The night before last I paid my 4-year-old $5 to go to bed. I was so tired and simply couldn’t be bothered with the whole bedtime debacle. I just handed over the cash and said,
‘Here’s 5 bucks, now please go to bed.’
She skipped off waving the purple note in the air and I didn’t hear another word.
Last night she came into the lounge with a cheeky grin, shoved out her hand and asked me for $10.
I handed it over without question.
I realise that this is a huge parenting fail, but there was no one looking, and to be completely honest, I was proud of her.
‘Thanks Mum. Nighty night’
I put my feet up on the coffee table and sat there looking very pleased with myself, happy that I didn't have to go through the rigmarole that is bedtime and pleased that my daughter was so damn savvy.
Sometimes motherhood has to be about making our lives a little easier, and if that means cheating when no one is looking , then so be it.
Some days... I’m a great Mum, I’m all compliments and ice creams, wiggles and piggy back rides. But, on days after no sleep, no peace or on days when my hormones have decided to control my brain (approximately once a month) I don’t parent well.
I shout, I huff and I crawl around on my hands and knees cursing toys that come in multiple parts.
At a guess I’m 75% nice mummy and 25% psycho mummy. I think it’s a good balance, don’t you? I mean, I can’t be perfect, I leave perfection to the family’s on Instagram all grinning, wearing matching stripy pyjamas.
No I'm more of an average mum that loses her shit and wears the clothes she's been wearing all day to bed.
And when I'm tired, thats when I'm angry. I’ve pinpointed exactly what it is that makes edge closer to that insane 25, it’s anything that has to be asked more than once.
The Bedtime Routine, due to its repetitive nature, has me biting my lip until it bleeds. I have so many swear words built up at the back of my throat that it feels like they might burst out of my ears.
The actual definition of routine is this – ‘A habitual or mechanical performance of an established procedure.’
My definition is – ‘An abnormal or dramatic performance of a particularly painful procedure’
When money isn’t involved, bedtimes usually go a bit like this,
It begins well, we’re all love and light at first,
‘Darling, it’s time you went to bed now, go on sweetie, go and brush your little toothie pegs’
‘Can we do playdough?’
‘No pumpkin, it’s 8 o’clock’
‘Can we play on our scooters?’
‘I hate you Mummy’
‘And I love you more than anything in the world, now just go and brush your teeth!’
There is a scale to my frustration. It escalates with every repeated sentence.
‘Teeth! Now!’ I repeat as she begins putting nail varnish on.
Calmness turns to annoyance and that turns to anger and then my ‘special’ voice, monster mum voice makes its triumphant appearance. From unicorn to dark lord upon the nightly comprehension that they’re not going to make bedtime easy for me.
Do they ever?
‘Just lie down and close your eyes’ I say
‘Where is the green sheep again Mummy’ (he’s fucking well asleep behind the bush the lazy little shit) I think before opening the cardboard pages.
‘Ok one more time and then you must pinkie promise that you will go straight to sleep.’
We link fingers.
The book is done. Then my least favourite part of the battle begins. She commences distracting herself from sleeping by getting up to go the toilet, asking millions of questions and fiddling with anything in reach,
‘Stop stroking the curtains, it’s time to go to sleep’ (Voice still half normal)
‘Don’t pick paint off the wall please darling, it’s way past your bedtime’ (Voice ascending)
‘Stop sucking the bedsheets!’ (Monster)
‘I don’t know how to go to sleep mummy?’
You do it every fucking night – I mumble just so she can’t hear me.
I lay with her feeling guilty about not being patient. But all of these repetitive tasks leave me at the end of my tether. I never meant to be this way, a shouty, grumpy mum. It’s just I never imagined that trying to get a child to go to sleep could be so bloody hard.
I stroke her little head feeling full of regret that my angry voice came out and watch as her breathing becomes heavy.
I sneak out of the bedroom and then have to move on to the next child, same routine, different book, then I check on the snoring baby and all is well.
I plonk myself down on the couch, tired out, tired of shouting and tired of being a mum.
The next day I wake up with good intentions. I’m helpful mummy again, bright eyed as I lay outfits over the side of each of the kitchen stools,
‘Come and get ready you lot, all your clothes are here’
‘Hello, can anybody hear me?’
‘TURN THAT TV OFF NOW AND GET YOUR CLOTHES ON!’
And we’re off, the downhill decent to monster town.
It just .... happens.
Not being listened to frustrates me. Being ignored makes me feel like I don’t exist. I ask myself,
‘What’s the point in being a mum when my children don’t listen to anything I say?’
'How can I parent when my voice goes unheard?'
But, as always, after a shouting match, my mood is soaked up by one of them does something nice and we get on with our day. My daughter is wearing an Elsa dress to school and my son has on a dirty shirt because he hadn’t put it in the washing basket before school holidays. (like I’d asked him to.) But, hey, we’re all smiling as we get into the car.
'I haven't got an underwear on'
I turn the car around and head home.
Failures and wins. Monsters and Unicorns. Pants and no pants.
Parenting is a lot about ‘Whatever works.’ It’s about doing what is necessary at that point in time. It’s not about being the perfect parent. It’s about trying our best, turning underwear inside out when we cant find clean ones and putting their hair in a pony tail when we can't find a hairbrush.
I try, I really do. And then I fail, really badly. I slam doors, I shout, I do up seat belts a bit too tightly and then I cry to my husband,
‘Why don’t they listen?’
‘They’re just children’ he says.
He’s right. They are just children. Perfect little squidgy brats that drive me crazy.
Loveable little pests that do nothing I ask of them, then give me the best cuddles in the world.
It’s how our household goes, good, bad and grumpy.
The daily grind of every mother. A life on repeat.
My husband gives me a hug.
‘Don’t worry, we only have to do this for another 18 years!’ he laughs.
Just before I fall asleep at the beginning of the movie, I turn to him and say,
‘Can you remind me in the morning? I must go to the bank tomorrow and get some more $5 and $10 notes.’