Extreme emotions. This is definitely something I’ve learned to become very familiar with since becoming a mum. Who knew that such little people could have such powerful, consuming effects on us?!
Yesterday, Theo went off to forest school for the first time; as well as pre-school two days a week, we thought it was time for him to do something extra and given his love of being outdoors, knew that this would be right up his street. Since visiting last week, every day he has asked if it’s the day for forest school, then the morning he was going, he was so excited that he wanted to go at 7.30am (cue the meltdown because I had dared to explain that it wasn’t open yet.) Of course, on the way there in the car he goes very quiet. At first he says he just wants to stay for the morning, then it becomes just for two minutes, and when we’ve arrived and parked up, he doesn’t want to go at all. He’s three, and I’ve come to learn he’s going through a real phase of trying to figure out his emotions, which is why I try explaining that he’s just feeling a bit nervous but he’s going to have the best time. But bless him, the tears are pinging out from his eyes and his little voice is cracking when he speaks.
It’s all new to me how to deal with these situations. There’s one bit of me that just wants to scoop him up, walk away, and tell him not to worry and we won’t do anything he doesn’t want to do. I feel guilty and I feel sad for him. But then at the same time, I know how much fun he’ll have when he does go, and so I feel frustrated that he won’t just throw himself in, and I can’t understand why he suddenly doesn’t want to be here after all the initial excitement. But Theo is a gentle push kind of kid. So there I am, helping him find dinosaur eggs (stones) and building giant towers out of crates and bicycle wheels with the other children. Of course, within minutes he’s having an absolute ball, barely engaging with me and instead is completely absorbed in what he’s doing. It’s a joy to watch.
Then it’s my turn: I don’t want to leave him. What if he gets cold and wet? What if he hurts himself? What if he can’t open the packets in his lunchbox or what if he doesn’t feel like he can ask for help? I realise then that I’ve been totally pulled in by him, my heart now aching at the fact that really, I know he will be totally ok, and that he’s going to have so much fun without me. He’s ready for adventure and ready to make new friends in new situations, and perhaps I’m the one who’s not quite ready to let go that little bit. I then spend the time that he’s there constantly checking my phone, enjoying the fact that I have just the one child for the day but also really missing him and being desperate to pick him up.
Collecting him at the end of the day, I melt when I see his grubby, happy face and he tells me about what he’s been up to (after the initial I don’t knows and can’t remembers). He’s muddy and smells of campfire and is wearing a wooden necklace he’s made, and he’s absolutely full of beans. At this point, I feel so happy for him and am bursting with pride; I can’t get enough of him. But, this doesn’t last too long!
His tiredness then kicks in early evening, as does the whinging, and before long I’m frazzled by his constant demands. Another snack, having tea now, no not that tea, another drink, no not that drink, wanting to go out on his bike, not wanting to tidy up… suddenly all of my buttons are being pushed and I’m desperate for bed time. Both mine and his.
After the usual pre-bath getting undressed battle followed by the not really wanting to get in then not wanting to get out, he’s soon scrubbed and smelling delicious and looking adorable in his pyjamas. At this point in the evening, we make a point of all sitting down together, watching a bit of TV and then reading stories. It’s probably my favourite time of day. Some nights, he’s still bouncing around on the sofa with bundles of energy, but on others, he’s well and truly ready for bed and quite happy to enjoy some quiet time. Yesterday was the latter, and as he snuggled up to me whilst I was feeding Wilf, he told me that we hadn’t had many cuddles that day, and he sat there tucked under my arm. He really can be the sweetest, most lovable little person.
There’s always such a sense of accomplishment when both boys are sleeping soundly each evening: we’ve got through the day and are ready to rest ahead of a new one. It’s then that I replay the day in my head, relaying it to Andy as we catch up, and I realise just how many emotions I’ve experienced in twelve hours: I’ve been driven mad, I’ve felt guilty, I’ve felt pride and happiness like no other, I’ve enjoyed quality time with one son yet missed the other, I’ve asked myself questions and doubted whether I’m doing the right thing.
For me, parenting is full of these pushes and pulls. There are times when I’ve felt frustration and anger like no other all because there’s a battle about getting dressed, and there are times when I’m bursting with love and happiness because I’m watching our little one ride a bike. Each day is a rollercoaster, some feeling higher and loopier than others, and each day I feel like I’m learning what to do and how to manage things. Plus, I do often think – what on earth did I do all day before having children?! Pushes and pulls, highs and lows, my days are now filled with fun, with challenges, and despite often tearing my hair out or being desperate for a minute’s peace, I really wouldn’t change them for the world.