Tag: Parenthood

Flailing at parenting; an open letter

To the Good Samaritan I met at the playground today,

Thank you for reminding me that I’m failing at parenting.

I’m not sure what happened, I just plain forgot to turn on my alarm today – the one that reminds me at least hourly that I could do better, should do better, MUST do better. That I’m spending too little quality time with the most precious and perfect things I’ve ever created and too much time yelling at and bribing them.

It usually pings me with impeccable regularity. Not with the gentle tolling of wind chimes, but a bellowing horn that yells – “YOU’RE SUCKING AT THIS TODAY!”

Before I had the pleasure of meeting you, I can count at least half a dozen occasions before midday when this usually reliable alarm would have tolled. There’s:

  • The Weetbix I forgot to clean off the table this morning before coming to find you that’s now set like concrete. Just between you and me, it’ll probably still be there at dinner time, too (it was).
  • The load of washing that’s sat in the machine for a day now and is likely creating a microbiota all of its own.
  • The laundry that’s been on the line for two days and has nowhere to go because my not one, but TWO, laundry baskets are already full.
  • The food and dirt you would’ve noticed on my kids’ faces at the playground because, God forbid, getting grubby is more fun than looking presentable.
  • The television I caved into when we got home from seeing you without even a skerrick of resistance.
  • The stinky nappy I only discovered after we got home.

You wouldn’t know this, but I’ve been so busy failing at parenting that I’m also excelling at failing at marriage too. I genuinely can’t recall the last time my husband and I sat down to relax on the couch together without waking up at midnight in awkward semi-upright positions needing chiropractic intervention.

The thing is, I didn’t know my alarm was on the blink until I met you. Because, I thought I was actually doing OK (I know, funny, right!). I’d got three kids under five – including a fairly fresh baby – fed and dressed in clothes that were actually ironed. I got us all out of the house and happily playing outdoors by 9:30am. I had a cooler bag full of healthy food for them and I’d even managed to put on enough make-up to (hopefully) not frighten the other children.

So, I feel lucky really. Lucky that there are well-meaning members of the community, like your good self, to remind me just how sub-par my efforts are. For days like today, when I forget. People who have no idea how many hundreds of times I squeeze my kids each day to tell them I love them. People who have no idea how many times I’m up at night calming tearful cries. You looked fresh as a daisy, by the way, sitting on the park bench looking at your phone whilst minding a kid that – judging by your age – you get to give back at the end of your shift.

Thank you for being there today. If it hadn’t been for you, I would’ve forgotten to let myself off the hook occasionally. Because there’s always someone well-meaning around to put you right back on it.

I usually like to sign off letters with cheers or kind regards or love always, but I feel there’s really only one appropriate valediction here.

Up yours,

me.

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Keeping quiet

Anyone who’s ever adopted another country as their home will hopefully agree that, once you’ve given your heart to another place, it remains forever adrift; locked in a bittersweet tug-of-war of loving where you are and longing to be somewhere else.

I feel that way about silence.

I love being in its company but can feel intimidated by its presence at the same time.

In truth, if you could ask silence how committed I’d been to our companionship over the years, I’m sure it’d say I’d been most inattentive. We don’t get together often, but when we do it’s usually a passing nod of acknowledgment – quick dip of the cap – and we’re off in different directions again.

Lately, though, my respect for silence has been reborn.

It’s called parenthood.

The squeals of delighted playfulness that fill your house and melt your heart are met, in equal measure, by ear-splitting clashing, banging and screaming. It’s a land where silence surrendered long ago.

I escaped our Land of Bellows briefly over New Years Eve, thanks to incredibly generous grandparents, aunties and uncles, desperate to unashamedly spoil the youngest member of our clan.

My first thought as the car drove off towards three blissful days of sleep-ins and relaxed breakfasts spent reading the paper?

It’s so quiet. Too quiet.

There was no dog whining in the boot, desperate for a pee, and our darling toddler wasn’t imploring, “more, more, more…” as soon as Taylor Swift’s Shake it off finished playing on the stereo.

Maybe I’m a bigger fan of the cacophony of life than I thought.