Listening to most parents – me included – complaining about our kids is probably enough to spur the child-free to take a vow of chastity, hastily pack a bag and race for the border, wherever that is if you live in the UK. Gretna? Dover? Harwich? Anyway.
From births that resembled That Scene In Alien, or That Other One From Prometheus, and maybe a little of That Bit In The Exorcist, the bad times keep rolling. Sleepless nights, separation anxiety, terrible twos, threenagerdom, bum-obsession, hormone jolts, stroppy teenage years then all you get at the end of it is a sponging student who buggers off to university only to to return to the nest for at least 20 years as they struggle to pay off university debts and save £50k for a deposit on a shared ownership wendy house on a small pile of rubble in the Thames just outside the Tilbury Docks (great transport links to Fenchurch Street).
Personally, I’d more than bought into all of this stuff. I knew I wanted kids, but as well as being something I looked forward to, it loomed over me. I was pretty certain that, should I be lucky enough to have the babies I wanted, I was condemning myself to a life of hell on toast.
But two years in, you know what? It’s OK. I still can’t cope with getting up early, so my kids just have to watch me lunging around from mug of coffee to mug up coffee for at least two hours in the morning. Today, I had an unbelievably gorgeous Wednesday in the sunny garden with the children, listening to music, playing in tents, putting the bubble machine on, like, all day, thinking, ‘This is just like a party but nobody’s coming’, then having the epiphany that maybe parties are better when there’s nobody there to judge your outfit, eat your food or make you have a conversation.
During the course of the day, I dealt with several of the cliches that I’d dreaded for so many years. I changed four horrible nappies, one whilst being beaten with a foam sword – more painful than it sounds – by the nappy wearer. I had to say, ‘flip’ and ‘sugar’ and ‘heck’ instead of the words I usually enjoy using, I was unable to drink and I don’t think I stopped tidying up all flipping day; my sugaring heck, there is a lot of tidying up. I spent an hour using bribes and threats to convince Eva to stay in her bloody bed at naptime and I navigated several tearful outbursts.
At teatime, I spent hours chopping and crisping up home-made, low-fat chips in the oven, only for them to go uneaten. Annoying? Well, it should have been, but the reason Eva didn’t eat them was because she decided that the chips were tired and put them in her apron pocket for a sleep. She made me turn my music off, because she wanted to run around to Flight Of The Bumblebee over and over again, flapping her arms and going, ‘Bzzz!’ She woke the baby up ALL the time, because she loves him and she wanted a cuddle. The baby grunted and shrieked with dissatisfaction when I wasn’t paying him attention, but when I picked him up, he’d wrap his chubby little arms around mine and lets his head loll into my shoulder. He’s too little to love chocolate, or Peppa Pig, or swings, he just loves me, and that’s pretty awesome.
So, yep, everything I dreaded about parenting was true, but it turns out, it’s all fine. Some days are godawful and some are sublime but most are such a roller coaster that it’s impossible to nail down exactly what the hell happened. Chuck in two chubby-cheeked little faces with Bambi eyes and the occasional adoring smile to counter all the screaming and even being beaten about the head and neck with a foam sword by a remorselessly grinning, slightly frightening toddler whilst changing a filthy nappy can seem like a pleasant memory by the end of the day.