This post will not be funny or witty. It will not contain hilarious references and, apart from the naming convention of Stormaggedon for my son, will not in any way link back to Doctor Who. I am too tired and angry for such things. This week I have once again slid into the mire of hopelessness when it comes to my parenting ability. I have screamed and yelled and generally been fed up. Telling myself over and over again that I am the only one doing this, that everyone around me is coping, and that I am a failure. Why should I try? Why should I even bother? I keep reading these, what I’m hoping are, over embellished articles from celebrity mums cooing about how their children are their world. One particular article describes how bub climbs into bed with mum and dad every night at 3am and they “wake up laughing every morning”. Really? Do you really? How? Please literally tell me how. Because when I go to bed, I want that bed to be my sanctuary from the world, for me, for sleep, and for the occasional sex I get to have with my husband when I’m not too overwhelmed from the previous events of the day. How exactly am I able to achieve any of that with a toddler in the bed? I read these articles and once again feel hopeless, that somehow I’m doing something wrong. That I’m not appreciating what I have nearly enough. Perhaps I should just love harder? Squeeze every ounce of love out of me to elicit some sort of reaction, only to be faced with nothing. Only to be left feeling empty and alone. Perhaps I should start from the beginning.
It started innocently enough. Stormy was eating breakfast, then sometimes accidentally, sometimes on purpose was dropping some of his cereal on the floor. Today I decided “Stormaggedon needs to learn some responsibility, he needs to understand that I’m not going to clean up his mess every time he makes one. I’m going to ask him to clean this up”.
Me sitting there ever so proud of myself for what a responsible parent I’m being. There I am about to take the first step into teaching my son some further life skills, I could already feel the figurative pats on the back. Stormy had other ideas however. Mainly to completely look through me when I asked him to clean up his mess and wander off towards the living room to where his toys were. Stormy had just had his third birthday and received the entire collection of Marvel Avengers characters (well I say entire, I really mean four of them – Hulk, Ironman, War Machine and Captain America). In hindsight he was probably just excited to play with them.
So I started out calmly at first.
“Stormy, please come and clean up the mess in the dining room”. No response.
I repeated myself numerous times, “You can play with your toys in a minute”.
“This will only take a second”.
“There’s only three pieces of cereal on the floor. Just three. You’ll be done in no time”
By now he’s completely turned his back on me, and even simply stated “No”.
I try a sterner tactic, “Come on now, you need to clean up after yourself”.
“Stormy, I will take the toys away”.
“I’m serious, I will take the toys away until you clean it up”.
“Come pick up your cereal!”
By this point he still hasn’t budged, so away the toys go, placed in a box in another room, to much loud protesting.
“Well you can get them back once you clean up your mess!” My voice is definitely raised now. Stormy has started crying and yelling back at me that he won’t clean up his mess, “…because I don’t want to!”
I express to him that he won’t get his Avengers back until he does. The clever little so and so announces to me that he didn’t like his Avengers anyway, and starts playing with different toys instead. By this point I’m quite angry, and start yelling that I will take all of his toys away until he cleans the cereal off the floor. Away the toys go, chucked into the same box of the Avengers. Stormy is now jumping up and down screaming at me.
I’ve had enough, and drag him back to the dining room, I point to the floor and almost scream, “Pick it up, that’s all you have to do! Pick it up and put it on the table or in your bowl! You make the mess you clean it up, simple as that!”
By now Stormy has had enough and begins to shove me, screaming at me, “You have to go! You have to go now. Go away and don’t come back! I don’t like you!”
That’s when I snap. I throw my hand up in the air and just let loose, “FINE THEN, MUMMY WILL GO BACK TO WORK FULL TIME, SO THAT WAY I WON’T HAVE TO DEAL WITH YOU ANYMORE!”
I turn on my heel and storm up the stairs, slamming the child proof gate behind me. I can hear Stormy run over the couch bawling his eyes out. I throw myself down on the bed in a similar fashion.
“You are the worst parent, the worse person ever! What is wrong with you? What is wrong!?” I say to myself through streaming tears. Stormy has stopped crying, no doubt because he is vigorously sucking his thumb, as he does often for comfort.
“That’s right, such your thumb. Just like a baby. Another thing I’m failing at. Go on, make your teeth all crooked and not be able to talk properly when you’re older. Prove to everyone what a failure I am at parenting you” I say to myself. I keep hearing all the nagging voices of “well meaning” friends and acquaintances telling me all the things he does wrong and how it will affect him growing up. “He’ll get bullied, he’ll have no friends, people will think he’s weird, he’ll never grow out of it if you don’t stop him now, you want him to be independent right?”
Around and around it goes. I am the worst I am the worst I am the worst.
Twenty minutes go by. The house seems still. I draw in my breath and let it out in one long hiss to attempt to calm myself and plod back downstairs. There’s Stormy lying on the couch, just staring at the ceiling. He looks over at me and says sweetly, “Mummy are you not angry anymore?”
Calmly, I reply measuredly back, “I will no longer be angry if you come over here and clean up your mess”.
Stormy practically leaps into action, grabbing each piece of cereal and rushes over to the bin. He looks at me and practically beams. I grab him and hug him tight, telling him thank you, that wasn’t so hard and that I love him. We sit on the couch and read stories. He snuggles into me crooning “Aww Mummy!”
I sit back and smile, but think to myself, “You have just emotionally blackmailed him into doing your bidding. You are a terrible, terrible person. What. The fuck. Is wrong with you?”
I hate myself for the rest of the day and continue to hate myself.
My problem is my worst fear is Stormy will grow up to hate and resent me. I’ve known too many older women through work and extra-curricular activities that tell me their sons hate them, and they hate them back. Good riddance to the little scumbags they would say. It kills me deep inside to know there are people that feel that way about their children. What if the same thing happens with me and Stormy? I feel that I react in such a way because I am already there, living out that possible life 20-30 years in the future, and I’m expressing those feelings now.
“Why bother trying when this is the inevitable outcome?” I think to myself. I’m so scared of it happening, yet I think I’m just participating in a self-fulfilling prophecy. I wake up and tell myself every morning that I’m going to stay calm and happy and not yell, and almost every day I fail at that expectation. By bedtime I’m so fed up with having to put up with his tantrums and attitudes that I’m glad to see him off to bed. For those few small hours I have to myself before my own bedtime I can finally be happy. Then I creep into his room to check on him before I go to sleep myself and I look at how beautiful and peaceful he is, and I hate myself even further for failing him as a mother. I continue to hate myself when I fall asleep. It’s no wonder I have no energy when I get up again the next day.
Why can’t there be detox or rehab for parenting? Somewhere to go and learn how to be a good mum again. Maybe a week long spa to relax and rejuvenate yourself. But there’s nothing. There’s just day after day of trying and trying again. Your childless friends will tell you to just be grateful, and your parent friends will try and sympathise, attempting to cull your anxieties by explaining that they’ve gone through the same thing. Yet you remain unconvinced, longing over the photos of happy times splashed all over Facebook by your many friends. You look at those faces and can’t possibly believe that anyone is as bad or worse than you. So you remind yourself that the internet is merely a lie. And you write this blog not for you, but for the others out there are doing exactly the same thing, and beating themselves up with thoughts of worthlessness and hatred. So to those people I say, you are not alone. Perhaps, like me, you feel alone, but remember you’re not. Chin up, tomorrow is another day. And perhaps tomorrow I will finally make it through without the yelling. Hopefully.