My daughter headed off towards the wooden easel to do some painting. Her grimace was instantly replaced with a smile as she connected with her little friends.
I was in a fluster as we’d arrived late. It had been ‘one of those mornings’. I’d had to manage a break down over a unicorn headband. There were two timeouts due to a chokehold and a baby body slam and (of course) the crusts hadn’t been cut off accordingly which had caused some over-zealous foot stomping.
Before her hand dropped out of mine, I pulled her towards me and said,
‘It’s hard getting three children ready in the morning. I’m sorry I shouted. Let’s try and have a better morning tomorrow. I love you.
Her usual response is,
‘Bye Mum. Love you’
But today she looked me in the eye and said,
‘I am the queen of you’
And off she pootled.
I plonked my bum down on the damp grass feeling a little overwhelmed.
‘Yes’ I agreed. ‘You are the queen of me.’
A kind Mum saw me wilting on the verge,
‘Long morning Vic?’ she asked,
‘Yes – you know how it is’
She nodded. She knew. Mums know... All mornings are long.
I woke up at 6 and hid in bed for as long as I could, hoping that the kids were watching TV and not making mud pies out of dog shit in the lounge. I got up, had a shower before starting my tumultuous journey up the temper gauge.
All was tranquil as I packed nut free, dairy free and personality free snacks into the Peppa Pig lunch box. I hummed a ditty as I swept. I brushed hair. I platted and un-platted. I spread the peanut butter, not too thick and I turned on taps that were off too tight. All the time I had one eye on the clock.
Tick, tick ,tick.
There is a clock/chore ratio happening. As the minutes tick by, each minuscule task becomes pressurised. Every demand escalates.
The first time I asked,
‘Right, shoes and socks on please’ My voice was composed as they retreat to their rooms.
Tick, tick... one re-appears wearing a Frozen dress, the other riding a skateboard, naked.
The second time,
‘SHOES,SOCKS, NOW. How many times do I have to ask you?’
Tick, tick, tick...
As the time passes the pressure builds. Annoyance turns to anger as the pace of the house revs up. As this change in the atmosphere takes place, I feel like the children are experiencing the opposite. The more I ask the less they do. They seem to slow, move around like three tired sloths with nothing to worry about except their next nap destination.
Tick, tick, tick...
I can see we’re going to be late. Even though we do this same exact routine 5 days a week, we are still not going to make it before the bell.
One appears with shoes on the wrong feet, the other with a jar of slime.
‘Can we do slime now Mum?’
‘For fucks sake’ I mutter under my breath.
The baby starts to scream as my husband kisses me goodbye,
‘Sorry to leave you with all this going on, see you later’
There is a secret mothers voice that only me and the children know about. I save until he’s gone. When there's nobody to bear witness. I don’t do it in front of anyone else because it’s embarrassing, it’s out of control. Doing it makes me feel like an evil nurse that secretly thumps old people in Nursing homes.
His car reverses out of the driveway as slime seeps between my feet.
A rage rumbles up from my gut and out through my mouth. Time to unleash the ogre.
‘Grrrrrr... Right! We are now officially late! If you’re not ready in one minute I’m going to ban YouTube.... foreverraaaaaaHHHHH!!’
I say it so loudly that my throat hurts afterwards. But the meandering and dawdling comes to an abrupt halt, the noise forces them to pause. They look at me like a pair of confused Labradors, wondering why their owners eyes are about to pop out of her head. They are staring at me with concern thinking,
‘Shit, she’s really lost it, run for your life!’
My demonic shouting has undesired results. One crying baby, one fully traumatised four-year-old and an 8-year-old tiptoeing off to his bedroom to hide the iPad.
Shouting has hindered the time restraints. It doesn’t speed them up or have them saluting to my commands like well-behaved little soldiers. No, It’s a fail and I have to take an extra 5 minutes cuddling, apologising for losing my temper and promising that ‘Ryan’s Toy World’ will be allowed if they go to the car with no more fighting.
