This week there was a story in the press about a stranger in his 50s leaving a mother £5 with a note that she was a credit to her generation due to her son’s good behaviour on a busy train.
My initial thought was, that’s a nice man and great that a mum should get some recognition instead of the worn out stares that you sometimes get on public transport when they see you approaching with children. Good on them.
I can remember when Buster was just one being at a baby music class; mum’s babbling enthusiastically ‘We love this one don’t we?’ to the opening chords of ‘Wind the bobbin up’ while kid looks nonplussed and chews on a musical instrument. An older child of about four who obviously didn’t want to hang out with a load of babies went in to meltdown. Proper, lying on the floor kicking and wailing while mum got more red and harassed by the second, willing the child to get up with every bone in her body and aware she is being watched by 15 other mums so unable to drag said child to their feet and reel off the threats/bribes. In public you can suddenly feel you have to do your best Supernanny and as she crouched/lay at the flailing child’s eye level and talked slowly and deliberately as we all know we’re supposed to, I can remember thinking ‘that poor woman’. Then I looked at my darling boy drunkenly wobbling around and thought ‘thank goodness my little boy is such an angel’.
And then he turned two and I realised I was a moron.
Also this week, I got on a bus with Buster and Mabel. Now at two and four, climbing on a bus with the buggy and buggy board and both kids requires more than two arms. One of them inevitably doesn’t get on the bus and there’s a gasp of panic from both – and some passengers – that the double doors might shut and leave one behind. What you need is a kindly bus driver that will wait so you’re at least sat down. And there are some kindly bus drivers. There are also some bastards that tear off before any of you are sat down, leaving you to choose which kid to save and whether or not to leave the buggy free-wheeling down the bus and taking out a couple of pensioners while you perform an ungainly manoeuvre from pole to pole so you can deposit your kids in to seats.
On this particular day, our boarding of the bus was a shambles. The driver mouthed ‘Wait for the next bus’ because there were two buggies already aboard, but I did a desperate yell at the closed doors ‘We’ve already had two go by, I’ll put the pram down, I’ll put the pram DOWN’.
The doors begrudgingly opened and on we got. The bastard driver tore off. Buster started to scream in a desperate manner because the miniature ninja turtles and seven pieces of intricately put together Lego I promised he could hold on the bus (to get coats on) were being folded away in the bottom of the pram. As I crushed my own hand trying to retrieve said items from inside the folded pram and spilt the contents of my bag across the floor, I looked up to see Mabel had taken a seat on the steps to the back of the bus and people couldn’t get to seats. And she would not move. And Buster was still screaming about his Lego so very loudly while all the passengers looked on. The silence of the bus meant we were putting on a show that everyone could hear and see and most looked like they weren’t happy about this unexpected entertainment.
Once placated with his ninjas, Buster found a seat and was finally quiet. A kindly person stood up to let Mabel and I sit down. Except she wanted her cuddly dog Woofer to have the unoccupied seat next to her and she shrieked hysterically ‘GET OFF GET OFF GET OFF’ on repeat with all her might until I stood up. Every time I tried to sit down and reason with her, she did it again. I was being beaten and shamed by a two year old. Someone had moved so we could sit down and her mangy stuffed dog now had a seat to himself. With an audience of people watching and judging me and my shambolic state and total lack of control, I kind of half hovered over the seat feeling pathetic that a two year old was the boss of me. This was ridiculous. Then I started to laugh. And the woman in her 50s behind me leant forward and said ‘oh this takes me back, my daughter used to do that but to strangers’ and we laughed together and I looked around and a few other passengers were smiling and it was ok.
Some days I may have mis-timed naps or meals and that will be the reason for their wrath. Some days they’ll be vile and the next day wake up with a bug and I realise they were coming down with something and that was the reason. Other days, they just meltdown. There is no logic. Some days I may handle it like Jo Frost herself. Others I might lose my shit and instead of bending down and softly stating that this is unacceptable behaviour, I’ll hear a screaming voice coming out of me that I don’t even recognise. Or I say pathetically ‘I’m going to tell Dad about this’. Even worse, I pretend to cry in the hope they’ll behave on account of their pity for me.
My kids aren’t terrible and I’m not a terrible mother. Some days everyone is highly strung and tired and you’ve got to do what you can to get through the day and tomorrow will be a better one. Sometimes I could probably handle them more masterfully and I should dig deeper for the energy to do so. I’ve learned that some days kids will just be difficult. I can remember the first time Buster went apoplectic – I’d cut his toast in to squares and he wanted triangles. Except he’d asked for squares so even he was confused, which made him even madder. The ensuing hysteria made no sense and in that moment I felt terrified that I’d lost my darling boy forever. Then to totally throw you they’ll be exemplary on other days. You might even inwardly cringe as they politely say ‘oh yes please Mummy, I’d LOVE some more Brocolli’. It’s all a phase. Which doesn’t mean we give up and let them be rat bags, but we don’t need to beat ourselves up every time or worry about what everyone else thinks.
The next time I witness a mother flushed and anxious as her kids wreak havoc, maybe I’ll leave her a note and a fiver and tell her she’s doing a good job. She probably needs a slab of cake and a stiff drink more than anyone.
Go on – share your stories of your child’s meltdowns. It’ll be like therapy (and probably make the rest of us feel better)