We have new neighbours and I had great plans for these neighbours. My current neighbourhood is well aware that my children often don’t listen. They know that it takes a lot of reminding to get beds made, teeth cleaned and bags packed for school.
They know when I find a toilet floor decorated with pee. They’re also very aware that when my children don’t listen I get louder until I snap and lose my cool. Shame.
I raise my voice with my kids sometimes and I’m not proud. I hate it, and I avoid it, but I tend to lose it when no one appears to be listening and I repeat myself over and over and over.
So with new neighbours on the block I had decided to rid of the booming demands and revert back to the calm parenting techniques we all prefer in this house, but sometimes forget about because, well, I don’t know. Life? That’s kind of how parenting feels sometimes, you know what kind of parent you want to be, but the precious gifts we try to parent have other ideas.
The worst part of this whole scenario is that while I’ve been desperately trying to keep my cool to give my new neighbours the impression that I actually do keep my cool, something was thrown into the mix that would change all of my best intentions: school holidays.
School holidays could be mistaken for a wresting holiday camp around here. It’s not that we don’t have rules or structures in place to prevent such behaviour, it’s just that we have three very energetic, tactile boys who like to wrestle constantly. And when they’re not wrestling they like to spend the rest of their time arguing, yelling and annoying each other.
Just for the record, I keep these little wrestlers very busy. They don’t have a chance to sit around and get bored. We spend a great deal of our time outside running and playing and attempting to burn off the endless supply of energy they have. The very oversized trampoline Santa gifted last year (which, for the record, Mrs Claus totally knew would be too big) gets a workout in the holidays, and is replaced with the couch when they’re indoors.
I try desperately to keep calm during the constant bickering and fighting, but sometimes the more I try to stay calm the more frustrated I get. Then they go and do something nice for each other and I’m reminded of the constant emotional battle parenting provides. How is it possible to feel so many conflicting emotions in minutes with these little people? So much frustration, but so much love.
Today a random person in a coffee shop randomly asked me if parenting was everything I thought it would be. Random. I suspect she asked this as she’d just witnessed me coming out of a debate with one child while the other two scootered outside the shop in a very non-scootery space and I wasn’t dealing with it too well. I rolled my eyes and replied, “nothing like I expected”.
Off she went. She told me that she often had friends who had children who commented how jealous they were of her life. This stopped me in my tracks. I was not prepared for a challenge of who is better at life- parents or child-free humans.
As she continued it became apparent that she had made the choice not to have children, and she liked to remind her friends of that when they were complaining about parenting. Lucky them.
I felt blindsided. She was passionate about this topic, and I felt like I needed an opportunity to explain my response but couldn’t get a word in.
Firstly, she asked me on a day I was dragging three unwilling children to work with me in their school holidays. I had packed food that they suddenly hated and dragged them to their favourite cafe for some unhealthy bribes in the hope of getting back to work to get some work done with my poor colleagues who had already waited for me while my kids took a lifetime to get ready and I was half an hour late.
Secondly, had I been given the opportunity to prepare a response I would have told her just how different it is. It is so different to anything I could have anticipated, but different is not always bad.
I’d always thought I’d make a great parent, and being a teacher I thought my skills with students would translate into being a firm but fair parent. I’d be fun, but sensible. Perfect. I can keep my cool in a room full of children, so no doubt one child would be a breeze. What I hadn’t taken into account was all of the hard work that had already gone into those little people before they came into my classroom.
I was dealing with the product of years of preparation and scaffolding. My teaching skills did very little to prepare me for raising my own human being. The children in my classroom generally listen to me, they follow the rules and slot into the routine of school life. Babies do not know of such things- rules, routines and listening. It’s fair to say I found the transition a little challenging, and like I’ve said before, I was an amazing parent until I had children.
Parenting is so different to the image I thought it would be, but the joy and love it brings overrides all of the crappy stuff and I absolutely adore my children, I wouldn’t give this parenting gig up for all the money in the world. It’s definitely not all doom and gloom, and sometimes it feels good just to vent, to get it all out.
When I hear other parents letting off steam about a bad day they’ve had, or how their children are driving them crazy, I don’t assume that they can’t stand their children. I usually just give them a smile and my “oh, I get it” face.
But to an outsider, one who hasn’t experienced both the joy and hard times that parenting offers, could it be possible that these eyerolls and complaints just sound plain old horrible?
I’ve caught myself out so many times these holidays just letting off steam to friends and family, completely out of desperation and exhaustion. I had a big meltdown earlier in the week and after I’d spoken to the random woman in the cafe, started to notice just how negative I was being and decided to ease up on the misery talk. I think it’s helping, I’m less shouty anyway.
With a new found enthusiasm for the holidays, we headed out the front this afternoon to play. I felt annoyed that I’d allowed my new neighbours to possibly hear some of my louder approaches to surviving the holidays last week, when I realised that the people there were in fact painters. Hooray! The new neighbours haven’t moved in yet and we have a second chance at appearing as a non-shouty, non-wrestling/fighting/yelling family. High-fives for everyone.