“I – D – I – O – T Mummy, argggghhh!!”
Middle Child screams at me.
She is bent at the knees; arms pushed out behind her like she is about to take off; chin and mouth jutting out like a wolf howling its battle cry at the moon; face contorted like she’s screaming against all the injustice in the world; voice blaring like a ship’s foghorn into the night.
I seem to be an ‘idiot’ quite a lot at the moment – and no amount of timeout or sticker charts make the slightest bit of difference.
I don’t usually mind. My emotional skin is battle-hardy, leather-like from the constant battle of words, little fists and hurled objects it has endured over the past five years. Not much would shock or phase me anymore. And this Middle Child will never hit the realms of her older brother. It doesn’t run deep in her like in him.
But there are some days when these little moments sneak under the armour. Especially when this happens in front of a large group of mums waiting quietly at the school gate to pick up their kind, quiet, nice little children.
But Middle Child relishes an audience.
I am not sure exactly why I am an ‘idiot’ today – but she places herself in the middle of the amphitheatre of quiet, chatting mums and aims all her raging velocity at me so that the whole school is quite sure who her incompetent mother is.
I laugh and walk away from her towards the gate whilst the other mums look on, either giggling or staring in shocked horror as I take this abuse.
On the outside I do not care.
But today is one of those days where the words hit me like fire to newspaper. A part of me curls up and disappears to cinder. I am an autumn leaf furled up, brown, trodden in a corner. Like a little woodlouse that suddenly curls up into a ball, sensing assault, and hides in a dark corner – a part of me does the same.
I think there is a place in my soul that collects these little balls of pain, of embarrassment, of failure…
There is another place that collects the bright jewels of light that the children also bring. It is my treasure trove of warm memories that I walk through on gloomy days.
But another grey little ball of memory has been added to my dark corner today. Maybe one day they’ll all get opened up and looked at in the truthful light of day – or maybe I’ll forever have this dark place that dwells in the recesses of my mind.
For now I trudge towards the playground to collect my son. Middle Child eventually decides to catch up. I chatter away to other mums, ignoring the furled up little knot of pain and focus on finding the joy in the rest of this day.
Things feel a little brighter.
I can do this!
This is just a phase.
The door to my son’s classroom opens and the kids are slowly let out one at a time by their teacher. As he emerges, my eyes catch Teacher’s eyes – “it’s not been a good day” her eyes say. We have developed this little communication over the last year so that long conversations are not needed to convey where things are at with him.
His behaviour can be challenging.
His behaviour can be wonderful.
We seem to be in a not-so-wonderful phase at the moment. And the problem is that he tends to set off the class riot as children follow his lead…
Teacher’s eyes say a bit more today: “Maybe we need a quick chat?”
As I gather up three children and walk towards her, Middle Child decides again that it is time to release her inner angry wolf. With Littlest wriggling on my hip, Middlest raging at me, and Eldest sullenly kicking the crap out of school sign, I try and hold a serious conversation with Teacher.
I am not sure what Teacher makes of me and my wild brood. I try my hardest to look serious and like I know what I’m doing. It seems ironic that a large part of my professional career is about helping support children with emotional and behavioural problems. Yet my own children befuddle me at times.
We arrive home. It is a hot afternoon. I am steaming – for reasons of anger, not heat. The promised ice creams do not arrive for the kids, a long lecture from a cross and fed-up mother does instead. I don’t think I’m a shit parent, but my kids seem to make it look like I am.
To conclude this tumultuous afternoon, I make a very large ice cream just for myself, but do not hide behind a cupboard door to eat it. I decide instead to sit in the garden, in the hot light of day, and enjoy it.
The kids look on – but I don’t feel mean.
This ‘Idiot Mummy’ deserves an ice cream or five today.