Since having children the amount of love that suffuses my every day life has grown exponentially. The same has happened to the amount of frustration. My god children are frustrating! And they get frustrated themselves so easily too.
So my children get frustrated when they are trying to learn something new, how to get food into their mouth, how to crawl, how to stand, how to walk, how to put their shoes on, how to do the puzzle, how to make the Lego model, how to read the word properly, how to play the computer game. We move from one frustrating new task to learn,to the next. And as their parent it’s pretty damn frustrating to watch too. You want to help, to ease their frustration, to get the job done more quickly (a child who is learning to put their coat on by themselves can take years and sometimes you just need to leave the house!), to show them the right way to do it. At the same time you know how important it is for them to learn for themselves. Getting the balance between letting them just get on with it, teaching them how to do it, and not exploding with impatience is pretty frustrating.
Children have the frustration of having to do super-boring things like getting dragged around the garden centre with me. I have the frustration of having to do super-boring things like pushing them on the swing for three thousand hours straight.
They have the frustration of not being able to go to the park every single day and I definitely have the frustration of not being able to go to the garden centre every day because I know they will just whinge the entire way around, and ruin all my fun.
The children have the frustration of having to follow boring grown-up rules. I have the frustration of having to enforce boring grown-up rules. I mean they have had to brush their teeth twice a day for their entire lives so far, why do we still need to fight about it every single day? Why can’t they just bloody do it?
They have the frustration of having to turn off the TV after the millionth Octonaut’s episode in a row, after all there is nothing more fun than watching continuous TV all day long. I have the frustration of trying to get them to turn the TV off so that they can actually get some fresh air and some exercise, I mean those things are important and it’s my duty as their parent to make sure they don’t get square eyes! After all, all the studies tell us how bad TV is for our children (so why do they make Octonaut’s so brilliant?!?)
Children have the frustration of being expected to eat cabbage when it’s obviously disgusting green slime, which possibly could actually be poisonous. Parents have the frustration of trying to think of food which is at all healthy which their child will actually eat. Then go to all the trouble of buying the ingredients and cooking the food, only to have their child refuse to even taste it.
Then there is the frustration of trying to make lovely plans for fun activities for all the family, then to have to cancel because of the constant childhood illnesses, or go and have your children moan or fight with each other the entire time, until you just go, “fine, let’s just go home and watch bloody Octonauts in our pyjamas shall we?”
Children have the frustration of being expected to share their most beloved toys with other children and their siblings. They are expected to go to bed when there are obviously still fun things going on, and games to be played. Parents have the frustrations of breaking up fights over who gets to play with that particular Lego minifigure again and again and again. They have to give up their evenings, often the only opportunity for child-free time, and to get on with all those jobs that are just impossible whilst breaking up all those Lego arguments, to do protracted bedtimes.
This makes it sound like a constant battle doesn’t it? Sometimes that is definitely how it feels. It feels like us and them with the battle lines clearly drawn up, over the TV, over food, over brushing teeth. This isn’t how I hoped it would be. Surely we should be on the same team, we all want to be happy and healthy, surely? We’re fairly lax on rules in our house and if I’m being totally honest it’s because I just can’t bear any more fighting than there already is. So the rules we do have are pretty key, important rules that are there theoretically for all of our benefit. If only children could be more logical and reasonable!!
I totally empathise though. I’m pretty old but I still have vivid memories of saying “Why do I have to do everything in this house?” And “This is soooooo unfair!” And “Why can’t I do ANYTHING that I want to do?”
I’m not sure there’s any way to avoid it and be a reasonably decent parent. I’m just relying on all that love which has also arrived in overwhelming quantity, to balance out all of our frustrations just a little bit.