I’ll tell you something I think is true: I’m not a good parent.
I’m a trier. But only when I stop and think about it. Day to day, minute to minute, I’m not a good parent. In the last few weeks, the only thing that would have really helped me is a remote control – the ability to stop the situation, pause, think, work out a strategy, and then press play again and implement it.
Parenting is a job, certainly, but it’s not like being at work. At work, when I’m coaching people through difficult situations, my first suggestion is always to encourage folk to control the situation. If you don’t know what to do, or don’t know the answer, say ‘can I get back to you in ten minutes with that?’.
You can’t do that with a three year old. You can’t reason with them, or email a response, or refer them to an example of how this has been done better before. You’re in it. And at the moment, we are constantly in it.
Do you ever feel like somebody took away your child and replaced them overnight?
Tibbs has switched. A combination of giving up her dummy at Christmas, and the arrival of a brother, has brought about intense behaviour changes. She’s so tired by the afternoon because she doesn’t nap. She’s incensed with me by 6.30am because I can’t give her undivided attention, that it manifests itself in everything being wrong. The wrong cereal, the wrong room to eat it in, the wrong episode of Sophia. My charming, kind and keen daughter now begins the day with NO and I DON’T WANT.
God, it’s so bloody upsetting. If you’ve gone through this, you know. It’s like that sickly feeling you get when you know a partner wants to end it with you, because their behaviour changes, and they seem to be trying to make you dislike them in preparation for the ‘it’s not you it’s me’ chat.
Except, she loves me. She loves me so much and she misses me. She wants more of me. So she finds it hard. And so do I.
We had a perfect three hours on Saturday, we went to see Moana together. She clutched my hand as we walked through Cabot, skipping. She didn’t weep and stamp at the sweets she couldn’t have. She sat on my knee and let me squish popcorn into her little warm fist. I cuddled her like my life depended on it.
But, as the credits came up, she stiffened and began her mantra, ‘I’m hungry’. By the time we left to meet her dad and the baby, she was crying and roaring ‘I’m hungry’. The next 20 minutes became an embarrassing scramble to find her food that she would consent to eating. It felt like the last three hours had evaporated. Her father couldn’t understand it, why was I so flat and upset. What had gone wrong?
What keeps going wrong is that I feel like I’m failing. I feel like I can’t fix this. I can’t pause my thoughts and her wild anger and naughty behaviour and make it better. I’m frustrated that I even need to be thinking like this. If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know that this situation was what I most feared.
Now, every morning when I wake up to the vibrating snorts of my son, my first thought is ‘please, please don’t wake Tibbs up’, so that I have a chance to care for him before she wakes up and sees me with him, or his cries wake her up too early, and our day starts with her sad confusion again.
I want to give her everything, I always have. I’m too frequently losing my rag with her. I’m saying words like STOP and DON’T and NOT NOW and NO all the time. Just like she is.
I can apply one work principle to this situation though, and I will, and I hope this will make me feel like a better parent. Pick your battles. This week, I’m going to try and focus on helping her feel like she’s making choices. I’m going to let the little things go. I’m going to count to 10. I’m going to let her handle her brother more. I’m going to hug her more.
I will be better. I can make this better.