Today the little dude is at creche and I’m hanging out with possibly the cutest baby ever, who basically doesn’t cry unless he’s ignored, and he’s asleep on me, and things feel all good.
Yesterday was a bit of a different story.
Nothing like having a toddler to make a baby seem easy.
Nothing like having two at once to make one seem easy.
Eeesh, when they’re both crying, or when their needs are incompatible, y’know? The constant sense of bouncing around from an urgent kid thing to an urgent baby thing. The way the toddler spends too much time watching videos on youtube and the baby spends too much time lying on a mat or in a bouncy seat, and then they’re both grizzling, and the baby is crying and the toddler is whining. And you serve the toddler the lunch you were prepping while they were being ignored and he doesn’t want it, but he is hungry, he’s just decided suddenly that he doesn’t like baked beans, and since when does he not like baked beans, he loves baked beans! And then the baby is full on screaming by now, and the baked beans are on the floor, and you have a low point when you say in exasperation “eat the fucking banana then and stop whinging for one second!” And then you’re like oh my god I just swore at my 2 year old. But at least he doesn’t know about swearing and isn’t perturbed but it, and he just says “and me gonna cut me beenana widt me yiddle knife!” and then tries to hack at it like he’s splitting kindling. Whatever kid, that’s not going to work but I understand you do not want my assistance.
Part of me knows that all parents must have these moments. Part of me says to myself, look, it’s good for him to see that mummy and daddy aren’t perfect, although, probably not so good for him to be sworn at. I remember my parents having these moments, and I didn’t especially like it, but I never really thought less of them.
Another part of me hauls myself up for the failures to make things go smoothly, failures to respond better, etc. This morning I realised that he doesn’t have an expression for “I don’t feel like that right now”, and that’s what he meant when he said he “didn’t like” baked beans. He meant he didn’t like them right then. Of course!
All of us have conditions under which we function better. I’m irritable when I haven’t eaten properly and have had a rough night sleep. Yesterday started with the discovery that bub had leaked through his nappy overnight and his sleeping bag was wet and the bedding was wet and ugh, not a great start to the day. When I say that’s when the day started – well – the day maybe started at 6am when I fed bub then spent half an hour getting him back to sleep so I could stay in bed for a little longer. Or maybe it was the 2am feed. They roll together.
The little dude is more whiny when he hasn’t had enough attention, and more destructive when he hasn’t had enough run around time.
The baby cries when he is ignored.
The husband tunes out and drifts into his own world when he hasn’t had any time to himself to unwind.
I get snappy and prickly when I’ve spent too much time with the kids.
Yesterday, it was one of those days where it got off on a bad note and try as I might, it just kept snowballing into something worse. Mr Daddy overslept (he was on the couch again, ’cause baby), and baby needed urgent changing, so the little dude was very hungry by the time breakfast was ready, and then also I wasn’t anywhere near organised to leave the house by the time bub needed his first nap, but he doesn’t nap in his cot yet and we’ve given up for now. So I pushed bub up and down in the buggy in our front garden, looking in through the lounge window the whole time to check on the little dude, who was watching Peppa Pig on the couch, and then I went back in to try and get him ready to go out, but he just wanted to keep watching videos. I finally got him ready just as bub stated to stir and I thought, well that’s ok, he’ll resettle once the pushchair is moving. But he didn’t. Next thing I know, I’m at the supermarket trying to jiggle the baby back asleep in the buggy while he screams and screams and in the split second I’m not watching, the little dude starts wrecking well-meaning havoc with the bulk bins (“yook Mummy me did some shopping bor some ahhmonds!”).
Later, he dragged the step ladder over to the book shelf and started merrily throwing all the books down because he’d seen us put coins up there, and he knows coins are used to make the ride-in car in the supermarket plaza go, and he was “going on a money hunt on da stzelf!”. And he got ink on the carpet when playing with some stamps. Also, he deliberately tipped his water bottle on the rug. This was the forth time in two days he’d tipped it out. He got sent to time out for that one, and when I went in having cleaned the floor and fed the bub, he said through tears “me dgot me drowerdis wedt me need new ones!!!”. Ah, shit, I hadn’t realised he’d got himself wet too, poor thing alone in his room with sopping wet trousers all uncomfy.
It was just one of those days. The baby cried a lot. The little dude did a lot of challenging things. I was not onto it.
Thing is, even when you’re not onto it, even on a day when you swear at the 2 year old, there’s a lot that you need to get on with. The baseline parenting, the bare minimum of feeding and changing and getting them to bed and keeping them warm and cleaning up after them, can fill a day.
The previous day, Wednesday, had been fairly good. We’d left the house early, as soon as bub was ready for his first nap. We went to a cafe and he slept in the buggy and the little dude and I shared a raspberry muffin. It was lovely, seeing the little due look at me with great pleasure and say “is djam in it!!” Then, with bub still asleep, we went to the playground, and that was fun too. The little dude had a good time and bossed me about cutely, telling me how to help him play on the equipment.
I had a moment yesterday when I thought, if only the baby would go to sleep in his cot by himself easily; if only the two year old would play independently for decent periods without wrecking things. Then I realised I was basically thinking “if only they weren’t a baby and a toddler”, and also “if only they didn’t need to be parented all the time”. Which, well, they are and they do.
I’ll never reach the ideal parenting self, and that’s ok, but I also want to try and do things better after a bad day. I want to think of how I could have pre-empted situations that make things start to skid; and think of how I can keep myself in check better when it’s all going haywire. Good intentions aren’t enough, telling myself I’ll try better to be patient isn’t really going to change anything. There’s a level of impatience that is kinda inevitable when you’ve had very little sleep, just like there’s a level of toddler havoc that is kinda inevitable when they’ve been cooped up inside most of the day and the parent has been attending to the baby instead of playing with them.
Most of the underlying things are related to this particular stage of baby + toddler, so also there’s no point dwelling on it. But I have given it some thought, and here’s a few things I’ll try and remember.
- Remember that done is better than perfect. Ultimate parenting motto. Deliberate “good enough” compromises are better than meltdown. Give the toddler a box of crackers before you change the baby, it’s not a great breakfast but it’s better than expecting him to wait for too long.
- Try and be less emotionally invested in the situation. I know this sounds a bit odd, they’re your kids, of course you are emotionally invested. But when you start to feel the pressure building, detachment can help. How would you respond if they weren’t your kids, if you didn’t have to do this every day?
Express your feelings to the toddler
- It’s ok to say “Mummy is really tired today”, and it’s definitely good to say “Mummy is sorry for talking to you in a grumpy voice”.
- Have some rainy day tricks, like an emergency kinder surprise in the pantry.
Burn off the negative vibes and the toddler energy
- Dancing to loud music, etc. Run in the garden. Let him jump on the couch.
Keep trying to redeem the day
- My perception was that yesterday was just one bloody thing after another until bedtime, but I think from the toddler’s point of view, it was not too bad, and that makes me feel a bit better.