Today my children broke me.
I like to think I’ve got a fairly decent grasp of this child wrangling business by now. And yet on this day, for no specific reason, my two toddlers reduced me to tears.
The day begins, just as it does every day, with a very early start. Four forty-five am, to be precise. Miss 2 years specialises in waking before the sun has thought about rising. She also wakes numerous times a night. Always has done. She has digestive problems that we cannot get in hand.
Twenty-two Peppa Pig episodes later – approximately two hours in conventional time – Miss 3 years appears. She needs breakfast, immediately. ‘I want that cereal … No, not that one! I said that one … No, I said I want both of them!’ I serve both. Miss 3 years walks away from the table, cereal barely touched. (Miss 2 years, conveniently, spares us the drama – on that front at least. She chooses not to eat breakfast at all.) I notice the dog quietly munching on a few flakes that have spilled on the floor. Good.
Next come the trivial problems, the clumsy accidents, the fighting over toys. The crying, the screaming. All around me chaos is building – there are freaking toys everywhere – and so is my frustration. I impale my foot on the corner of a piece of Duplo. Now I slide in dog drool. Nice. And while I try to clear up the mess there is ever more screaming. These two are delightful one minute, devilish the next.
We need a change of scenery. I know this. But first, two minutes I need, that is all, so I can have a shower – but will Miss 2 years let me? She rather likes her cuddles, demands to be held much of the day. The cuddles are lovely … and exhausting. We’ve been cuddling since 4.45 am – surely it is enough?
They’re occupied (productively, peacefully) drawing. I make a dash for the shower and pray that the productive, peaceful activity lasts. I shut the bathroom door quietly, hoping no one notices my escape. Within moments, someone is banging on the door; another is screaming. I hope it is not a medical emergency. I decide it is not. Mostly likely Miss 3 years has whacked Miss 2 years for stealing a crayon or Miss 2 years is pulling Miss 3 years’ hair, because curls are so tempting. In record-breaking speed I am washed and dressed.
Deep breaths: I know the next part – getting the girls dressed – will not be easy. Miss 2 years hates wearing clothes. I dress Miss 3 years then stall, let Miss 2 years run around in her nappy a little longer. I tell myself the task will be infinitely easier if she burns off some energy first. A spot of couch jumping, and why not? But fifteen minutes later, despite my efforts to reason with her, to wrangle clothes onto her, Miss 2 years remains adamant she will not wear a thing. (Not now, possibly not ever.) The top that was acceptable two days ago is not acceptable any more. The shorts I had just managed to wrestle on her, no longer around her waist. And now the girls are running away, hiding, giggling, cuddling … and then more crying, more screaming.
And suddenly I am crying too. Miss 3 years asks me if it is water on my face. ‘No, not water – tears,’ I say. I decide to tell her the honest truth: I am crying because sometimes Mummy finds this hard. She looks confused. I lie down on the couch, cover my face and cry a little more.
Soon Miss 3 years is snuggling next to me. Then Miss 2 years squirms her way on top of us and the cuddles turn into tickles, raspberry kisses and wrestling. And so much laughing.
I am mended in this moment by the same devilish and delightful children who broke me.
More from Ginny Grant: