Monday Morning: Parental Guilt
This morning was a tough morning. I'd gone to bed far too late (nearing 2am) because I'd become glued to my current Netflix series and overdosed on a glut of 'Travelers'. Martha woke up at 7:40. This would be a good thing if she didn't have school. Ben was his usual jolly self but he wasn't best pleased when I wouldn't let him have ALL the cereals in the cupboard and he wasn't happy at all when I got him dressed because he was busy playing with his toy Ninkynonk.
Both of my children have the most amazing knack of breaking you with their complaining sounds. Ben sounds like an angry banshee as he tenses his entire body, grips his fists, cranes his neck forward and screams, "eeeeennhhhhhh". Martha is going through a phase of intensely frustrating up speak. Meaning that everything she says raises in pitch at the end of the sentence. And I mean everything, not just for questions. She is also only able to brush her teeth for about 4 seconds maximum. No more than that. Yet somehow the process takes her ten minutes. She's quite quick when it comes to getting dressed and she does her best to tidy her room. Her bed making skills are definitely improving. However, shoes, coats, cardigans, homework, breakfast and teeth all seemingly take eons to do. All of that is manageable with a little bit of chivvying and encouragement. However, Martha got it into her head that we were going to play a game of connect four this morning. We had been playing it the night before and she was under the impression that today would be a day full of connect four, and only connect four. As the clock ticked on by, it became completely clear that connect four was not likely to be played. This was met with Martha's whine. Martha's whine is incessant. I buries deep underneath your skin and makes you need to scratch. Your ears become hyper sensitive to the specific frequency of her voice and it bombards your brain to the point that you can't remember a time without that whine. Music? The sounds of nature? Heavy traffic on a busy motorway? Drilling? All forgotten memories of more pleasant sounds.
So what did I do? With Ben, I got him dressed anyway. When he screamed, I smiled and said "don't make that noise Ben, it isn't very nice". To no avail of course, but it was worth a try. Five minutes of trying to dress Ben is like trying to put clothes of a rigid block of wood that screams in your face. Sometimes tickling his legs turns the scream into a laugh for about two seconds, but he soon returns to his rigid block of wood state. Every so often though, he combines his rigid block of wood manoeuvre with a rotisserie chicken turning motion. He's more than happy to bury his face into the bedroom floor in order to escape vests. I won in the end, but it was a hollow victory as Ben had already taken both socks off before he left the room as a sort of baby middle finger to his Dad.
As Martha is more capable than Ben and understands how to behave far better than her little brother, it is a lot more frustrating when she decides not to play ball. Her teeth still had breakfast in them after she had shown her teeth a toothbrush. I was obliged to make her brush again. It became clear to Martha that her connect four marathon gaming session was slipping out of sight. Her eyes welled up with tears, her face turned a more rosy shade and the ear worm that is her whining came out of her mouth. With toothpaste. Apparently, I was being too rough with her. I wasn't letting her breathe. I was being mean. She had toothpaste on her face and it was all my fault. Martha has a penchant for the dramatic. She could breathe and I wasn't being rough. Cath was there. She'll vouch for me. Five minutes of Martha's whining, five minutes of Ben's hardwood banshee screaming and five hours sleep led to five minutes of snapping. By this point, Ben had softened his posture and was hunting for milk, so he dodged my ire. Martha, on the other hand, received a full broadside.
I didn't shout. I focused my voice into lower, more strident tones. I pronounced my consonants particularly heavily and I widened my eyes. And then I copied Martha's whine and made her cry.
It's hard. I felt awful at the time and I feel even worse now. I hate people imitating me in a critical fashion. Imagine the damage it does to a five year old. If it had been me in Martha's shoes, I'd be questioning who I am as a person. I hope she's not doing that. I'm off to work this afternoon. I won't see Martha until tomorrow morning. So in my head, all contact I've had with my daughter today has been filled with nagging, complaining and meanness from both parties, but I'm a 'responsible' adult and should know better. In my head, Martha now thinks Daddy doesn't like her, Daddy is cross with her and she won't know any different until tomorrow. I have the urge to go and take her out of school and tell her "I love you", take her out for a massive slice of cake and a cup of hot chocolate and buy her a new toy of some kind.
But I know I can't do that. She'll get an absent mark at school for starters. What I can do however, is try to be better. There will be many more times when both of the kids test my patience. I did exactly the same with mine and I still do. I think I deserve to feel a little guilty for my snapping. There are better ways to handle situations like that. I couldn't think of them at the time and I gave in to my baser temperament and got cross. I've got to forgive myself for being human sometimes. In fact, maybe I should be proud that I reacted within the bounds of normality!
I'll leave you with this. Martha and I made up just before she went to school. She came up to me, we joined pinky fingers and said "Make friends, make friends, never never break friends. If you do, you'll smell of poo and that will be the end of you." She qualified it as our special mantra by saying "Mummy says catch the flu instead of smell of poo Daddy. That's our special thing." Yes it is Martha. Then we played a quick game of connect four.