When I had my first baby I had a really clear idea of how I wanted to parent. I’d be firm but fair, cool not cringey, loving but not smothering. I’d wear fashionable but practical clothes and generally just look like I had my act together at all times. Kind of like Julie Andrews with an urban/street edge.
I would never smack my children, never swear at them or lose control of my emotions. And I would NEVER use wine as a coping mechanism.
Well… it’s seven years down the line now and I’m a bit more like Charlize Theron in ‘Monster’ than Dame Julie; my children have a growing vocabulary of profanities (mostly acquired from me) and I basically wouldn’t get through the horrors of triple bath and bedtime if it wasn’t for my good friend Sauvignon waiting for me downstairs.
But hey. I’m still not smacking them so that’s something.
At least once a week I have the following inner dialogue:
Me: This is not the type of mother you wanted to be Sarah (shakes head), You have been a screaming radgie from 7am to 7pm.
Also Me: Yes but it’s not my fault Sarah. My kids are dickheads!
Me: they’re not really though. They’re just being kids. You need to calm the fuck down.
Also Me: Oh god you’re right. You’re really right. I am a BAD Mother!!!
In my defence, let me take you back to last Wednesday for a glorious little glimpse into my everyday life… Then you can judge me accordingly.
I picked up Jonah from school as usual; and as we were waiting for Dylan to come out of his classroom Jonah headed off down the yard to play with a few friends. So far, so normal.
I was chatting away to my friend Dilys (not her real name but she bears a passing resemblance to Fireman Sam’s fancy-piece) and said;
‘Oh look that’s funny; someone’s opened a huge bag of popcorn and they’re all playing in it! Wow…that really is a lot of popcorn. And Jonah is covered in it! He’ll love that!’
I started to walk towards this frivolous sugary scene when a little boy approached me:
‘Excuse me Mrs. Do you know that’s sick they’re playing in?’
‘Yeah. It’s sick. Covered in saw dust.’
I managed not to go completely batshit mental in public but almost pulled poor Jonah’s arm out of the socket whilst dragging him away from ‘the fun’.
Trying not to inhale any of the rancid chunks; I stripped him of his coat and hat and nearly cried tears of gratitude when one of my friends produced a packet of wet wipes.
Anyway, we get home from school and I got Jonah straight in the bath just to be on the safe side (it’s fair to say I have hysterical OCD when it comes to vomit) and then sat down with Dylan. I had every intention of going back into Julie Andrews mode and asking him about his day, perhaps doing some reading or number work (why the fuck can’t they just call it Maths anymore!?).
Then suddenly Jonah appears in the kitchen, naked and sheepish.
‘Why are you out of the bath so quick? I ran it nice and deep for you.’
‘Oh well erm, erm you see I was finkin about the Barcelona do -doo -do song and I forgot about everything else and I accidentally poo’d in the bath.’
Ohhhh god. Charlize Theron aka Aileen Wuornos was back in town.
‘Whaaaatttt!!!????’ I screamed
‘It’s not my fault it’s because I was imagining and finkin about how I want to be like Ed Sheeran when I’m older and I just… I just…’
It was at that point I screamed the words we have surely all blurted out at some point in our lives;
‘ED SHEERAN DOES NOT SHIT IN THE BATH!!!’
I had lost my temper and with it, the moral high ground. I was once again the shouty sweary nasty Mam and he was the poor innocent child having to deal with my unreasonable request that he does not defecate in the family bath.
Just like the time I’d called them pricks under my breath in the post office, or the time I spitefully told Jonah that Darcey Bussell would never want to be his girlfriend because he forgets to wash his hands after he wees.
I’m more familiar than I’d like to be with the guilty ‘this isn’t the mother I wanted to be’ cycle. I spend lots of time feeling like I’m letting one of them down by paying attention to the others, beating myself up and worrying that they will take their revenge by putting me in a sub-standard old people’s home and never coming to visit.
Recently I’ve been trying hard to get a handle on that guilt. I tell myself that realistically they will not one day be sat in a therapist’s office saying;
‘My mother used to shout at me because I never put my shoes on in the morning until the 11th time of asking, so you see that’s why I can’t stay faithful to my wife or hold down a job.’
Deep down I kind of ‘back myself’ that I’m doing a good job. I can tell from the way their eyes light up when they see me waiting in the yard after school, or the way they love nothing more than getting into bed with me (earlier than I appreciate) and breathing their dodgy morning breath in my face. It’s kind of a good lesson for them to learn actually: shouting doesn’t mean I don’t love you. Letting your emotions get the better of you means you’re a real bonafide human being.
Anyway; back to last Wednesday. I scooped the log out of the water with a pirate ship, bleached the bath and took some deep breaths. Normal service resumed. Later in the evening, I apologised for joining the monster raving loony party and Jonah apologised for playing in sick.
I took him upstairs, cleaned his teeth and tucked him into bed kissing his lush little nose. Just as I was leaving the room I heard him say quietly;
‘How do you know Mam?’
‘How do I know what sweetheart?’
‘How do you know Ed Sheeran doesn’t shit in the bath?’.
I mean that’s a fair point. I have absolutely no proof that he doesn’t.