On Friday, we were at the park with Henry’s cousin. Hen doesn’t believe in swings or slides, particularly. He’d much rather climb. I sat my heavy self on a swing after following him around for twenty minutes, swung approximately two and a half times, then looked over to see him nearly all the way up a rope ladder. Of course. I took a photo as proof for Timothy (I end up doing that a lot). And then a minute later – when I’d almost reached him, but not quite – he fell through one of the holes. Of course.
Recently I texted a friend, a fellow mother in the down-and-dirty of toddlerhood.
Urgh. Please tell me you have days when your child pushes everyone over and won’t share and looks like the worst-behaved kid on the planet? Mothering FAIL.
She texted back with the reassurance she’s good at, and I felt better.
This is a down-and-dirty season of parenting. Henry is loud, excitable, curious, determined and so energetic I wish he came with an on/off switch. I could’ve written that sentence six months ago, or a year, and it still would’ve been true. As it happens, the toddler stage is also loud, excitable, curious, determined and ludicrously energetic. It’s like trying to raise Henry squared. On Monday we went to see a nurse about the gash in his lip. On Tuesday he fell off a crocodile rocker at playgroup and blackened his ear against a bookcase. On Thursday I spent a morning on the phone to NHS Direct after he used double-strength steroid cream as mouthwash. And if I had a pound sterling for every sympathetic or annoyed look I catch in public places, these days, I’d have enough to buy that beautiful pushchair I would otherwise need to sell a kidney to afford.
I didn’t expect that the hardest thing would be the drawing of lines without making them into labels. How much of this tantrum is Henry needing to be Henry, how much of it is boy, and how much of it is being twenty months and able to express yourself a little but not quite enough? If I let this go, am I showing wise understanding of the phase he’s in, or am I excusing bad habits we’ll all regret later? Can someone just draw me a pie chart, or something? Can someone bring me an actual pie?
[not a joke]
I have been up at night, lately, worrying about where the line is, and whether today I put it in the same place it was yesterday. I count the number of times I say ‘Henry, NO. Don’t do that. HENRY. COME HERE PLEASE, NOW’. I go over how often I let him have what he asked for, and whether it was the right thing to do. I wonder what being a pushover feels like, and if it feels anything like this.
Here is what these night-time ramblings have brought me (thanks, vanilla Coke!):
I live motherhood inside each minute. It is messy, and short-sighted. Some minutes involve not-quite-catching a fall from a rope ladder, or wrestling a screaming boy into a supermarket trolley while the security guard rolls his eyes for the third time this week. Then some others involve dancing on a windowsill, his hair glowing in afternoon sun, or an almost-conversation over lunch, or him coming over to show me that he and Daddy both have underpants on their heads, and he can’t quite believe how funny it is. I think the point is not to make a tally, but to make the best I can of a minute and to find the bits that shine.
Soon enough – not to stretch a metaphor too far, like I ever do that – I’ll climb out of the minutes to find years behind us. I don’t think much of the should-I-shouldn’t-I will be visible from that distance, as large as it looms at the moment.
I think the best days I’ll remember will be the ones I let him climb.