There are lots of things I hate about parenting. Most of them include the unholy “S” trifecta of shit, sick and snot, with the odd bloody bit thrown in. I hate Thomas the Tank Engine with a fucking passion. I hate all of those Disney “tween” shows starring a plethora of pubescent, precocious pissants. I hate that I have to wait until both of my sons are asleep so I can watch something other than Thomas the Tank Engine or those Disney twats. There are two televisions in my house and chances are I won’t be able to watch either of them.
I hate potty training a toddler. Oh my god do I hate it. I’d honestly rather go to jail. The Toddler needed to pee while we were in the park the other day*. I get him to the bathroom and he announced he couldn’t use it because the toilet was dirty (in fairness, it was gross). Cue me running home carrying a squirming 3-year-old like a rugby ball and screaming “JUST HOLD THE PEE IN YOUR DINKLE, WE’RE ALMOST HOME!” After he complimented me on our washroom hygiene (“our toilet is nice and clean Mummy. Not like that dirty toilet with poo in it,) he decided he didn’t need the toilet after all. He then went on for about 15 minutes about the dirty park toilet. This from a person who would happily pee through his through his trousers because he was too caught up in an episode of TTTE.
Watching crap television, dealing with various bodily fluids and resisting the urge to teach your child to use a litter box in favour of potty training blows, but they are over fairly quickly. You find little coping mechanisms too. For instance, The Toddler often asks me to play with him, but he does not allow me to touch any of his toys. He gives me one building block to play with. I have to sit on his bed holding this block and as sure as night follows day, he will need said block and take it from me. I use this “playtime” to catch a nap. Result!
Your parenting mettle will be certainly tested when your child starts school. Throughout the baby years and the toddler years, you are pretty much in control. Your child is in the loving care of you, relatives, a childminder or a nursery that is staffed primarily with young women full of energy, sing-songy voices and bouncing ponytails.
Your child will be mixing with Other Children and it scares the shit out of you. Not only are the Other Children mainly unfamiliar to you, there will be Older Children as well. Older children mean the possibility of bullying raises its ugly, festering head.
Your fears are likely assuaged in the first few years of formal education. There are loads of teachers around, the older ones are kept apart from the younger ones in most larger schools, and the older kids generally ignore the infant school aged children. More than likely, a group of clucky older girls will fuss over a kid they think is cute and watch over them. When the Eldest was in Year 1, (aged 5-6) a group of 11-year-old Year 6 girls shrieked to me how cute he was. They would tell me every time they saw me on the playground, in the supermarket, in the park. Why they couldn’t tell me in a tone of voice that would not attract every dog in East London is beyond me.
It gets a lot scarier when your child enters the middle part of schooling. Your kids are less protected by teachers and mean kids are much more sneaky with their shit. Your kid, like my eldest, may be small for his age, awkward, unworldly. They are unlikely to want to run to the teacher for every insult, slight or worse every push, shove or slap. I experienced horrible bullying throughout school, as did my husband, and we are both hyper-vigilant about it. (I really hope some of the people who did bully me somehow read this. You suck as human beings. )
My son did get picked on at the last school he attended by some older and bigger boys. To his credit, he held his own verbally and told the teacher every time those boys bothered him. It was fairly low-level name calling, but there was one kid who was physically aggressive and domineering. He was truly a menace, so much so when I spoke to the teacher about this kid, the teacher said he was a deeply unpleasant child.
The rational parent in me felt sorry for this kid. He had a shitty home life. A few of the kids that annoyed my son had crap lives. I totally understood why these children acted out and picked on the my son and his friends.
The maniac parent in me wanted to tear that kid’s throat out as if I were a rabid hyena. The irrational side of me wanted to write a glossary filled with insults and creative swearing that I would teach to the Eldest on a nightly basis. Of course, I did neither. I was the Bigger Person and told my son to either ignore the bullies; or tell the teacher if one of them used their fists.
Like every other parent who was socialized properly, I shake my head and tut at parents that fight other parents, confront children on the playground and get into fistfights as pee wee soccer games. We all have a rational, maniacal and irrational side– we tend to keep that shit under wraps so we stay out of jail. It’s hard to be a decent parent if you are locked up. Most of us also don’t lose our shit when we are dealing with difficult situations and we have to ensure that we exercise self-control in front of our children.
It’s just that being the bigger person sucks a lot of the time. We tell our children nonsense like “bullies never prosper.” This is complete and utter bullshit. We all know, work with, have dated a festering asshole who seems to sail through life; merrily spreading their venom along the way. We know sweet people who never seem to be able to catch a break. Yet we lie to our kids about what life is really like. Not me. When The Eldest complained about his tormentor for the billionth time, I looked him straight in the eye and said “son, some people are assholes, some people are angels. You’ll never make an asshole into an angel.” (This works best if like me, you have a semi-drawling Midwestern accent.) It probably wasn’t the most eloquent way of getting my point across, but I was so frustrated at some kid making my kid’s school life a misery. It prevented me from going all hyena on that kid.
The Eldest is no shrinking violet when it comes to sarcasm and verbal sparring. When some kid teased my son for not knowing about football fact, The Eldest did a slow clap and said “oh, well done you.” When another kid teased him about his Pokemon watch, my son retorted, “it’s too bad that you’re just too poor to have one.” Because I am the Bigger Person, I told The Eldest that it wasn’t nice to say such a horrible thing to that boy. Secretly, I was pleased. Yes, it’s hypocritical, but the best parents are hypocrites.
*This blog post was started in August last year. The Toddler is now potty trained and has graduated to the “big toilet.” Applause all around!