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Diary of a young mother

Diary of a young mother

Issue 2 Nov / Dec 2003

The younger child, who is just coming up to her second birthday, is going through a phase known as the terrible twos. This behaviour is characterised by seemingly incessant crying whose origin is a complete mystery, unreasonable demands such as wanting Calpol for breakfast, and a general unwillingness to be even mildly cooperative in any humble ideas I might offer as a diversion. Other people have remarked what a tough time I must be going through having to deal with tantrums on an hourly basis, and the children’s father said the other day what a lot of patience I have. Which brings me to this question: what personal qualities have I learnt since I became a mother three and a half years ago?

The foremost quality that I have developed is undoubtedly patience. Not the kind of patience needed to wait ages for a late bus or train, or to deal with a slow-witted telephone operator or a rude customer services operator, but the kind of patience required when very small children insist on descending the stairs all by themselves step by infinite step. Time is momentarily suspended as you wait at the bottom, taking slow deep breaths and stifling the barking orders escaping your lips. You know it’s not going to make one bit of difference to their speed if you yell, so you might as well retain your dignity and allow them to complete their odyssey.

The same kind of dogged patience is required at mealtimes for feeding small children who like to linger over their food, as both my children do. It’s not that they are particularly fussy eaters; they just like to take their time. Much as you would like to get started on your own dinner, or finish off other urgent business, you must wait while each morsel is slowly chewed and digested. Again, raising your voice usually has very little effect – the best tactic seems to be serene acceptance of the status quo.

Other qualities I have developed are dedication and stamina. These two qualities are especially tested at night time and in the early hours of the morning. If, in the middle of the night you hear a childish voice piping out of the darkness “Mummy, could I have some water?” you need a lot of dedication not to say “no, go back to sleep, you can have some water in the morning.” Being dedicated means you drag yourself out of bed, fetch the glass of water, quench the child’s thirst and settle her back to sleep. Real dedication is when this process is repeated several times in the night. Some real stamina is required when nursing sick babies and children. All-night crying or even intermittent crying for several nights can make you really depressed unless you tell yourself that you have committed yourself to this job and the whole thing is one staminabuilding exercise. A lot of stamina is required when children want you to play with them. You can spend many hours a day crouched down on the floor building with toy bricks or doing a favourite jigsaw puzzle repeatedly or even two jigsaws simultaneously. If that doesn’t build your stamina I don’t know what does.

Finally, I have learnt how to be generous. Generosity of spirit doesn’t come easily when you are dog-tired and weary, and faced with recalcitrance you long to snap out a few choice epithets, not to mention staying your hand which is itching to smack. Generosity involves being kind with your words, gentle in your actions, controlling the aggression that threatens to surface when you feel overwhelmed by unreasonable behaviour and demands. This is especially important when you know you have been treated unfairly and are in the right, like when being pelted with Lego and one lands in your eye, or being nagged about wanting to go on the computer to play nursery games despite it being bedtime, or having to listen to endless moaning about nothing in particular. It really does my head in sometimes. Maybe I should have Calpol for breakfast.


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