A while ago, I wrote a list of products designed to make parenting easier. That was all rather positive so now I’d like to bring the excitement and joie de vivre down a notch by compiling a list of things that really piss me off about being a parent. The list is by all means not exhaustive, and is merely an excerpt from the unabridged version which runs around the inside of my skull like a ticker tape. If this list was sponsored by BuzzFeed, it would be named something snippy and zeitgeisty like “19 Things To Really Shock You About Parenting That You Will Forget Before Your Subsequent Children Arrive And Then Remember With Sadistic Deja Vu”.

I won’t list out 19 things here, because I prefer to bob about in the low tide of self-inflicted misery with my armbands on, rather than take a dinghy into stormy seas and puncture it with my tweezers. So let’s just assume that the below 5 points are things that have riled me in the last HOUR.

1. Attitude

When Mouse turned three recently, someone snuck a secret present into her grubby little mits which she unwrapped without us seeing. I believe that someone was the devil, and I believe that present was an airborne plague of swagger. Oh, she’s suddenly got some serious cheek about her. I know that some of this in part comes from being a new big sister and trying to establish where she fits in to our dynamic – aren’t we all, love. But she does test the boundaries somewhat. “No” has been replaced with “Noah”. Outstaring competitions are now commonplace.

Worst of all has been the discovery of “whatever” as an all-encompassing response to a request she’s just not in the mood for. I was momentarily floored when that got its first outing, which happened to be in public, and I proceeded to tear a strip off her outside Superdrug. “O-Ho! You’d better do as your mummy says, she doesn’t sound like she’s taking many prisoners today!” I look up to see that it’s a bloke I work with, marvellous. He’ll go back to the office and tell everyone I look like a bag of shite and I’m not coping. Whatever.

2. Bad Back

Oh god, the floors. Always with the hard surfaces. Going to a group? Arrive early and hope to bag a coveted spot where you can lean against a wall. Playdate at a friends house? You may as well assume a crawling position in the front porch and stay like it. The ultimate was when I went to Mouse’s pre-school parents evening three days after giving birth to Moo, and our key worker took pity on me and offered me a free upgrade from floor to toddler chair. “Oh, er, let’s just see if I can drop it like a squat without my intestines nudging into my maternity pad, shall we? You’d better line up a pair of those surgical gloves that you wear to change nappies, just in case.”

The evenings are just as bad for keeping your posture out of whack. Doing nighttime with Mouse requires the lucky parent to follow a specific set of stage directions: the story must be read while standing at the head end of the cabin bed, followed by a short period of sitting on the pink butterfly rug, facing the bed, ready to respond to any last minute delay tactics. Deviate at your peril. Some days, my joints are so bloody knackered that I can’t even muster a snigger at the part in ‘Mog’s Bad Thing’ where Mrs Pussy has an unusually large litter of kittens.

3. Buggy Boards

These are awful, heinous devices. However, if you have moderate ground to cover and an airy fairy dawdler, they’re something of a necessary evil. Let it be known – heaving along what is effectively a bed, a weekend bag, and four stone of combined child atop a six-wheeled chassis does not a relaxed bicep make. I’m a perpetual toe-stubber on the sodding thing too, such is the effort required to move it that I sometimes forget how to walk in a straight line. I recently treated myself to a moderate whinge about them to a fellow BB sufferer at a group, but I made a poor choice in my allegiance: “Yeah, and your brand of buggy doesn’t even support them, they say they’ve purposely designed their frames NOT to be used with buggy boards. You’ve probably invalidated your guarantee already.” Alright, won’t be sitting on the floor next to you again anytime soon.

4. Tag Team Parenting

If you’re in my property boundary and you’re not either in charge of one/both of my children OR carrying out tasks relating (but not limited) to household upkeep, then you’re cheating. That’s not how it works, you don’t get no-strings time to yourself. You might tell people that of a weekend or evening you’re “just having a chilled one to be honest”, but nothing about your waking hours is chilled when you’re in the quagmire of a young family. With Moo, it’s one marathon length stint of pass the very noisy parcel. With Mouse, it’s a case of constant sleuthing to establish which personal effects she has damaged, where she’s hidden them, and where she’s abandoned that last bit of crumpet from lunch.

The script between my husband and I is concise during the child dominated hours. It serves only to help us function in the least painful way possible, and mainly consists of:

“Right, you hold this one while I just…”

“Ok, then I just need five minutes to look at…”

“And then we can swap because I have to…”

On dire days we convert speech into a sort of tiny URL:

“You, Mouse. Five mins.”

“Swap”

“Moo, nappy.”

“Alcohol. Now.”

“Zzzzz”

5. Eating in Public

We were lucky enough to spend Christmas and New Year in Ohio, which we remind Mouse about regularly because it’s the last Big Holiday for our brood until we win the lottery. We ate in a lot of lovely places, but we were quickly reminded that even Stateside, “Family Friendly” is a rather marked conceptual difference to “Yeah, we’ve got a couple of things on our menu your child can probably have, she likes soda too right?”.

We were catastrophically struck down by The Curse of the Chicken Tenders not once, but twice. Restaurant staff – please, I appeal to your base humanity by asking you to whizz the child element of any order through first. I don’t care if it comes out suspiciously fast after we’ve ordered it, or arrives a full 45 minutes before the adults food. Either scenario is preferable to every diner at the table salivating over their meal, waiting patiently for the five Chicken Tenders that have seemingly fused back onto the chicken and dashed off home to the “farm”. The first restaurant clean missed them off our order. The second confessed to dropping them (butterfingered Americans). In both cases, four adults were forced to deploy a Level 10 Child Distraction Strategy by use of crayons, repeated sips of fizzy, and Peppa on YouTube. I think we all naively expected Mouse to tell us that we must crack on with our meals as she didn’t want them to go cold on her account.

The resulting output, supposedly prioritised in the kitchen, was a plate of breaded chicken strips that were hotter than the earth’s core. I’ve still got the blisters on my fingers to prove it. We eventually struck gold in a Amish restaurant, who very swiftly served Mouse a trio of thermally-perfect dippers atop buttery creamed corn, with a side order of cheer and a water-based fruit drink entirely devoid of E-number fizz. I’ve always liked the Amish.

If you’re having girl problems I feel bad for you son, I’ve got #firstworldproblems and I’m a whingebag mum.

-SJW August 2016

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

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