Losing One’s Shit

imageI’m not proud of it but I totally lost my shit with one of the kids on Friday. I mean screaming banshee style. It is thankfully a very rare thing but the red mist descended and I had an epic meltdown.

I think most of us probably lose it from time to time but the trials and stresses of parenting definitely amplify the explosive potential. The drip, drip, drip of the moaning, the exhaustion, the sheer fucking relentlessness of the bickering – it is a recipe for the bomb to go off.

I think I’m usually a pretty patient parent. I can take a lot of crap from my three little monsters before even coming close to really losing my shit. In fact, I can count on one hand (or maybe two or three hands) the number of times I’ve seriously gone into one and directed rage towards the kids. But, given a perfect mix of dire circumstances, I don’t just blow the fuse, I vaporise the fucker. I scream until my throat hurts. I go red in the face. It’s not pretty.

I then, invariably, apologise to the kid who got screamed at and feel guilty for about a week. Everyone’s a loser.

I’m not going to defend my actions – I don’t think there is ever really an excuse for screaming at the top of your voice in the face of a small person – but I will at least go some way towards explaining what helped to create this perfect storm.

Well, it has been a pretty shitty couple of weeks. There has been a deeply sad event which has really hit me and thrown me into a bit of an emotional downward spiral. That came on top of illness, a rough period with the kids being particularly challenging and a week of solo parenting, with my husband off in the U.S.

My darling daughter decided that this particularly tricky time would be a good opportunity to challenge me at every step and push every boundary she came into contact with. My usually well behaved M has become a demon child. The only thing I can put it down to is the fact that she is desperate for school to start and in need of more stimulation than I can offer at home.

Whatever is behind it, she has been seriously pushing my buttons recently, attempting to get a reaction.  Well, on Friday she bloody well got one.

The day started OK. I took my two preschoolers for a pleasant trip to the park with a friend and her three year old girl. Sunshine, happy kids (well, T was moaning about food and trying to escape the playground most of the time but apart from that it was all good). The girls went nuts going round and round on a mini roundabout thing, laughing their heads off and getting so dizzy they fell over.

When the food pestering increased beyond bearing, we headed off to a lovely local tea room. It is one I’d vowed not to visit again actually, after far too many Baby T tantrums there, but it was sunny and the garden was open so we thought we’d risk it. How much harm could we possibly do in the garden?

Well, we had only just settled down when my friend’s little girl spontaneously projectile vomited all over M. And I mean all over. It was totally without warning and sparked, we now think, by a few too many whizzes round the roundabout for a kid who gets travel sick.

M started screaming. Not just crying but really screaming. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame her for being upset. If someone had thrown up all over me and my favourite t-shirt, I might have had a bit of a sob myself. But she really lost it. The t-shirt came off. Half a packet of wipes and litres of antibacterial gel were used. Then me, M and T beat a very swift retreat from the crowded tea room garden, receiving disgusted looks as we went and leaving my poor mate to clean up the devastation.

Once outside, I put M’s far too warm coat on her, to save her having to walk home half naked, and we began the 15 minute trudge home, baby screaming in pushchair, M screaming by my side. T shut his trap as soon as he realised he wasn’t getting out anytime soon but M was just getting going. She yelled the entire way home, screaming “Sick! T-shirt! Need a bath! Siiiiiiiiickk!”

Yes, it was grim. Yes, I felt very sorry for her. But dragging a screaming child all the way home in muggy heat whilst pushing a buggy one-handed, after an already epically bad week, gave me a very big push towards the edge.

When we got home, you might think she would stop, but no, she ramped it up a gear. She took all her clothes off, scattering them all over the hallway, and ran upstairs. I was still getting T out of the buggy when I heard an ear-piercing “MUMMY! BATH! NOW!”

I sat T in front of Hey Duggee, ran the bath and dumped the screamer in. I’m not exactly sure whether she started screaming yet louder at this point or whether I simply reached scream capacity but no amount of asking, telling and begging her to calm down was working and the whole shit losing thing happened. I’ve no idea what I yelled but it was something along the lines of “SHUT UP! YOU ARE DRIVING ME INSANE! I CAN’T TAKE IT ANY MORE! SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP!  SHUTTHEFUCKUP!!”

Very grown up, intelligent and reasonable, I’m sure you will agree.

A good deal of cushion punching and very deep breathing later, and calm had returned. M was wrapped in a towel looking rather like a rabbit in the headlights but at least she was silent. We had a long cuddle and I apologised. I’m hoping I’ve not caused any more lasting emotional damage than the projectile vomit incident had already caused.

I feel terrible for screaming at her but I couldn’t help it. She had just been at me all week. She knows how to needle you to the point of madness and, combined with all the other bloody hard things I’d faced that week, I honestly could no more have prevented that emotional outburst than I could have predicted my morning ending in an extreme vomit incident.

I think there is just only so much crap one can take in life before something has to give. Usually, it is possible to take preventative measures – have a cuppa, take a few deep breaths, even throw some plastic plates around the kitchen (a personal favourite). But if you can’t do any of that, when you spew covered child is going ballistic, when the shit flies at you faster than you can duck it, you risk seriously losing your shit.

Thankfully, the worst my kids will ever have to face from me is a red-faced screaming lunatic now and then, one who then feels extreme guilt and cuddles them so hard they can hardly breath. I just wish the kids could see when they are pushing me beyond what I can reasonably be expected to stand, that they could back off and give me a time out before gearing up for the next round.

I look forward to their realisation that Mummy is just a puny human, trying to struggle through the daily grind, and that maybe she could do with a slightly easier ride, when times are tough. We could all do without the fireworks. And I could definitely do without the mother’s guilt.

I think she forgave me. Just as I forgave her. My dear little M Monster.

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