Before my second pregnancy, I definitely considered myself a gentle parent. I had one relatively easy toddler who had not yet reached the difficult stage of doing the exact opposite of everything I said. I didn’t get much sleep, but I was patient, kind and respectful of my child. And I felt pretty damn smug about it.
Fast forward 11 months and things are a bit different. I have a busy, bright, inquisitive two-year-old and newborn twins. I get no sleep (well, maybe four hours a night in two-hour bursts) and I am not patient, rarely kind, and often disrespectful to my child. And I feel pretty damn guilty about it.
You see, something that no one warns you about having children is how angry you will feel. When you’re getting by on snatched moments of rest, things that you would usually laugh off become triggers of intense rage. And in my case, my poor unsuspecting eldest has become the object of my frustration.
It’s not entirely my fault: two-and-a-half is widely acknowledged to be an extremely difficult age for child and parents – something I kind of wish our friends had told us before we committed ourselves to this age gap – and having twins is enough to send anyone round the bend. But I have to accept responsibility, because (unfortunately) I am the parent and that means everything is my fault.
So what do you do? How do you control the flashes of anger? How do you stop yourself unleashing the red mist on your precious snowflake? In my case, I don’t, but I sure feel guilty when my tiny toddler’s face crumbles as he cries, “Please don’t be mean to me, Mummy! Please only say nice things!”
What do I do? I walk away, I take time to calm down. I try not to trigger my son’s behaviour with unexpected events. I remind myself that he’s only two. I look into his eyes and remember seeing them for the first time. I call my husband and cry. I talk to my friends and realise I’m not the only one.
And I try again tomorrow.