"I have a sore throat from yelling at my son. Am I a terrible person?"

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.

This is Holly’s son, Billy.

“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.

Holly’s son Billy walking in his Dads shoes.

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.

Holly’s lovely family – Billy on the left and Matilda on the right.

And sometimes it’s nowhere near as bad, and you don’t know what to say. And sometimes, it’s far, far worse, and you really don’t know what to say. But this is what parents do. They share war stories, they seek solace.

Which is why it freaks the shit out of us when someone doesn’t follow the script.

When someone says, “No, my children don’t annoy me. And I do my absolute best not to shout at them. Being a parent is a privilege. I am beyond lucky to be here, doing this, and I try to remember that every day.”

I met someone like that last week.

I met Jacinta Tynan. You can listen to our meeting, here.

She is an accomplished and successful journalist, broadcaster and writer. And she also has two little kids, the same age as mine.

You might remember that Jacinta infuriated a whole army of parents with a column she wrote after the birth of her son. It was called The Big Easy, and it was about how, after coming to motherhood later in life and having heard nothing but horror stories, she was taken aback by how easy, how enjoyable it was.

She speaks about parenting with the calm joy of a person who truly does know how lucky they are, and how close they came to missing out.

In many ways, it is far easier to tell the war stories than the love stories.

“In many ways, it is far easier to tell the war stories than the love stories.”

I don’t tell people about the complete peace I feel when I have one of my children under each arm early in the morning, and we’re just quietly watching TV together. Or the way it makes me feel when my son crawls up into my lap for no good reason, and puts his head on my chest. It’s something he does so rarely, being the Daddy’s boy that he is, and when he does, I feel like I just won… everything.

It’s hard to talk about how sometimes, when I look into my daughter’s face I see myself and my mother, and people who have long since left us, and I see my girl, and her future, and it all comes rushing towards me as she smiles and I am awash with emotion and connection and feelings that I don’t know the words for.

It’s hard to talk about that stuff.

It’s easier to talk about struggle. And what a shitty parent I am after a long day.

The full episode of the podcast is here:

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Do you think we don’t share enough good stories about parenting? 

Have some spare time? Try these:

15 jobs mothers do before 9am writes Holly Wainwright.

“There’s one really good reason why my kids are always dirty.”

Why the ‘dumb dads’ myth is holding us back.

“I walked in on my kids playing ‘mums and dads’.”

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