I have peaked. That was the top of my tantrum. That voice represented my limit. Then its rewind, back to the beginning as my inner travelator of emotions clanks back down to one.
I take a deep breath in through my nose as I pack books into a translucent folder. I then begin my daily hunt for the car keys. This fun undertaking entails scrambling around underneath the dining room table, throwing quilts off beds and finally shoving my hand down the side of the couch. I forage around amongst unknown entities that probably have their own DNA, until I find the cold bunch of keys.
‘Right, in the car. Now.’
The car is a new space. A space where I hope we can all be friends.
‘Right kids, seatbelts on! Let’s get this show on the road!’
It always amazes me how quickly I go from the demon of hellfire to a rosy cheeked loving mummy in the 10-meter walk from house to car. But I’m so used to the demon by now that my recovery from his wrath is swift. It has to be.
After a few door slams, some running back to the car for forgotten water bottles and some gentle forehead kisses, they’re all gone. Dropped off to school, day-care and kindy. All that’s left in their wake is the ghostly mummering of my precious daughter.
‘I am the queen of you’
Yes, my darling, you are the queen of me. You are the Queen of everyone. If that’s one thing I teach her in life, then that’s ok. It’s a compliment. But, I sit in the car alone wondering if a counselling session or a parenting course might be in order?
I start the engine and with a sigh I drive out of the carpark.
It’s my day off. My day for writing and cleaning. I can chill a tiny bit. Relax until the cycle starts again at 2.30. Until pick up and the predictable dinner demands. Until the sulky refusal of vegetables and the request for three bedtime stories not one. I feel my irritation rise with each confrontation, but I mostly keep the beast at bay. Mostly.
Tick, tick ,tick..
It’s 9.pm by the time they’re all dreaming. Not much is left apart from some stale rice crackers and an episode of Bondi Rescue.
As I reach in the fridge to find the last piece of Fruit and Nut I hear a wine bottle chink in the door. I keep it there for guests. It looks cold, crisp, with littles lines of condensation running into each other down the glass. I look at it.
‘Hello Wine’ I say, then I close the door.
No wonder I used to drink so much. Morning mayhem and having a disgruntled monarch for a daughter takes a toll on my nervous system. Booze was my friend in these times of need. I could numb out all that stress. Kick back, finish a bottle and let the day ooze out of the souls of my feet.
Now, I don’t have that pleasure. I have to deal with it. Get over tension without the aid of alcohol. It’s difficult not having a crutch. Nothing to soak up my mood. I do find myself questioning my decision to stop drinking at times, like,
‘What am I doing? Why am I doing this?’
I feel like it would be easier to just start again, have the ability to drown out bad days. Maybe I could just have one, take the edge off?
But, I don’t. Me drinking again feels like spreading butter with a bread knife – it feels all wrong. Un-natural.
I head to the kitchen and switch on the kettle. I choose a Rooibos tea bag from the ceramic pot and I stand at the kitchen bench tapping a teaspoon on the surface, for no reason other than it being the only noise I can hear.
As I sip on my tea I tell my husband about the day. About the ups and the downs. About the tears and tantrums. We go over what’s going on, how we can do better, what we can change and I admit I feel like I’m failing at times. He does too.
‘Everyone feels like they’re failing, it’s human nature.’
He’s right. The only important thing is being aware. Being conscious of what I’m doing wrong and then changing my behaviour. I try. I fail. I try again.
Then it’s time for bed.
I don’t even think about a drink. It never crosses my mind. It’s in my fridge but not in my world. I deal with problems by talking about them not pouring wine on them. It feels good. I still get things very wrong with my parenting but at least I’m present to witness my failures.
I’m ready for what tomorrow will bring. After a rest I will be prepared for battle.
Ready to start again at the bottom of the scale.
I make a promise as I lean over and switch off my bedside light,
‘Do better, don’t shout so much and don’t let anyone be the Queen of me’
But tomorrow is another day.
Pic - My Nell. AKA - The Toxic Princess. Don't worry, I love her with all my heart.