Angry mummy: hills to die on

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This is the second post I’ve written about trying not to be a short-fuse parent. The first one is here. Let’s face it, there will probably be more. 

We will be glad about the two-year age gap between our boys when they’re older and the best of friends. This is what I weep into my pillow at night. ONLY JK.

Actually, from Peak Insanity of newborn and two-year-old, it’s getting lots better. H can now be trusted to run little errands without calamity. There are spells when they amuse each other and where they play together without someone screeching. I never thought we’d get here, and it’s a testimony to me of the triumph of Grimly Hanging On and Using Chocolate Biscuits As Emotional Salve.

But. But but but. The age gap does mean that they’re now covering all the stress bases between them. If you want someone to be mindlessly destructive, you’ve got T, and H is there for the explosive emotional breakdowns. T will scream the house down when you brush his teeth, but H is ready to bring out the threenager boundary-pushing. I mean, just in case you were missing anything from the last two years, they like to keep it all fresh.

So it’s possible, if you wanted, to spend every minute of the day telling them off. And oh, how achingly dull that is. We are scratchy and irritable on a day where my sentences beginning ‘will you STOP-‘ outnumber all the others put together. Emotionally it’s exhausting too: maintaining that level of irritation uses an awful lot of energy that could be used for better things.

I’ve said before that my inner parent is all Sergeant Major: I am always trying to train myself to be less strict. But someone on this blog once made a comment I think about a lot (thanks! This is why you’re all so brilliant). She said: ‘choose your hills to die on. You can’t pick up on everything, so choose what’s really important to you and go from there’.

I think this is pretty wise. It’s not a case of starting to let things go, but of reacting to things on a scale, from a mild ‘hey, don’t, that’s gross!’ to the intense, theatrical ‘I do not want to see you do that again’. And is there anything I’m getting cross at that I could laugh at instead? I think there probably is.

So I had a good think, and here are my hills to die on, the things I absolutely cannot shift from under any circumstances:

1. Bedtime is bedtime. I don’t mind what they do in their room once we’ve gone – that’s often when they have the best interaction with each other, in fact – but once the light is off, they’re done for the day. The only thing standing precariously between us and insanity is a decent night’s sleep.

2. Kindness to peers. I think you’ll never lose out being a little kinder than people expect. It’s a way of acknowledging everyone’s innate worth and drawing in people left on the margins. I am never happier than when I see spontaneous kindness in my boys, and never more horrified than when they do the opposite.

3. Respect to adults. In the last few months we’ve had to introduce the new idea that there are things you might hear said in the playground, but these are not things you can say to your mother; also, that people can be hurt by the words you use. And I guess this was something we all had to learn for the first time at some point. It’s FUN.

4. Manners. I know ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘sorry’ and ‘excuse me’ don’t seem like huge deal-breakers, but I think they help teach them something deeper: respect, appreciation, remorse…a recognition of other people’s dignity.

I also came up with a list of things that are way higher up on my hills than they should be, and need taking down a notch (or seven):

1. Not being bothered to go to the toilet on time. Urrrrrrgh. I look forward with hope and gladness to a time when I don’t have close and personal dealings with faeces. But H is a last-minute toilet-goer; there it is; he needs reminders but I don’t need to be furious about it.

2. Brotherly scraps. I intervene when they’re hitting, or T is at a disadvantage because of his size, or one of them is at absolute meltdown point. But I’m trying to remind myself that, you know, brothers gon’ brother. And they’re learning, by very small degrees, how not to provoke people to wrestling point. Useful life skills.

3. Stupid voices. This is a weird personal idiosyncrasy, but if you can TALK with REAL WORDS then USE REAL WORDS THAT’S WHY WORDS EXIST TO HELP YOU COMMUNICATE WITH PRECISION. I really need to tamp this irritation down, because I remember using silly voices well into teenage years, and my sister spent a good year in her childhood inexplicably pretending to be a dog. This is what kids do.

4. Not leaping to do what I ask the first time I ask it. This is a sign of how inexperienced I am as a parent. I asked my mother recently, ‘So…when we were kids, did we, um, just ignore you lots of times until you got stressed about it?’ And she laughed and laughed and laughed. Apparently kids do this too. They shouldn’t, and they need reminding, but I’m going to push myself into an early grave getting cross about it.

The great thing about parenting is that we’re all so individual, such a unique mixture of personality and environment and how we ourselves were parented, that your hills and non-hills will be different from mine. But I think I’ll be happier when I’m not slogging up to the summit for every little thing.

So, tell me: what are your absolute must-haves, and what things do you get annoyed about that need to come down a bit?

