With nothing else in life is it possible to both simultaneously love and hate with equal servings of passion, as being a parent. And when I say hate being a parent, I mean hate your own child. Don’t get me wrong – I love my daughter with every element of my being… but my god she can be a right c*nt sometimes. Nothing anyone ever says can quite prepare you for the torment and torrent of emotions that is parenting.
For nearly two years we have been blessed with an angelic child who behaved impeccably at all times without fail. Well it appears our time of good fortune is up. As we near the big 2, it is as if our saint has been replaced by Beelzebub himself. Compliance has been replaced with defiance. 6 months ago, it would not have mattered if our daughter had decided to break free and let loose – we lived in a large house where nobody could hear her scream. Now, however, we are living in an apartment with people all around. Some of whom are less than understanding.
Let me put it this way… On a week day, our little one will refuse to wake up, but on a Sunday, 5.30am is the time of choice. So I get up to an already disgruntled child, who then refuses to have her nappy changed and screams for over 30 minutes in protestation, stopping only when she is too exhausted to continue. After changing, it’s time for breakfast – but despite being hungry, she refuses it and lets me know her irritation by screaming at me again for a further 20 minutes. After resigning to the reality that this means I will also not get to eat, I take her to get her changed – but apparently my choice of clothing for her is not great, and so a further 45 minutes of being screamed at takes place. Eventually she is too exhausted to continue and so I can put some clothes on her with only minimal of struggling. We finally make it out the door 3 hours after getting up and as I put her into her car seat (in typhoon grade rain) she decides that she hates the car and embarks on a marathon 45 minute scream.
Now, when I say scream, what I actually mean is screaming, writhing, and flailing. Eventually, and after the neighbours come out to see what all the noise is about, she calms down enough for me to strap her in and head off… Though within 5 minutes she has contorted her arms out of the harness and is now letting loose with those lungs again. I can feel my irritation growing, so we pull over and I jump out of the car and put in some earphones for a bit whilst she finishes her meltdown. 10 minutes later, we are back on the road heading to our destination.
I could continue to give you a break down blow by blow… but suffice to say, this behaviour continues all day, stopping briefly during her midday nap and coming to a finale with her going to sleep at 7pm. I would go as far as to estimate that 75% of my day has been filled with screaming and misery. I wish I could say this was a one off, but alas she has been this way inclined for the past month.
What makes the situation more difficult is the current dynamic of our family. I work 8-5 Monday to Friday… My wife however, works 60+ hours a week of shift work. What this means is that I have spent the grand total of 6 hours in her company in the past 3 weeks. That doesn’t mean she is absent from our daughters life – quite the reverse. On her days off (which are usually mid-week) she will keep her home from daycare and spend lots of quality time with each other. It just means that I never get to see my wife… and I never have the option of a day without our daughter. So my life is filled, currently, with either work or a screaming toddler.
I guess, to some extent, I can handle that. What I can’t handle is everyone else. Again, another gem that nobody ever tells you is what total assholes other people can be. Our upstairs neighbour took to shouting at us that we were bad parents because our daughter had been crying for 3 minutes during breakfast. Thanks… that’s a really helpful and supportive attitude. One would imagine that as a mother herself, she might be a little more understanding, but on review of her own son, who is an obnoxious and entitled 9 year old, I doubt it would even cross her mind that she was anything but a perfect mother.
And that’s the thing – the most unpleasant and judgmental of people are those with children of their own. Especially the ones with older children, who look on with disgust as you try to keep it together, making it up as you go along and trying to predict/avoid the next meltdown. It is this constant fear of opinionated on-lookers that makes parenting such a daunting and unpleasant task. I don’t care if my daughter self initiates dickface mode and has a category one meltdown. She can scream to her hearts content – it’s not going to hurt her, and as long as the only reason she is screaming is because she decided that she would rather brave the sub-zero weather without a top on, then hey… go nuts! The thing I can’t take, and that pushes my blood pressure through the roof – is what everyone around me is thinking. The angry lady upstairs. The couple in the restaurant. That lady in the library with the perfectly behaved child. The gentleman sat behind me on the plane.
The ironic thing is that all of you, myself included, were that screaming child once. And if you haven’t already, chances are you will one day have a screaming toddler of your own. So hide your disapproving look and be grateful that you are only being forced to endure this moment for a few measly minutes of your life… And remember that a knowing nod, or understanding smile goes a really long way to reassuring and reminding us all, that it won’t be like this forever.