‘I love you, but I’m going to miss my train!’
I write this post on the train on the way to work having left my youngest child crying after me on the doorstep shouting ‘Mummy, come back!’ in a heartbreaking plea as I called my response from half way down the road: ‘I love you, but I’m going to miss my train!’
This sums up what has been a largely unsatisfactory morning which went off course spectacularly when the aforementioned youngest child woke up in a slightly grumpy mood.
It may be necessary for me to provide a bit of context at this point. I get up far earlier than the rest of the household and my youngest daughter has developed a routine whereby she gets up with me and we get to hang out and have some one to one time without the others. And it’s lovely: we have breakfast, we chat, I do her hair, and we watch a bit of Good Morning Britain (I have had to sacrifice BBC breakfast as their stories are too serious and anxiety-provoking for my sensitive 8 year old (or indeed for anyone) to cope with at 6am!). All in all, it’s an enjoyable part of the day for both of us….or at least it is normally.
Today, the bad mood hung like a cloud from the moment Faith got out of bed and as she started hitting herself on the head and yelling because her ‘stupid hair’ was tangled, I warned her that she needed to calm down or she would wake the neighbours and I would have to stop letting her get up early in the mornings.
Aside from the frankly hilarious notion that ‘not being allowed to get up early’ could be considered a credible threat in our household, the cumulative effects of my warning were rapidly escalating hysteria and a complete inability (on Faith’s part) to remain rational.
Despite having witnessed similar patterns of behaviour before in my youngest child, it still amazed me that, at nearly 9, Faith hasn’t grasped the rational response to a warning of a consequence for her behaviour. Rather than reducing her screaming in order to keep what she wanted (the early morning wake up!), Faith’s solution was to increase the screaming to deafness-inducing levels and demand she be allowed to keep her coveted time. No amount of calm, rational explanation that this really was not the way to get what she wanted could halt the tide of her emotions; she was staring the possibility of disappointment in the face, and her response was primal and instinctive. The screaming continued, the warning became a confirmed consequence and all hope of successful peace negations were off the table.
The rest of my morning passed in a deeply unsatisfying mix of preparations for the working day and attempts to calm a now hysterical child. By the time I left the house, Faith’s anger had dissipated and turned to remorse; she had suffered a painful loss and her wounds were raw. Her final pitiful pleas for me to stay were born of a desire to go back in time and make things right again and whilst my sensible parenting head knew I could not really have played this any other way, my heart ached for her.
Because who hasn’t been there? Who hasn’t experienced that moment where we know our destructive behaviour is making the situation worse, but we just can’t put the brakes on and restore the status quo?
I love my crazy, headstrong, impetuous daughter. Even though this morning she was about as rational as a master villain who relies on an elaborate killing machine rather than just shooting James Bond in the head, I love the time we spend in the mornings and I was as disappointed as she was to lose that.
And so, as I walked to the station, leaving a sobbing child on the doorstep, I pondered once again on the challenges of parenting: how to instill an understanding that behaviours have consequences, whilst simultaneously empathising with the irrationality of human emotions?
This morning there were no winners. And sometimes that’s just how it goes. Tomorrow I will try again to be a good parent and hope for the best. And maybe that’s all we can ever do….because the 7.09 train won’t wait for us to broker a more satisfying peace deal (it’s not a Southern Rail services after all!) and life just keeps moving on.