I snapped at you today. A few times actually – in the space of ten minutes – do you remember? I hope not. You were eating lunch and I had a work email I had to respond to quickly. I needed to concentrate whereas you needed to rub yoghurt in your hair and shout repeatedly that your hands were mucky.
It isn’t your fault that I’m trying to build my work around building you. It’s not your problem that we’re currently attempting this without childcare and that there aren’t usually enough naps, evenings or spare moments for me to do what I need to do. But then, I guess it isn’t my fault either. It’s not bad that I am reaching to create something that – hopefully – will support our family life as you grow, and allow me to carve something for me, and for all of us.
But back to the snapping: I was having trouble with an attachment so everything took longer to complete than I envisioned. You were understandably bored and I was frustrated that, despite claims to the contrary, humans couldn’t do it all and then some, whilst remaining functioning and unflustered. I had forgot to put the washing on, and wasn’t I meant to have prepped dinner whilst you ate actually? Oh and during nap time I needed to pay that bill, tidy up and fill the paddling pool so we could have fun with our visitors later; but then I hadn’t worked on my book in weeks and there was so much other stuff knocking uselessly around my head.
You see it all comes from trying to make things perfect, to squeeze it all in so that everything is just right – but the irony is it only causes me to feel stressed and behave in a way that just doesn’t meet my lofty standards of motherhood.
Anyway, I dusted you down and bemoaned the mess in your hair and heaved a sigh when you said you didn’t want to go bed (let’s be honest though – we both know you needed it). I wanted to keep on schedule so you didn’t nap late and cause bed time to suck, whereas you wanted to play on the stairs, dawdling and pretending each bannister spoke was Stick Man in need of a drink of milk. For the second time, our aims and objectives weren’t quite meshing, and despite your display of perfect toddler adorableness – which I should always appreciate because don’t you know it goes so fast – my patience snapped again and so did I.
You weren’t being wrong though, you were being two. And as you happily mimicked me, ‘Hurry up! Come on now! Bed time!’ I felt better that you weren’t upset, and worse for hearing my stern words chanted back. We made it upstairs in the end of course, and now you are in your cot, sleeping through the heat and hopefully dreaming contentedly.
I’m really skilled at focussing on the things I get wrong with you; I don’t forget any of it. I lay beside your cot just now and felt a bit like crying, not just because I snapped, but also because I was tired and I sometimes feel like I will never get the hang of juggling; of holding it all together.
But then I thought – for once – about the other stuff I do, the bits I never think about – the good stuff. Like nipping back home this morning, even though we were running late, to retrieve the much-loved soft toy you dance with at music group. Or waiting for the bin lorry before lunch – our weekly ritual with the kind men who are always so friendly to you as you yell ‘Hello! Dirty nappies!’ from the pavement – waving and smiling like you might explode.
There’s the Little Peter Rabbit song I sang over and over today as we queued in traffic, obliging each time you demanded, ‘A bit more.’ And the hundreds of times I hold your hand as you navigate the climbing frame, wanting to be big, needing to be reassured:
‘Me do it, Mummy help.’
‘You can do it, but Mummy’s right here’ Always.
There is all of this and more, so many little but important things I do well, that mean you are happy and show you you’re loved.
It’s enough for you, and it needs to be enough for me, too.
I’m sure as you grow, there will be even more things I get wrong; decisions I will question myself over, reactions I won’t like. But, you know… so what? I’m fallible, I’m going to make mistakes – it’s how you will learn things my little one – and it’s how I learn things, too.
And perhaps in being less than brilliant sometimes, I am helping, not hindering you. If I’m inconsistent, I’m only reflecting others experiences you will have throughout your life – people rarely stay the same; and if I show you that I’m not perfect – well good. I don’t want you to grow up feeling you should do more to measure up – living like that is exhausting – believe me, I know.
I don’t know what you thought of as you drifted off to sleep just now; whether it was me temporarily losing my sense of humour, or spinning until we were dizzy this morning, or just of my hand laid gently on you as you closed your eyes. Maybe it was something completely random like an elephant going down a slide (yep, we discussed that earlier).
Whatever it was, I hope you felt loved little boy, because you are. You’re loved so perfectly, in this imperfect world, by your imperfect mum.
So for anyone less than perfect – let’s try to remember that who we are and what we do is enough – we are enough for our children and should be enough for ourselves.
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