Next week Seven will turn eight and three short weeks after that Four will turn five.
Who sanctioned that?
I’m completely overwhelmed by the sheer physical size of the children these days. Seven is almost too big for me to lift, especially when she decides to become obstinate and throw an eerily teenage temper tantrum, complete with slamming doors and flinging herself, wailing, onto her bed in a fit of self-serving despair. Four has completely lost his babyish chub, except about his darling face, but the body is all wiry toughness. He’s bouncy as a spring and as cheerful as an otter unless you are foolish enough to allow the merest whisper that life, in any form, might not be constant and permanent. He is rendered completely inconsolable by the thought that, say, dinosaurs are extinct or Jesus died on the cross (his sister is unable to prevent herself from telling and retelling this story in great, gory detail, carefully omitting any mention of the risen again part), and is undone even when he, himself, deliberately stamps on a spider and it becomes incontrovertibly late.
Recently, parenting has become a system of putting out fires and damage limitation.
Four is still very much a little child and I am dreading losing my preschooler to Kindergarten next September. He still says his ‘R’s as “W’s which terribly endearing, and is uncritical and attached to me, thinking me virtually perfect. What’s not to like?
His sister, however, is more complex and mercurial, her emotions more volatile and we have been struggling this year to find a way to help her communicate her feelings without acting them out in a destructive and negatively spiralling way. She is inclined to see a glass half-empty, but on the foolish occasion I suggested this might be the case, she cried
“But the glass doesn’t even have ANYTHING in it EVER so how could it even be HALF EMPTY? Hrruhh!”
and stomped off, leaving Husband and me slightly at a loss. Four intervened helpfully.
“I love you, Mummy! Can I watch funny animals on the iPhone?”
My boy is resourceful, if not subtle.
Once Seven has entered the slough of despond, attempts to retrieve her are a minefield of rebuffs and false starts. She becomes attached to her misery, tending her nightshade garden of sorrows with lachrymose dedication and regards any offer of an alternate perspective as a vicious trespass and further proof of being profoundly misunderstood.
She sat in the dark and thought dark thoughts.
It’s not that I don’t sympathise. I really do. I quite often feel like that and may or may not have a slightly-exhausting-for-others tendency to see things in black and white. It’s true that I will absolutely hold them (by them, I really mean Husband) responsible for forgetting to give me my supper , but like Mog, I’m also not an entirely reliable witness, though I generally don’t let the truth interfere with my self-pity.
But when Seven is practicing this on me, non-stop, all afternoon, several days per week, mostly I feel like smacking her. (Which, of course, I don’t.)
The thing is, given that I understand the inner dialogue, I can usually just about get her back to normal after a bit of effort, and then, BAM, she does something nasty to her brother, or says something rude to me or her dad and I find she’s used up all my ‘nice’ for the day and I end up shouting at her and she runs off again. If/When that happens, I can’t deal with it any more and either ignore her or send Husband. This either goes well or it doesn’t. At least Four wins – he sneaks off with my phone, resigns all my games of Words with Friends and plays Jumpy Horse for a hundred hours while I poke angrily at my computer wishing I was in 1996.
Sigh. So much for being a wonderful mother.
In my recent chats with the career coach, it emerged that, really, I am completely unsuited to domesticity, and not necessarily very good at being with other people for long stretches of time. I do best on my own. I like being solitary. I hate schedules and routine and regularity and I dislike conventions and conventionality. It is an absolute conundrum how I ended up married to someone who is relatively normal, having children and going to Costco every fortnight. On the other hand, I can’t imagine life without them, and I sometimes wonder who I talked to, or how I managed not to be horribly lonely before.. Maybe I was.
Hey! Maybe that’s why I used to smoke spliff all day! *Light bulb moment!* Of course it could also be that I was a musician and there was nobody there to tell me not to. Seemed like a larrf, eh?
If I had had more consistent parenting myself, would I be a better mother or a worse one? Would I be a more relaxed parent because I wouldn’t overthink every experience my children were having, determined it should be better than my own, or would I be more focused and manage things better because I would not be panting so hard, running in circles trying to close the gaps in my understanding and innate knowledge of how to help someone else grow up. I’m still not really there myself. I don’t mean that in a self-serving “Oh, I’m just a big kid at heart” kind of way. I mean it in a “I see some worrying holes in my ability to respond like an adult to situations where I would be served better by a more mature attitude” way. There’s a big difference. If I get upset and feel slighted, I tend to sit in the garden and think dark thoughts..
Perhaps being Mog is hereditary. Poor Seven.