Sometimes, being a single parent is hard.
Sure, you have to watch the pennies, so any luxuries tend to be on a smallish scale; there’s no one to take a turn when your kid is waking every hour because they’re too hot/too cold/in desperate need of a tissue cos snot is bubbling out of their nose; and there’s no one to help you wrestle your pram, luggage and wailing, overtired infant down the stairs at those end-of-the-world airport gates that Ryanair seems to favour. But, hey, plenty of people in ‘traditional’ families have those kinds of problems too.
No, the thing that I really miss in my one-parent wonderland is someone to share a glance of understanding, or a roll of the eyes, when things get tough.
And when I say, “get tough”, I’m referring specifically to the Age of Infinite Tantrums.
I feel bold enough to talk about it now that it has – dare I say it – passed (for this week, at least), but … my goodness! … the AIT has pushed my mummy powers to the absolute limit. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s been my toughest mummy challenge to date.
Now, I know that tantrums are pretty testing for any parent. But imagine that, on certain days, the only person you speak to outside of work is a grumpy three-year-old.
Next, imagine that, on other days, the only person you speak to AT ALL is a grumpy three-year-old.
Enter the Age of Infinite Tantrums.
Suddenly, everything you say or do has the potential to provoke a full-on, face-down, snot-streaming tantrum. You cut the toast the wrong way … despite the extensive survey you undertook, knife poised in mid-air. You took a shower. (Yes, I know. You do that every morning but .. how could you?) You cleaned you teeth first. Waaaaaahhh!
It’s like stepping on snails in the dark.
Yup, tantrums always suck and I’ve done my bit of standing by, trying to look nonchalant while my small human lies petulantly spread-eagled on any number of shop floors, but I thought we were doing pretty well; we were getting through the terrible twos and the subsequent ‘threenager’ years relatively unscathed.
And then the AIT struck: two solid weeks of tantrums, every morning and every night.
“Two weeks?!” I hear you sneer, “Two measly weeks? Big deal!”
I know. I know. Two weeks. It’s not long, right? But, dear friend, kindly reserve judgement until you’ve walked a mile in the moccasins. And once you’ve experienced it, try doing it on your own.
Truly, despite my overwhelming and unerring love for the little fella, I thought I may boot him up to the moon through sheer rage, frustration and puzzlement.
Furious internet research furnished me with gems such as, “stay calm; your child needs reassurance that these big feelings are OK – that he is OK”.
Now, this works fine for the first forty minutes (yup, forty) but by the time the little guy reached his zenith – an impressive one hour twenty of full-on, eye-popping screams and snot-smeared rage – I was feeling, let’s say, a little ragged.
Even bundling him onto the bike for some cool, soothing air had little to no effect; he was thrashing like a freshly caught salmon. In fact, he was thrashing so hard I thought we were going to crash the bike.
So, dear lady who stopped to talk to me despite my hysterical son and my tear-filled eyes, I know I said thank you at the time, but what I really meant was THANK YOU. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.
Because not only did your presence distract my beloved infant, finally stemming the near-eternal tide of tears, but it made me feel that I wasn’t alone. And that made it a whole lot easier.
But the tantrums kept coming.
And then, ten days after The Great Tantrum, we had an evening of my calm – an evening devoid of purple-faced rage and pencil throwing.
The next morning, as soon as I went to wake the little guy, I knew I had my boy back. There was no grumpy face, set in pre-whine mode, just a cheeky little phizog beaming up at me.
“Mummy,” he said, “I’m not going to have a tantrum today.”
And he didn’t.
Of course, it would be lovely to say that that was the end of it … but, naturally, it wasn’t: this is real life. The next day, the mere thought that I might be brushing my teeth first enough to set the little guy off. (For the record, I wasn’t; I was getting some trousers from the little guy’s wardrobe.)
Truly, these are testing times.
Still, as they say, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, so I now have a whole new raft of infant-tackling tactics in place, and my fingers firmly crossed.
But if you see me wrangling with an apoplectic infant, please be brave enough to look over and smile, or give me a sympathetic roll of the eyes.
In the absence of a stiff G&T, it might just be what I need to get me through the day.