“Don’t judge – I’m you in ten minutes!”
These words were uttered by one of my all-time favourite TV mums; Frankie Heck from the Middle. She had taken her daughter Sue shopping for a two piece swimming suit and we all know the pain of that right? She had begun the trip so optimistically; rolling her eyes at a mother and daughter who were arguing over a bathing suit and smiling smugly as she ushered Sue into a fitting room. However, pride comes before a fall and it wasn’t long before the two were engaged in their own battle. I loved it. To me it describes exactly the way motherhood can send you heading for a fall just when you think everything is swimming along nicely.
When my little girl was a baby she was the kind of baby you might order in a catalogue. She did everything by the book. She napped regularly, slept at night, rarely cried and ate everything (except avocados for some reason). She was even-tempered, smiled at everyone and rarely had a case of the crankies. Naturally I batted away compliments with a shrug of my shoulders. Obviously I just got lucky. But don’t you know, deep inside, I was feeling pretty smug. Oh I’d never have admitted to it and perhaps wasn’t even fully aware of it but I was definitely guilty of being a smug-face. I silently patted myself on the back that my years of looking after other people’s children had helped me create a well-behaved baby. There I was with my little routines and perfectly blended food. There I was with my rules about screen time and my carefully planned activities. There I was heading for a giant (and honestly quite well-deserved) fall.
The change came as a massive shock. Around 18 months my catalogue baby morphed into a raging toddler and it’s been a game of catch up ever since! My try-anything eater suddenly became so fussy that we now have to sneak vegetables into her in the form of smoothies. It’s a covert operation as we can’t actually let her see us putting carrots in her ‘orange juice’. We also have to hide the mixture in a dark cup in case the colour isn’t orange enough or just looks ‘yeuchy’!
As for sleep? Well she has decided she would prefer to sleep with us so wakes each morning at precisely 4am to come into our bed. This would be bearable if she went straight back to sleep. But no. Usually she likes to have a chat first about teddies, the moon, Toy Story…anything really as long as it keeps the conversation going and she doesn’t have to actually sleep.
And our previously smiley, sociable baby? She is now a scowling two year old who is just as likely to growl at you than smile. Oh she can still turn on the charm…but only if she decides she wants to and quite often only if she is talking to a man. She tends to save her most charming self for men; my dad, my sister’s boyfriend, random men on the street…you get the picture. She views other children with a high level of distrust, a suspicious glean in her eyes; are they after my toys? My mummy? What do they want?
So yes it has been a complete sea change.
Confession Time. I did secretly think mums whose babies never slept or didn’t feed etc. etc. probably just hadn’t gotten a proper routine down or hadn’t been introduced to the right food or whatever. Like there’s some magic formula that works every time! How naive I was and how utterly deserving of a karmic kick up the butt!
Funnily enough, the other day, I was complaining about my daughter’s fussy eating habits to an acquaintance. Her eyes practically lit up. She had some advice for me but it was really advice in the form of a stealthy boast! Naturally, her own toddler can’t get enough of broccoli, carrots etc. As she spoke I swear I heard Life rubbing its hands together in glee. Because that’s the thing with parenting; smug face comes before massive fall.
My theory is that we really did just get lucky when she was a baby, she was so placid that even our bumbled attempts at parenting didn’t ruffle her feathers. However, toddlers are tricky creatures and can be a lot harder to manage. You have to up your game and frankly there are days when she runs rings around us.
So in the words of Frankie Heck – don’t judge. We all have stages where we think we have it sorted but those stages never last long and are too often followed by stages where everything falls apart.
Trust me the higher up that parenting pedestal you are the harder it is to fall. Take it from someone who knows…and has the dark circles to prove it.