OK, so the newborn and baby phases are not without their challenges. But there is an element of “get your head down and get through the days” that sits quite well with me. You give and you give and you give and I get that. I can do that. The only people judging you are the people on the outside (and your own crazy brain, if you let it). Your child doesn’t have a mind of its own yet.
Until, out of nowhere, he does.
He is suddenly old enough to know what he wants, but not quite old enough to understand the rationale behind why he can’t have it. And when he doesn’t get it, his world ends. His face melts into Munch’s Scream. He writhes and kicks and makes a sound so loud and terrible I can only assume he has seen a vision of hell and is screaming at us to save our souls lest we roast in the impending apocalypse.
I bought a birthday card for a friend last week which had a duck wearing glasses and a wig on the front. E found it in my bag and, convinced it was a book, kept excitedly passing it to me to read to him. When I couldn’t, the screaming and accompanying bodily contortions commenced. And did not stop. I vainly tried to “read” it to him, by holding the card in front of him and making up a (frankly fantastic) story about a duck in drag, but did he care about my amazing story? He did not. He cared that he couldn’t turn the page and see what was next (a goat in a turban? A dog in a dress? Who knows) and lift the bloody flap on it.
Once upon a time I was amazing mummy who cuddled him all night and made his dinner come out of my boobs. Now I am crappy mummy who fails to turn birthday cards into a duck-in-wig-based Julia Donaldson books. Useless mummy who is unable to make more yoghurt appear in the empty pot he has just finished. Rubbish, lame-o mummy who is simply here to stop him eating the cat’s food, crawling into the road, picking up that cigarette butt off the floor and sucking on it and generally calling a halt to All Fun Ever. I am not sure how to start winning at this game now the rules have been changed.
I felt anxious about the toddler stage from the very start, even before I was pregnant. I suspected I would be rubbish at it. I’m a people pleaser, and if I can’t learn to live with not pleasing the person I love (joint-ish) best in the world, how am I going to get through the next two years? Life is a catalogue of frustrations and disappointments for E at the moment and I am supposed to sit blithely by and say to him “this is life! Scream as loud as you want!” and – worse!- start to draw boundaries and tell him how he should be behaving. Be assertive and confident enough to draw a line and consistent enough to stick to it. All of these things I have to learn too, just as he is learning.
It is bumwipes, frankly, I could do with a coach. Or a secondment. I’ll take your screeching, scrunchy faced newborn if you take my rampaging tot.
Apart from when he’s howling with laughter because I’m flicking water at him out of my glass. Or playing peepo underneath his blanket. Or turning to wave goodbye to the cat sitting in the window when we go out. Or talking to me earnestly in his baby babble, then looking at me pointedly as he waits for a proper, grown-up reply.
I’ll keep him then. You can just take the crap bits and I’ll go and sit in a coffee shop and eat cake. OK? Good.