12 Thoughts on “Angry mummy: hills to die on

  1. Caitlin on 11 July 2015 at 11:28 am said:

    Oh my goodness. Stupid voices. WHY do they drive us so far up the wall?!

  2. Ooh, good lists – and we’re not even dealing with half of these yet. It’s so hard to tell the difference between ‘I am setting clear boundaries and sticking to them’ and ‘I am getting needlessly cross about everything’. (Or conversely, and the dilemma I more often find myself in, ‘I have to relax about things now and then’ and ‘This kid is never going to learn about boundaries if I keep letting things slide!’

    Must haves: bedtime – we do not go back downstairs or start playing after bath & milk; hitting & pinching – never acceptable;
    Stuff that slides all the time: screen time. God help me, we’re even doing Duggee at bedtime now. Physical limits – you’re not allowed behind this gate/in this cupboard – except sometimes.

    • racheljeffcoat on 16 July 2015 at 9:34 pm said:

      Oh, YES for your first paragraph. This is exactly what I worry about all the time. If I pick up on everything I feel like a mean old nag. If I let some things slide I feel like I’m being inconsistent and wishy-washy. It is so hard to get the balance right!

      They all sound like good hills and non-hills to me. I remember when H started hitting at around two, and I worried he would be a terrible violent child forever…and then of course he grew out of it. T’s just started, so this time I’m able to be a bit more sanguine about it! x

  3. I find if I am getting needlessly cross with my boys, I try to look at the things they are doing right. Like my 5 year old helping by getting his baby brother’s binky instead of yelling at him for getting into the sugar, with a spoon….or complimenting him for sitting still instead of yelling at him for getting of his chair during dinner. I find he is more willing to be kind and listen if I am.

    Also, bedtime is a must. I try not to get too upset if they pull all the bedding off after they go to bed. They can sleep on a bare mattress without any harm!

    • racheljeffcoat on 16 July 2015 at 9:26 pm said:

      This is great advice! Looking at their good points – and verbalising them – is always helpful.

      And a big yes for bedtime. T sometimes throws out his pillow and duvet in a fury, but he’s quite happy to fall asleep without them. Then we replace them when we go up to bed 🙂 x

  4. It’s really wise to have this stuff outlined because I imagine it’s tough to remember in the moment. My son is still a toddler but has already started ‘negotiations’ on bedtime 🙂

    • racheljeffcoat on 16 July 2015 at 9:14 pm said:

      Ha! Oh, bedtime – they catch on quickly, don’t they?!
      It really is tough to remember in the moment. I have to walk away sometimes, then come back and try again. And I’m trying to apologise when I shout. Toddlers are hard! Thanks for reading x

  5. Louisa on 12 July 2015 at 11:00 pm said:

    Thanks for sharing yours. I feel that some days I am at an ever losing battle. And so this makes sense to know when to go for it and when not to.

    Things that make me really cross.

    Not being listened to. Ever.
    Having to repeat myself until I lose it.
    Only doing something when they are on the last notch to timeout.
    This tone-Ner nickie ner ner.
    Random acts of violence and then smiling about it.
    Snatching.
    Screaming until you get what you want. It won’t work with me (although it does with Katie because she can scream for ages and do so, really loudly)
    Talking back to me in a grumpy tone

    Must haves

    Saying thank you to whom ever made our food. Even if we don’t eat it.
    Bedtime stories
    At least 100 kisses a day. Each.
    Saying sorry and meaning it
    Being kind even when we really don’t want to be
    Trying to be just an incy bit patient. I know it’s hard.

    Hopefully in those ‘nice’ moments where they love each other and make each other laugh we will be reminded to why we are parenting them and hopefully shaping them into decent people. Their personality is so strong. It’s how they deal with it that counts.
    Xxxx

    • racheljeffcoat on 16 July 2015 at 9:06 pm said:

      I want to give you a high five for every one of these. Every. Single. One. Though I am oddly comforted that it’s not just my kids that ignore me until I screech 🙂 You are absolutely right that their personality shapes everything, and we just have to show them helpful ways to channel it. xxx

  6. Heather on 15 July 2015 at 2:54 pm said:

    We are QUITE early on in our childhood rearing journey, but one of my hills that I need to come down off of is when he gets distracted SPITS HIS MILK OUT AT ME WHILE HE’S EATING AND MY FRESHLY WASHED HANDS AND SHIRT GET STICKY. *shudder*.

    I can work on it.

    • racheljeffcoat on 16 July 2015 at 8:49 pm said:

      Oh, goodness me. YES. Both of mine were champion vomiters, and I couldn’t stand getting it all over me (and got it all over me every other minute). Stay strong – once the food is solid, it’s a lot harder to stick to your jumper 🙂 x

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