Patience

imageI think patience is probably one of the most important qualities to have as a parent. Especially a parent of toddlers but so far – for everything up to eight and probably beyond – you need buckets of it. The more kids you have, the more you need.

So it is a tricky thing when your patience decides to up and leave you for a fortnight. I am generally a pretty patient person but every now and then my patience decides to bugger off on holiday and suddenly everything the little gits do drives me to distraction and makes me want to scream right in their faces. So I finally cracked and did just that this morning. Not something I’m proud of but, hey, sometimes something has to give.

I may be wrong but I suspect it isn’t a coincidence that my patience levels have fallen through the floor since we started potty training. It is no understatement to say that I loathe potty training. I hate potties. I hate the endless washing of smelly, wet pants. I hate dragging a confrontational and reluctant kid to the loo every half hour and I hate that it doesn’t seem to make any difference as he still wets himself. And don’t even get me started on dealing with number twos.

T made a really good start with potty training two weeks ago. He nailed holding it in between loo trips and, despite the initial flurry of puddles, he got the basic concept pretty quickly. OK, so he refused to poo at all for a few days but it was a small price to pay. Two weeks on, we have just had a first poo on target (after binning a lot of pairs of cheap pants) but the novelty of weeing in the loo has worn off now so, if anything, the number of puddles is actually increasing. We got through 4 pairs of pants – my entire stash – on one morning in the park on Friday. He ending up having to wear a borrowed pair of his little mate’s frilly knickers.

The endless trial of going cold turkey on nappies has played havoc with my usually pretty plentiful pool of patience. I know how you are supposed to react when dealing with potty training accidents. The sweet smile, the encouraging words, blah blah blah. But I find myself running out of platitudes by the 6th accident of the day. The kind words become a little more sharp, the tone of voice a little more clipped. You would think third time round I would have this nailed, right? Sadly not.

Both boys have also been ill recently and are currently on antibiotics, with eight doses between them a day. I’ve had to cancel lovely plans left, right and centre, in favour of spending days stuck at home with my grumpy, ill kids.

imageSo, with circumstances seriously depleting the shrinking patience pot, not only am I not dealing well with the accidents but I am also far less tolerant of pretty much every annoying thing that my kids do. The bickering between the younger two is sapping my brain. If I have to listen to one more moany report about their mini bust-ups, my head is going to explode.

So, this morning, as I say, the patience pool finally ran dry and I snapped. T has been incredibly confrontational recently with tantrums a plenty. He started making a fuss at toddler music – something he does pretty often to be honest – but today I seriously lost my cool with him. He was refusing to put his enormous toy car into my bag until after the class and started crying and moaning. This ramped up and ended in me carrying him out to the car under my arm.

I was just about holding it together at this point but I could feel the red mist descending. I gave him several ‘last’ chances before strapping him into the car to drive home. He suddenly realised that I wasn’t joking and he was about to miss out on his beloved music group so he stepped it up some more, going for the most extreme ear-piercing shrieks he could muster.

So, I screamed in his face. Not at point blank range at least, but in the style of a demented banshee. Yes, very grown up and mature, I know, but the last fragile thread holding my cool in place finally snapped.

Well, he shut up at that. He looked utterly shocked to be honest. Who can blame him? The moment I did it I felt really guilty. Yes, I guess it had the desired effect as he said sorry, put the car in the bag and was incredibly well behaved when we finally made it back into the room. But scaring my children into submission isn’t exactly a parenting route I want to go down.

imageOur screaming match seems to at least have reset the pair of us. T has been a dream today, compared to his usual foul-tempered self. And there is nothing like a good dollop of guilt to replenish your patience pool. I won’t be adopting screaming hysterically as a new parenting method but I also won’t be berating myself too badly for it either. Sometimes you lose your shit in life. To be honest, it is a small miracle it doesn’t happen more often around here.

I spent some time with a newborn baby recently and he is just adorable in a way that only a tiny newborn can be. After seeing him, returning to my galumphing brood of big kids – that answer back, argue and generally annoy the hell out of me – it was hard not to hark back to those early days when the worst they did was do an explosive poo or bite your nipple. But such is the reality of parenting. You don’t really get a baby, you get an-annoying-little-git-in-waiting. Although you don’t know it at the time, thankfully.

But these three are MY annoying little gits and I would lay down my life for any one of them. Teaching them and keeping them in line as they grow feels almost impossible at times. Their ability to eat away at my patience and my resolve to keep my cool is quite remarkable. So every now and then something goes pop. Usually a blood vessel in my eye from the intense screaming.

