The setting is Dublin Airport. A toddler is having a full on meltdown over a bag of Haribos. Lying on the floor, arms flailing, legs kicking – screaming: “I WANT the SWEEEETIEEEES!! Give me the SWEEETIEEEES!!!!!” The father is quickly stashing the fodder in question in his pocket while the mother crouches down with a small baby strapped to her chest. She’s trying calmly to reason with the screeching child so as not to cause even more of a scene.
Childless couples watch in horror, with the silent agreement that one day their offspring will never behave in such a manner. Elderly people tut inwardly while looking disapprovingly at the parents, secretly declaring that this didn’t happen back in their day. Mothers of other toddlers look on in sympathy, thanking god that theirs are currently napping quietly. All in all it would be a great advert for contraception.
So, here’s the thing about this scenario. The toddler causing all the commotion is Molly. The father who bought the sweets in crime in the first place: the husband. The mother: me. We’re en route back home to Dubai with our newly extended family and I’m trying my best to exude a stress free “I can handle this” kind of air. After all, isn’t this what’s required when you’re a mother? Especially now I’m a mother of two and supposed to be somewhat more of a pro at all this? The ability to stay calm yet strong in a crisis? Firm and authoritative when dealing with unruly behaviour? The ability to ‘nip it in the bud’ quickly and set a good example for our children?
Geez, the pressure of it all can be totally overwhelming!
A short while later, however, we’re on the plane. Baby Henry is asleep. Molly is entranced in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and the husband and I are nursing a small Merlot. It’s all quite pleasant. Passersby (we’re located right next to the toilet) stop to question the ages of our lovely children, declaring how the now angelic Molly is such a great little girl. Once again we paint quite the image of the model family. In truth, dealing with scenes like the latter have become part and parcel of life with two little ones in tow! I’m also slowly getting into the swing of disciplining, while the urge to burst into tears at the slightest disturbance is becoming a lot less frequent an occurrence.
It’s not easy, is it – this parenting lark? Above all, the thing that I struggle with is the constant second-guessing. Am I doing this right? Should I have given him a feed then or waited a little longer? Is the bottle at the right temperature? Should I have tried to breastfeed for longer even though it was wearing my down? Should I have given Molly fish fingers and chips three times this week? As the husband gently reminds me – if I didn’t have something to worry about, he’d worry there was something wrong with me!
Guilt is another emotion that I’ve talked about before, and that doesn’t ease with the arrival of number two! If anything, I’ve felt more guilty lately than the first time around! Am I spending enough alone time with Molly now that Henry has come along? Am I devoting enough time to Henry like I devoted to Molly? Am I bad for not exactly liking my child when she’s having the mother of all meltdowns? Am I wrong for wanting a little ‘me’ time in the midst of it all?
Ah yes, the questions, the questions! Should have, would have, could have. They are never ending! Being a mother of two has also become much more of a juggling act. It’s the art of keeping two little people happy, while still holding on to some semblance of my own self and sanity. It’s the art of being patient (which I was never the best at) even in the face of small people pushing all of your buttons. Yes, there are times that I rant to the husband over the loss of my free time and space, Molly’s defiant behaviour and my softer than ever before body.
Sigh. Yes, it’s not easy this parenting lark! We deserve a jolly good pat on the back (or a glass of champers). But here’s the thing. We’re not supposed to be good at all this. We’re not supposed to skip around like Mary Poppins with a spoon full of sugar attitude. As my mother likes to always remind me, parenting can be a lot like being a duck – many of us look to be swimming serenely and merrily on the surface while we are paddling like hell underneath! I love this analogy as all too often we think everyone else has it nailed. Then we get together over a sneaky Starbucks by ourselves and we realise we’re all the same.
That night as I put Molly to bed she tells me she loves me: “like a big, ‘normous monster – this BIG” gesturing with her arms as wide as they go. The next morning Henry beams up from his cot.
Sigh. All is forgiven and here we go again!
Raising kids is part joy part guerrilla warfare!