As a parent, I'd worked my way through all the stages that are supposed to be hell on earth: sleepless nights, teething, separation anxiety, having your shoes filled with sick... the whole gamut. And the thing was, that despite all the hype, none of these events was quite as bad as I'd expected. Like the worst type of film - all the best bits were in the trailer, leaving my partner and I feeling slightly underwhelmed to experience the supposed horror of the real thing. It was with this (understandable) sense of over confidence that I greeted the my son's (inevitable) turning from 1 to 2. It was simply a number, I told myself. A personality doesn't change THAT much as the result of just getting a little bit older. What was the worst that could happen? After all, we're just talking about a tiny tot. HOW WRONG WAS I?
In boxing, the fight is grueling, no doubt about it. But even in this most demanding of pursuits, there are little breaks, where the pugilists sit at the side of the ring, have a drink and try to regain their senses. It's only as a result of these intermissions that the fight will ever have the chance of going the distance. For me, it was the same with parenting a little one. For hour upon hour your senses are pummeled as tears, food, poo and puke fly. The parent becomes totally punch drunk, but clings onto their sanity in the knowledge that there's a nap around the corner, the child will be sleeping any time now. This sleep is, I feel, far more restorative to the parent than it's ever been for the child. It's a chance to catch your breath, wipe down the walls and consider a few winks of sleep for yourself.
This I just don't get. If I present an item to my son, on his favourite plate, there's a 50/50 chance of his eating it. If, however, I get the same item and throw it on the floor... 100% certain he'll pick it up and munch away happily. For some reason, toddlers want to put everything in their mouths. So any walk in the park, trip across town or visit to the supermarket is perpetually punctuated with me saying: "Take that out of your mouth! We don't eat off the floor". Leaves, rocks, bits of twig, squashed chips & a whole assortment of litter have all been whisked from his grubby little mitts just before he attempted to eat them. If I'm honest, there have been several times when I didn't get there quickly enough - so these items have had to be wrestled from between stubbornly closed lips. He, of course, thinks this is hilarious - while all I can think of is a potential night of projectile vomiting should he catch some lurgy or other.
Suddenly a cry rings out, causing a shudder of tiredness to run up my spine and take root in the bags under my eyes. Next, probably by magic, your feet find the floor and you question y our existence. The door opens and a night light illuminates the face of a crying toddler, you smile broadly - pushing back your own desire to cry. Then, tot in arms, you collapse into the chair and break into a droning "Incy Wincy Spider..." as you look at the clock. It's 3 am. But the tot doesn't care about the time. Why? You get your answer as the full flavour of the nappy he's just filled wafts towards you. Happy Birthday.
A Musical Vehicle. Now I'm not suggesting that musical vehicles (like those created by Vtech) were first created by sadists in a diabolical plan to bring misery into the lives of already stressed-out parents. I'm not suggesting that at all. OK, I am suggesting that this might be one possibility.
"I look forward to bin day, I find it strangely cathartic." That bin day or 'Big Bin Day' as we call it our house - in order to distinguish it from the lesser recycling box collection day - is a highlight of my month, surprises me.
For anyone who missed it, here's the article from Woman's Own magazine, where yours truly organised a dry run of Christmas...
It's a strange thing feeding another human being. Even stranger when a fussy eater is feeding their non-fussy eater child. I spend long periods of time faking smiles and satisfied noises about food I wouldn't dream of eating myself.
It's these people, and their blissful ignorance, that contemporary parents must learn to navigate around. Like hidden rocks among the flotsam and jetsam of parenting - they must be spotted and avoided if possible.