took another forty-five minutes, most of which was spent tripping over toys they had pulled out while I was making pasta.
“That’s it!” I shouted. “You are all banned from playing with toys for the rest of the summer!”
Wonderful parenting right there. Meekly, they got into the car while I ran upstairs to take Rescue Remedy. We drove off. I willed myself to chat and be nice, but I just wasn’t in the mood. Isn’t that awful? I felt awful.
The picnic didn’t go down well – the pasta was just cold pasta they said, and I couldn’t really argue with that. Nobody liked the macaroons and everyone claimed they no longer eat grapes. I suck at picnics. And the park was cold. Much colder than our sun-trap garden had been, and far too cold for the shorts all of us were wearing.
But the good news is, the colder-than-expected park cheered the kids up, and the coffee and ice-cream in the tearooms afterwards cheered all of us up (if you haven’t been to the Japanese Garden in Cabinteely park, check it out – it can calm even the crabbiest, crankiest parent – I speak from experience.)
That night, as I always do after a crappy day, I looked back to find the cause. So that I can fix what needs to be fixed, or avoid the pitfalls the next time. But there was nothing. No particular tiredness, no rain, no external stress. Just an inexplicable bad mood, when everything seemed hard.
Tuesday morning. The Ready Brek was still a problem for my small boy, but for me, it was just fine. I made him laugh and distracted him and got the breakfast into him and he cheered up immediately. The sun was shining but we ate lunch at home – a garden picnic, in our sun-trap garden. And nothing fazed me. And it wasn’t because of the breakfast or the picnic or the weather. it just was the way it was. Like Monday, there was no reason. But everything was better.
At work in an office, it’s OK to have a no-reason bad day. You just put your head down and get on with it. You avoid people, or you fake it. At home with small kids, it’s not as easy. Sometimes there’s no reason, it’s just a bad day, and on those days, being a parent is hard. As, I suspect, is being a kid. Though hopefully they bounce back more quickly (or maybe they’re blogging about cold pasta picnics as we speak)
And another thing… Sharing photos of your kids online – yes or no? Here are my thoughts on it for HerFamily.ie: Online Sharenting