35 years old, that’s the milestone I’ve reached today. While I actually care neither about age nor birthdays, I do enjoy using them to take stock of where I am in life.
And today, is most definitely, a “fail” day, rather quickly too, even before the page to the next chapter has settled from my careless flip.
I’m typing this in the comfort of my bedroom, more than partially dazed from the panadol I finally succumbed to earlier in the evening. My almost-three-year-old son lies sleeping next to me, while my one-year-old daughter finally went to sleep in her cot 20 minutes ago.
This has been a difficult week, with Matthew falling sick and then passing on his virus to Emma, just one day before I remembered to separate them. And it took only one night back in our bedroom for my husband and I to catch the same virus.
Sick babies are not fun babies. And for my son who’s ever needing my full attention and presence (even when in the pink of health), this week has just turned him into the neediest creature ever. I went to shower wondering if personal space is a luxury for parents or is it an expectation better laid to rest because it doesn’t exist anymore?
So it’s Thursday and I woke up on the wrong side of bed. Never mind that it’s my birthday. The husband remembered it as an afterthought (okay, he gave me my present two days ago); my son insisted it’s his birthday and quite stoically demanded that “I want it to be my birthday first!”
“But it’s mummy’s birthday! Don’t you want me to be happy?”
Three hours later – after he has been dropped off at school and the husband, at work – Emma and I watched “Sofia the First” on Disney Junior together. Sofia’s stepdad, who just happens to be the King, had made a wish on his birthday, to be a baker instead, because “it’s too hard work being a king” and he thinks a baker’s life is more fun and relaxing. He comes to realise the folly of his ways only when Sofia shows him how much good work he’s done as a King. It may be a lot of hard work, she concedes, but it’s the work that only he can do, because he is needed.
Upon hearing those words, my spirits lifted instantly. I had been despairing over how I’ve failed as a mother, totally beaten flat just by this week alone, struggling to just keep my cool with Matthew’s neverending tantrums, and I had not thought at all about how these kids actually need me. All along, I thought I was the one who needed to be with them and so I measure myself by that desire – there should be no failure because it is my choice to stay at home with them.
But this morning, I realised that they need me just as much! Which is why they are constantly clamouring for my time, attention, love. The work is hard, but I’m the only one who can fulfil this role for my children, well, quite simply because I’m their one and only mother.
With renewed commitment to my role, I pushed forward to go pick Matt up from school.
Five minutes after I pick him up, and declaring that today will be a happy day (and also determined internally that I will combat all tantrums with love), he threw it all in my face, whining away everything I had to say to him and insisting on his own whims and fancy, stuff that I can’t possibly do anything about (“I want to watch CARS…” he says as I’m driving. “Okay, we can watch CARS later,” I give in. But nooo, he continues, “I want to watch CARS now.”).
White flag raised.
Two hours after that, I exploded in the bathroom. For the fourth day this week, he’s put up a good fight resisting going to the toilet before naptime because he refuses to nap, drowsy as he is by his meds. Well today, I gave it to him good. Raised my voice, shouted, screamed, smacked. He cried and that just fuelled my desire to further break his will.
Yes, I was conscious of what I was doing – even though at one point I wanted to go get the cane that I had forgotten I chose not to buy. All I wanted was to break his will. I don’t think it’s the best parenting ever, but it is a will I have till now, never sought to undermine. It is a will that I have respected as much as I hated it, and a will that I have admired as much as I wanted to put it down. Because it is an exact reflection of mine.
Today, I’ve had enough. And I wanted him to bow down before me. Just because I said so. It’s simply a case of too many tantrums much too intensely. I needed him to just… obey.
Matthew looked at me differently today. Like he was studying a new creature he had thought he knew well. Even through his wild sobs, I could see his confusion and feel his hurt. I wish I can say I wanted to stop right then, but no, I didn’t. I seized on that and drove my point home – hard. And the point is, if I say jump, you jump. You don’t even need to ask me “how high?”
Of course we reconciled quickly too. The point of the punishment wasn’t to make him suffer. It was just to make him compliant so I could put him down for his much-needed nap, before tending to Emma. I explained to him what had happened and he said he understood. I don’t know if he really does but it was a good reconciliation anyway. It was also effective for today, although I really would not choose to do this if I can help it.
“I don’t like to scold and smack you,” I said to him.
“I’m sorry,” he grins at me.
“I’m sorry too. Let’s make tomorrow a happy day, okay?”
So as I turn 35 and want to make a concerted effort (as I always do) to be a better person, to quell the ravaging desires inside me to slash and burn everything in my path, and to choose sanctification and love instead… I ended up showing the ugliest side of me to my beloved child.
I know I don’t have much time before he starts to remember all this unpleasantness. Soon, he will be a lot less forgiving. I know desperately that the clock is ticking and I better get my act together, for real. As real as my love for him and Emma is.
Thank God there are another 364 days to go. I shall strive to be better tomorrow. May love triumph.