I always thought of myself as an extremely calm, patient person, who really could teach a saint a thing or two. Since I stopped the usual childhood bickering with my brother, I can remember one episode ever where I shouted at somebody. Even with my challenging job I keep my calm head on and my smile out. I manage to remain polite with the drunks, the overbearing parents of completely well children, asshole admitting teams refusing patients, demanding juniors, bossy managers and badly designed computer systems.
Since having children I have totally been introduced to the angry side of my nature. How can people who are so small and helpless, so beautiful and innocent, the very people who taught you what love means, who make your heart so full that you feel it may burst through your chest, how can they possibly make you feel so incandescently angry?
This morning after a pretty good night’s sleep I awoke to my son cooing happily and his sister giggling back at him. We got up, had breakfast, all lovely. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and I started dreaming of us all going out for the day, walking in the woods, climbing trees, making the most of the first good weather in what has felt like months. This has been a very long, dispiriting winter, and my soul is screaming for time outdoors.
However my husband was in a bit of a grump and the children were being obstructive, and after seeing the non-stop rain clouds on the weather forecast for the upcoming week, I started feeling more and more frustrated at the thought that this day would just slip away from me, as so many seem to. I made a stand and bundled the children upstairs to get dressed. Once there, they just wanted to play, and my son objected to every item of clothing in his drawer. After getting him into a nice warm jumper, perfect for outdoor adventures, he just pulled it straight off. Every mention of getting dressed and my daughter would say “but first I just need to…” her new standard phrase every single time she is asked to do anything these days. After refusing my offer of choosing her own clothes, I choose them for her. She still refused. At this point, after staying patient for so long, I wrestled the vest over her head, screaming “Just get dressed! Get dressed! I have asked and asked and asked. Now I’m telling you, GET DRESSED NOW!!” Thelooking at me with tears in her eyes, looking utterly heart broken, and says in a tiny voice “you’re hurting me Mummy.” And of course my anger breaks and we have a long cuddle and she sobs into my shoulder, then quietly, together, we get her dressed and head silently to brush her teeth.
At this point my husband comes to the rescue, saying there’s a hot bath waiting for me downstairs, so I leave him to it. I ease myself into the hot water, still seething inside, feeling awful for totally losing control, for making my daughter look at me with those heartbroken eyes. Shouting really doesn’t come naturally to me and it makes me feel really shaken up. And yet I’m still angry that yet again, the same as practically every day that went before, my daughter just procrastinates and prevaricates, and then point blank refuses to get dressed, whatever I do, until I just end up losing my shit completely. Why is that? Why do children feel this need to do that? It’s not like getting dressed is some terrible, arduous job, and I’m more than happy to help if needed. I just don’t understand it.
Lying in my bath, I can hear my husband and children upstairs playing happily, their voices relaxed and easy, whilst I just feel more and more guilty. I lie my head back in the water till it bubbles into my ears, muffling out those joyful noises. I keep topping up with hot water, not feeling up to facing them all again yet.
Its several hours later now, and as often happens, time somehow gets frittered away with nothingness, and I have not managed to get out and feel that winter sunshine on my skin yet. Instead I am lying in bed with the blackout blinds down, with my snoring son napping and feeding, cuddled next to me, whilst Facebook on my phone taunts me with all the sunny photos of friends making the most of the glorious weather, whilst I moan on here.
I do need to get better at putting my needs first, some of the time at least. Today I so desperately needed to get out and get my legs working and my blood pumping and the wind in my face and the sun on my skin. Is it so surprising that my frustrations at feeling my needs coming second place again, no matter how hard I try to prioritise them, sometimes erupts as anger and loss of control? I’m certain we all get to that point, and our children are experts at getting us there.
Maybe I’ll make it out this afternoon. Maybe…