Praise be to the Mums and Dads out there who never lose their shit, who never give in to the red mist and scream so loud that they hurt their throats. They are bloody amazing. If they even exist, that is. And I do not count myself amoungst them. If you do, then you are a far better person than I.

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Dropping the Ball

imageThe last couple of weeks have been a bit of a rollercoaster. But not the fun kind. The kind you have bad dreams about not being able to get off while it veers dangerously on two wheels round tight bends. It has all felt rather stressful and incredibly busy. Life with three kids is never quiet, I know, and I don’t think it has actually been any more hectic than usual of late, but I’ve been struggling to keep up more than I normally do because things have been a bit full on and emotional just outside of my little family unit.

As a result, I have been always just behind the curve. Like I’m running to keep up with my life, with my kids, and never quite making it. I’m not on top of things and I breathe a sign of relief when by some small miracle I manage to get everyone where they are supposed to be, on time, with everything they are supposed to have.

This is what happens when your mind isn’t fully on the job – the job being parenthood. It is only when other stuff gets in the way and makes you drop some of the balls you are juggling that you realise how many sodding balls there are.

imageWhen things are running well, when I am in the flow, getting things done throughout the week feels almost like a ballet, moving swiftly and precisely from one thing to the next in a pleasing and smooth motion, just about hitting the right timings. Work, school, clubs – they all slot together. It can be exhausting but I can do it and do it well. The flow of washing from basket to machine to cupboard is a satisfying cycle, with clothes flitting around almost by themselves, it is so swiftly slotted into the gaps of the day. The kids are shepherded from one place to another, from one meal to another, and it all feels natural and right at the very best of times. Not always, mind, but when I am on top of things, it works. It is multitasking at its best and I am bloody good at it.

As long as I don’t stop. Don’t ever bloody stop. Not to reconsider a small parenting choice.  Not to ponder a possible alternative agenda for the day. Not to be distracted by things going on elsewhere that suck your attention and emotion. If you stop, if you drop just one ball, the chain reaction it sets off is a total disaster. Once you drop the first ball, you realise how precarious the others are. Your flow is fucked. Your natural smooth progress through the week falls apart the moment you look at it and realise just how many bloody things are involved. And once you start analysing it, seeing that each of those tiny things you have to achieve and maintain add up into one massive and never-ending  list, you are doomed.

And then, when you are looking at all the balls on the floor, bouncing off in all directions and rolling under the sofa, you suddenly find you have absolutely no idea which one to pick up first.  The kids, sensing that your mind is in turmoil, go nuts and draw on the walls or climb the curtains while you are distracted. They step up the naughty behaviour because they know you won’t notice. Because they are a bunch of chancers and arseholes. The little one has ramped things up to such a level this week that he seems to think climbing on tables and creating chaos is actually expected of him these days.

imageSo, for some reason, I chose this time, when my brain is addled mush and the balls are all goners, to start potty training the toddler. Possible not my greatest decision but, in for a penny and all that, so we are now full speed ahead. How bad can it be? I’ve always done it with a small baby latched onto my boob in the past so this time should be a piece of piss by comparison, right? Well, there is certainly a good deal of piss involved anyway.

After a couple of days of mixing it up with pants and pull-ups, we’ve gone cold turkey and it is pants all the way. I figured that, since I am in a mess anyway, I may as well throw myself in deeper. Besides, after 8 years, the nirvana of a nappy-free world is calling me and I simply couldn’t resist. Plus the pressing need to wash small, wee-soaked pants has at least put me back on track with the washing mountain.

I won’t say I’d forgotten how hideous potty training is. I really haven’t. It will be etched on my memory forever. But I had forgotten how boring it is. All those endless trips to the loo, all that wee mopping. And worse. What I had hoped is that, third time round, I would know exactly what I was doing and T would nail it in 24 hours.  He is doing pretty well, at least on the wee front, but it is still wearing. And messy.

As with all things, T is doing it his own way, not following the same pattern as his older siblings. I really must learn to remember that T is so much his own man, that when presented with two options, he will always surprise me by taking a third path that I didn’t even know was there.

I’m hopeful that by this time next week I’ll have my mojo back, that the juggle will be back at full, seamless speed. And that my clever little T will have sussed out the whole pants things and be happily toddling to and from the loo. We are bypassing the evil potty. It is too gross for words and neither of us is keen.

So, until things are back to full throttle round here, T and I will both have to roll about in our own mess for a while. But I’m hoping neither of us is going to let it get us down too much.

After all, shit happens, right?

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