Tonight, I yelled at my son until my throat was sore.
He’s not even three. A tiny little thing. And he bore the full brunt of my frustration.
It was all about bedtime. It always is.
He’s going through a phase when he just refuses to go to bed. We do all the usual things, bath, books, milk, cuddles, but every time we put him in his bed, he just gets right out again. Singing, smiling dancing. Jumping, throwing, running. Very, very far from sleeping.
This is cute, the first three times.
“Come on, monster. Back to bed…” and you gather him up, in his soft, flannelly winter pyjamas and smell his sweaty little curls and kiss him on the head, and deliver him back to his pillow.”Good night, baby boy. Love you.”
But then he does it again. And again. And again.
Threats don’t work. Consequences don’t work. He’s woken up his sister now, with his lively yelps (or maybe that was you, with your rising voice?) and she’s complaining that she’s tired, that he’s keeping her awake. Can’t you do something about it?
Before you know it, it’s been an hour, it’s getting late, you haven’t eaten, you need to do some work, you need to talk to your partner about your day. And he WON’T GO TO BED.
You think he’s finally gone down, and then he pops up at the living room door, dancing a happy jig, smiling like there’s nothing wrong.
And you want to scream. So you do.
It’s hard to explain to anyone who isn’t parenting a tiny child how completely infuriating it can be at times.
How the smallest things – a perceived bedtime, a child who clearly hasn’t been exhausted enough today, when added to an equation with a long work day, a stressful meeting, a doctor’s appointment, a conversation you haven’t had, can conspire to make you feel like it’s the End Of Times.
And then you yell, and scream, and you throw him down on his pillow. And he’s scared, and he starts to cry.
And he stops getting out of bed.
You feel like the world’s worst person. Like someone who doesn’t deserve these beautiful, spirited children, bursting with health and mischief. Like an ungrateful person, like a tyrant who is doing irreparable damage.
No, you’re not smoking bongs on the toilet, but you are capable of completely losing your cool when your child doesn’t want to be quiet, to disappear, to let you get on with the peaceful, adult part of your day.
It isn’t easy to admit to these moments. The times you worry about the neighbours overhearing.
But that’s parenting. And it isn’t easy. And we have learned that sharing moments like this one ease the guilt. Because as long as I’m sharing it with other parents of small children, they will likely nod, and put a hand on my arm, and tell me that I’m not alone, that they also lose their shit over inconsequential things, that they sometimes get the white rage. They will tell me a story of a time when they did something just the same.