My big boy R turned 3 on Sunday - where has the time gone? And my little man A was 6 months old on Friday. This has made me reflect on my life with two children and with parenting in general (well, this and the wine!). And I think I can summarise it in two words;
Overwhelming and indescribable.
Although it's not as simple or as concise as that. Because over the past three years, and particularly over the past six months, I have felt all of the following;
- Overwhelming tiredness: an easy, obvious one to kick off with. Children are sleep thieves. Period. NEXT! - Overwhelming frustration: oh you stepped on that toy car and hurt your foot? The one of forty on the playroom floor? The one that I've told you to tidy away more than once? And I told you to watch where you're going at least three times so I haven't any sympathy.....where does it hurt? Let me kiss it better. *kisses foot* *gives hugs* *offers more sympathy than you can shake a stick at*. This happens in our house most days. - Overwhelming pride: when R took his first steps, I reacted as if he'd just walked on the moon. And, to me, his first 'small step' will always be more important than that giant leap for mankind. - Overwhelming despair: nothing will make you pine for your pre-child life more than being awake for three hours in the middle of the night. Not because the baby is hungry (you've fed him) or because he needs his nappy changed (you've just changed it), but simply because he is awake. And he'd like you to sit there please mummy while he just lies on the bed staring at darkness. For. Three. Hours. - Overwhelming fear: am I doing anything right? I hope his cough is just a cold. Will he be safe climbing that massive slide? I just yelled at him - have I damaged his emotional wellbeing for life? - Overwhelming joy: A laughing at R dancing, R 'reading' to A. These moments fill my heart with so much joy it sometimes feels like it will burst from my chest. - Overwhelming positivity: some days I leap out of bed. We go to the park and take a picnic. We come home and paint and make wind chimes for the garden. We pick herbs and smell them and eat them and check on the progress of our tomato plants. I cook from scratch. Then enjoy a glass of wine whilst I wind down in the evening. - Overwhelming negativity: some days I can't be bothered to leave the house and simply resign myself to the fact that I'm basically a glorified grown up slave to two tiny, pretty demanding, people. Crisps for lunch and chips for tea? Yes siree! And wine. Downing a glass of wine in the evening. - Overwhelming delight: my pre-child self would have scoffed as I told her that one day I would be so delighted by a baby rolling over I would want to shout it from the rooftops. But this is a reality of parenting. R pedalled his bike independently for the first time a few months ago. It got videoed and sent straight to the grandparents. He literally moved the bike about 2 feet. - Overwhelming guilt: this is a biggie for me. I feel some form of guilt over my parenting every day; I shouldn't have said "wait a minute" so many times, I shouldn't have let him watch so much TV, I wish I'd spent less time loading the dishwasher and more time playing with them, I shouldn't have gotten so angry. - Overwhelming excitement: I'd been excited about R's birthday for over a month now thanks to the anticipation of watching him open his presents. Because watching his little face as he unwraps his gifts is, quite frankly, one of the best things on the planet. - Overwhelming busyness: I am always busy. Sometimes I manage to sit down during the day but I'm still 'busy'. I'm busy being a supporter of the mini Grand Prix happening in the playroom. I'm busy displaying (feigning) excitement as Lightning McQueen wins over and over again. I'm busy fixing a toy car whose wheels keep falling off because it's a crappy little plastic thing we got off the front of a comic, which mummy would like to dispose off but is forbidden to do so due to its partial resemblance to Roary the Racing Car. - Overwhelming boredom: this is one I'm probably most ashamed to admit to. Sometimes we are so busy (see above) that it gets to 4pm and I don't know where the day has gone. Sometimes, though, I am so bored. The thing is, children have a much higher tolerance for repetition than adults. And this is so important and precious because it is how they learn and how they consolidate that learning. But some days it takes a heap of conscious effort to remind myself of that when I'm visiting R's shop for the fifteenth time. To have my basket loaded with surplus items I haven't asked for and to then have my PIN number entered into the chip and pin machine by the shopkeeper because "it's a bit tricky". And then to be ordered to pretend-eat the contents of my overflowing basket because "you're having a party". If anyone feels like going crazy with some fake popcorn, plastic peas, half a plastic apple and some foam grapes, the party is at mine. - Overwhelming amusement: sometimes, your baby giggling at your toddler's rendition of 'Five Little Ducks' is all the entertainment you need. - Overwhelming shame: I'm so ashamed of many of my parenting actions. I've been known to go bat s*!t crazy over the most ridiculous things: are you putting your shoes on or not? SHOES! NOW! Why can you not get all your wee in the toilet?! (Like father like son I suppose). Stop running on the grass - there's dog poo all over it. R! POO! - Overwhelming contentment: nothing gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling like seeing J get home to a toddler running into his arms chanting "daddy, daddy" and a baby grinning like the Cheshire Cat when he sees Daddy's face.
This is not a definitive list. But it's enough for now. And I know I have some pregnant friends who are now probably s*!tting their maternity pants at the prospect of what's to come!
But to those ladies; don't let it put you off. Because parenting makes you feel two things more overwhelmingly than anything else; selflessness and love.
I would do anything for my children. They will always come first. That doesn't mean that I've abandoned my relationship or myself. We still call on the grandparents for babysitting so that we can go out and remember why we had our children in the first place. I still manage to sneak an evening with the girls or an hour for a massage here and there.
But it means I would give my children the clothes off my back if they were cold or the food off my plate if they were hungry. It means I forget to eat breakfast because I'm busy making theirs. It means I walk straight past ladieswear to childrenswear because they need vests and pyjamas and I saw a really cute outfit for them in the window. It means I sleep on the floor with a towel as a duvet to check they're ok when they're poorly. It means I let my tea go cold because I'm fake-consuming plastic watermelon from my eleventh visit to the shop that day.
And I do it all because of overwhelming love. Because the love I feel for my children is unlike any love I've ever known before. And when I check on them sleeping before I go to bed, and I see them sleeping peacefully and serenely, I feel a love so strong that I feel I might buckle under the strength of it. A love so fierce, it dwarfs all the other emotions I've mentioned. A love so powerful that it over-rules all those negative emotions and leaves me with only feelings of pride, delight, joy and contentment. Watching them sleep can make tears well up in my eyes purely because of how much I love them.
And then I kiss them goodnight, climb into bed and close my eyes.
And I hope beyond all hope that this is the night I actually get some effing sleep.