Before I became a mother I could never imagine turning my back on a crying child. Especially not MY crying child.
Of course, I knew that children had tantrums but I foolishly imagined that my children would be different. They would be angels. And they would never tantrum in public or get so upset that I wouldn’t be able to calm them.
I also thought that I would be a natural mother. That from the moment they were born I would know exactly how to soothe them. Why wouldn’t I? I was their mother. The woman who grew them in my tummy and gave birth to them. Surely that meant that my mere presence would be enough to calm them.
I foolishly imagined myself as Mary Poppins. I would always have a smile or a song to cheer up my children. No matter what the cause of their unhappiness. And I would be able to tell what was wrong just by looking at them. Because I was their mother. And I thought that was what mothers do.
But then the reality of parenting hit. And with it the reality of life
And this week has been full of the reality of life.
Little Miss H has had a nasty virus and Little Mister H has been teething. We’ve had a number of sleepless nights. I’ve had a migraine and we’re all feeling run down and generally rubbish.
And since the relapse in my anxiety and depression a few months ago my patience has disappeared. I get aggravated and annoyed easily. And then I run the risk of having a panic attack.
This is not helped by being stuck in the house and being unable to achieve much. And sadly, the combination of a poorly little girl and sleep deprivation has meant that I’ve been relegated to home for the past few days.
But today was meant to be different. Mr H was planning to take Little Miss H to see Paddington 2 at the cinema and I was going to have a chilled morning with my littlest man. Then in the afternoon, Daddy was going to watch the football and we were either going to go to the park or go for a walk in the woods.
Our children had other ideas.
Little Miss H didn’t even get to the first advert before she screamed and asked to go home. She was then tired in the afternoon and didn’t want to go out. But she did want to bake chocolate chip cookies.
I measured out the ingredients and got everything ready to bake. However, when I asked Little Miss H to go and wash her hands, she flatly refused and declared that she didn’t want to bake after all.
“You do it Mummy. I’m going to watch Strictly Come Dancing!”
Meanwhile, Little Mister H decided that naps were for wimps and he didn’t want to sleep. Even though he was clearly shattered. Eventually, I put him in his cot and after protesting for five minutes he fell asleep.
He woke up 20 minutes later… screaming. I brought him downstairs… screaming. I sat with him on the sofa and gave him hugs, tickles and kisses… but he was still screaming. He squirmed off my lap and lay on the floor and continued to scream.
I knew that he was exhausted. 20 minutes is not a long enough nap time for a 16-month-old. Especially one who had recently had a lot of disturbed sleep due to teething.
I picked him up and began to rock him. But once again he squirmed out of my arms. And as I attempted to lift him again he flailed around and hit his head. Yet, he still wouldn’t let me pick him up and he screamed and screamed.
I was beginning to feel my anxiety levels rising. And I could already hear the negative thoughts of self-doubt.
“You’re a rubbish mummy. Why can’t you calm your own son down? The son who adores you. You should know how to soothe him. You’re a failure. You can’t do anything right.”
Pushing those thoughts aside, I had no other choice but to persevere and to try to settle Little Mister H.
I began to wonder if he might be hungry. So I decided to try him with some food. I gave him 2 halves of a banana – he threw them at me and continued screaming. I wondered if he was upset that I’d cut the banana in half. So I gave him a whole banana. Again he threw this at me and continued screaming.
Maybe he’d like an apple? Nope, he threw that too and continued to scream.
Grapes? They ended up on the floor. And… you’ve guessed it, he was still screaming.
His bottle of water met the same fate as the two bananas and the apple. And the screaming only seemed to increase in intensity and volume.
At this point, my last course of action was to change his nappy. He screamed and writhed all the way through the nappy change. He was like a child possessed.
After that, I brought him downstairs and popped him on the kitchen floor.
But his crying was getting louder and louder. And the more he cried the more anxious I became.
I could feel my heart beginning to race and I was starting to find it difficult to breathe. I was a few seconds away from a full-blown panic attack.
So I scooped him into my arms and marched up the stairs. I took him into his room and placed him in his cot with his favourite teddy bear. I also put his Slumber Buddies Elephant on.
And then I did one of the things I never thought I would do as a mother.
I turned away from my screaming son. I walked out of his room. Closed the door behind me and went downstairs to bake some cookies.
At that point, I was no good to anyone. I wasn’t in the right place to be a mother or a wife. I just needed to focus on something simple – breathing and baking.
So although I could still hear him upstairs, I began to mix the ingredients together. And as I added each element of the recipe I could feel my heart rate getting back to normal. I could breathe properly again. And I took full advantage of this fact by taking several deep breaths.
I had calmed down by the time the first batch of cookies was ready for the oven.
Eventually, I went upstairs.
Little Mister H was still screaming. But as soon as I opened the door he smiled at me and held out his arms. I lifted him up and gave him a cuddle. He snuggled into my neck and made kissy noises.
I carried him downstairs and held him to me. Eventually, it was clear that he didn’t want to be put down. So I put him in the carrier so that he was close to me and I got on with the washing up. Meanwhile, Little Mister H calmly snuggled into the carrier and closed his eyes.
I knew at that point that my son didn’t hate me. That I wasn’t a bad mother. But we’d both needed some time out from each other. And just taking 15 minutes apart had done us the world of good.
So yes, today I closed the door and walked away from my screaming child. But I did it for my sanity. Because I’m the cornerstone of my family and I’m important.
And sometimes… just sometimes… I need to put my needs first and walk away.
And knowing that, is what makes me a good mother.