Parenting is hard work. Almost always. We’re all in agreement there.
I can handle hard work. Just about. I’ve learnt that I’ll pay for every single minute I dare to stay awake after 9pm. I’ve learnt that the toilet always stays open. And that nine times out of ten it hasn’t been flushed. I’ve learnt that sometimes, the price I pay for going upstairs to hide the Christmas presents is a toddler helping himself to the last Cornetto from the freezer.
Above all I’ve learnt that we don’t do clean. Ever.
It’s ok. This much I can cope with. Most of the time.
But sometimes there are days that tip it over. Days when your husband is away, your friend suffers a desperate health crisis, your four year old puts your toddler in A & E, the buggy gets a flat tyre on the way home from your hospital and your phone has decided to stop receiving text messages. Just for fun.
Blood, sweat and tears. Literally. All in one afternoon.
Those are the evenings that I spend on the sofa, huddled in a blanket and clutching the ice cream tub as though my life depends on it. Those are the evenings when I wonder whether I’m getting it all wrong. Those are the evenings when I feel alone.
That’s when I miss the good old days. The ones I’m too young to actually remember. The ones where everyone’s kids played outside together all day and only came home at dinnertime. Where everyone lived next door to their mum and their aunty, and their gran.
Where there were always enough hands to deal with an emergency. Always enough wisdom to guide you through. Where mobile phones hadn’t even been invented.
Facebook isn’t quite the same.
Don’t get me wrong. I have amazing friends. Friends who drove us to the hospital. Friends who came round the next day with a spare inner tube to fix the buggy. Maybe even friends who texted me. Not that I’ll ever know. Stupid phone.
It’s just that most days I don’t feel wise enough by myself. I need people on hand to tell me what to do. I want answers. Good, solid, definitely-correct answers. To a million different questions.
When exactly should my four year old schoolgirl stop wearing pull-ups at night? And how much sleep will I lose because of it?
Is it ok that Joel hasn’t even thought about potty training? And that he knows the theme tune to almost every Cbeebies show going?
How much should they actually be eating? And does any of it really need to be vegetables?
It’s not that I want my entire family and friends on my street. Nice as that may be.
All I really want is confidence in my own decisions. Which may take some time. But there’s hope.
Last weekend was rotten. Too many doctors. Not enough functioning tyres. And a large period of time when I felt like I had no control over anything. It’s taken a while for me to recover. Unlike Joel, who was back to his usual self by the time we left the hospital. It’s easier to fix a dislocated elbow than you’d think.
It happened. These things do. Quite frequently, in our house. Five days later, I can look back and say actually, we did ok. We got to the hospital. We got home. We ate dinner. Even if it was beans on toast. Everyone went to bed in one piece. Nobody lost their temper. No (lasting) harm done.
It was horrid. But we survived. Without an emotional breakdown. Or calling Wes home. That level of success, small as it is, would have been unthinkable even a year ago. We’re getting there.
Perhaps it’s only the blood-sweat-and-tears days that show us what we can do. That make the pull-ups and vegetables seem a little less important. Perhaps the only way to build my confidence is to bash my way through the hard days, over and over again.
With a bit of help from my friends.
Especially Ben and Jerry.