Today, my 2.5 year old told me that if I was squashed, she'd have to buy a new mummy. When I asked what kind of mummy, she replied- after some thought- that it would be a talking mummy. A robot talking mummy. Later she said that she liked me and didn't want me to get squashed.
Prior to this exchange- which, as her mother, I found adorable, funny and perplexing- she had thrown, if not the mother of all all tantrums, then certainly a close relative of the mother's of all tantrums. This was because I refused to let her decant her Smarties into a small bowl for the purpose of a car journey. This interaction, as a contrast, I had found futile, frustrating and infuriating. I defy any parent of any 2 year old to name anything more enraging than a pique of temper which seems to have no point to it other than to delay your arrival to wherever you were supposed to go. A tiny person can be so incredibly unreasonable that it just makes you see red.
I am sure plenty will read the above with horror, thinking that poor child, they don't know, they're just asserting their "little personality". Trust me, as my ears bleed from the shrieks there is nothing little about her (apart from the size of the eyes, which vanish, in contrast to the mouth which somehow becomes cavernous and vast- like the entrance to hell). It's times like that show the need for freely available intravenous alcohol.
And I got to thinking that, actually, my half hour experience of my little girl which consisted of the best and the worst of her, is somehow a metaphor for parenthood generally.
Parenthood can be the most wonderful, exhilarating feeling in the world- the immense love you feel for them, the surge of pride as they sing (badly) in their first nativity play, the mixed sense of relief, love and loss as they strut off to school for the first time looking ridiculously tiny but so grown up all at once. Then on the down of the roller-coaster, a few seconds, minutes or hours later, you feel frustration and anger as they don't listen, they booby trap your house with Lego, refuse the dinner you spent hours making, "decorate" your favourite shirt or slap their sibling accidentally by hurling a giant stuffed toy across a room.
When my first child was born, people kept saying "it'll get easier". And I suppose it did. I got to sleep more, she cried less and she becomes more and more rewarding all the time. And then, not too long after, her sister was born: "it'll get easier" people said again. Well, that getting easier took a bit longer than the first one as for a while they enjoyed doing crying, sickness and bad behaviour relays. Now, I must say at the ripe old ages of 2.5 and 4.5, it is much easier. They (mostly) adore one another, they play well together, they can both tell me what's wrong. All that horrid unexplained crying, accompanied by fevers is, largely, a thing of the past.
But has parenthood got any easier per se? Not at all. In some respects it is becoming so much harder.
I remember my mum and dad saying: " Small child, small problem. Big child, BIG problem".
Whereas before I could stop my eldest daughter crying by giving her Calpol, food, drink, the toy she had been screaming for or a hug, now it's not so easy. She's at school, she's in the big wide world and problems are not so easy for mummy to solve, try as I might. Friend politics, playground politics, not wanting to go to school because she's tired. The big wide world is creeping up on a growing person that used to be my baby girl and I am not sure who is more petrified her- or me. Trying to explain the world, people, human behaviour, religion- you name it is only going to get harder and harder. Soon, I'll have 2 of them at large in the world, away from the protection of home.
I have enormous respect for my parents who brought up 2 children, alone in the world, away from their families. Somehow we turned out OK. But, my poor parents- their job is still not done. At the ripe old age of 36, whenever the world seems unfair I still go running to mummy and daddy who mercifully still take my calls.
I have a feeling that this parenting business is a rather long term affair- which actually delights me. I just have to hope that the medicinal power of a big hug is as effective later as it is now, because sometimes-even now- I don't really have any answer apart from that.