Sometimes my child is so badly behaved and demanding and selfish and I-don’t-care-that-you-have-needs that I want to run from the house screaming at the top of my voice. I want to run as far as I can, to place that is quiet like a Bjork song and empty like fog. Someplace just my own, where I rule the pink fluffy clouds and sunny skies and soft green grass. A place that stays tidy and neat as a pin; where the food cooks itself, the laundry is always washed (and ironed), the dishes are always done, and the bathrooms never need to be cleaned. A place where no-one needs juice or a muffin or to ask me a really important question Right Now.
A place where I get to hold and nurture the selfish child within.
Sometimes my child’s episodes of bad behaviour last for weeks – months, even – and I can’t help the feelings of surging anger and resentment. Feelings that fill me with guilt, but that I am powerless to stop. And eventually, even the guilt starts to foster resentment because no corner of my emotional landscape, or mind or space or life is mine alone.
It is all consumed by this little person who runs roughshod over my emotions and needs because he hasn’t yet learnt that the world doesn’t exist to do his bidding. And then I realise that that’s My fault. Because I am his teacher, his life coach, his purveyor of knowledge. And yet again I feel guilty and angry because despite my very best efforts I have failed. Failed to teach him to care for the feelings of others, failed to help him develop the independence to entertain himself, failed to raise a child that I can actually live with.
And live with him I must. Just like I must teach him. Teach him and guide him and tutor him and lead him and then teach him some more. Because if he doesn’t understand that it is unacceptable to throw a monumental tantrum because I won’t let him play a Wii game all afternoon, or drink a juice that consists of nothing but colorants and artificial flavours; it is my job to fix it.
And this is not a job I can quit. This is not a job I can give up on because it is too hard. This is not a job that I have any choice but to continue. Because the wake up, fetch, carry, work, entertain, wipe snotty nose, cook, clean, always-someone-else’s-agenda merry go round isn’t something I can walk away from. Even if I am bone weary about three leagues beyond the point of exhaustion. Even if today I feel that I just can’t win, that this is the one thing that I simply cannot do, that this is all too much and I Just Can’t Breathe. I must carry on and push through and nurture and remember that he’s just a child and doesn’t understand and smile while I’m at it.
I guess that’s what it means to be responsible. What it means to be a mother.
Sometimes I wish it wasn’t so hard.