Any mother or father will tell you that parenting is unpredictable. Routines change from one day to the next, likes and dislikes are as fleeting as a British summer. And the cup is always the wrong colour.
But, comfortingly, I have found just a few things that always stay the same. They may not all be good, but at least I’m not surprised.
Here’s a few of my parenting guarantees. Remind yourself of these when you throw your hands up in despair because your kid just put a whole toilet roll down the toilet. And flushed.
I’m not saying that it’ll help, but at the very least it’ll be a distraction.
1. Wipes packets
Oh god, here she goes with the bloody wipes again! OK, I may have mentioned them before. But you see, they are irritating in so many ways. It’s a multi-faceted annoyance.
In my opinion, the people who manufacture baby wipes and their receptacles are not parents. Either that, or they really dislike parents. Intensely. Am I the only person who think their design makes no freaking sense? It’s not even just that they are incredibly easy for a baby to open. I mean, if it bugged me that much, I could just try and remember to put them up out of reach.
No, my greatest beef with wipes packets is that they don’t even work how they are supposed to. And I resent that. The average baby needs at least 6 nappy changes a day. I do not need to be filled with rage 6 times a day. That does not enrich my life.
Why are they so annoying? Oh yeah, totally forgot to mention that.
So, you need to change your baby’s nappy. You get out the wipes, nappy, spare clothes, whatever. If you have a non-moving child, then yay! You win because she’s right there. If you have a mobile child, you call her over in an intriguingly excited voice. Then you call her again, perhaps through slightly gritted teeth. After that, you give up and chase her across the room.
Here is where the guarantee comes in. First scenario: your baby has done the most stench-filled, explosive, revolting poo you have ever experienced, the kind that has you wincing and mouth-breathing (by the way, don’t try the mouth-breathing thing, unless you prefer tasting shit to smelling it). You reach for the wipes. I can guarantee that you will not be able to get a single one out. Not one. They will be sealed shut as well as a roll of sticky tape. You can scrabble with your nails, pinch furiously or swear under your breath. It ain’t coming out. And you can’t let go of the baby, or you’ll be cleaning more than just her bottom.
Conversely, I can also guarantee that if you only need a single wipe, one tug will bring a veritable conga line of wipes. Which won’t detach from each other even if you shake the packet round above your head. Not even if you say, “Arrrggggghhhh!”
Seriously, new design required, wipes manufacturers!
Learning Through Repetition
It’s pretty well known that children learn best through repetition. That’s why they enjoy nursery rhymes so much, and why they spend ages pressing the same, tuneless button on a toy piano.
It’s also the reason I read the Gruffalo book to a 2 year old Big Girl every night for 6. goddamn. months. Go on, ask me the words. I know ’em all.
The side effect of learning positive things by doing them again and again, is that they have to learn not to do things the same way.
In fact, they seem to do stuff even more if there’s a painful end. It makes no sense.
Squeak is my evidence for this one. She has developed an intense fascination with our budgie, Roland (of Gilead). However many times I take her away from his cage I still find her, eyes a-goggling, staring in as she says, “Biiiir-day.”
She’s stepped it up recently though. She wants to touch him. Now, little podgy baby fingers are sneakily thrust through the bars the moment she senses I’m not watching. He’s given her fair warning. He screeches and snaps at her, but she appears unperturbed.
Today, he stepped it up too. She pushed her fingers into the cage. He gave her one warning, and then…
He bit her.
It wasn’t hard, just a gentle nip really. She was shocked but it didn’t hurt. I would like to think that she will learn from this.
Still, I am sure that within the next hour, she will be back there attempting to pet the birdie. I guarantee it.
(Note to self: Move the bird.)
I have only touched upon sleep issues a little bit before. Like, a smidgeon. So it may come as a surprise to you to discover that Squeak wakes up a lot. I don’t know what happens after I go to bed because I’m too scared to look at a clock, but I do know that she’s usually up about 3 times in the evening.
I can’t say this, on its own, particularly irks me. I am a big supporter of the belief that children sleep when they are ready. So I’m fully prepared and accepting of the fact that Squeak needs me to help her back to sleep.
What pisses me off is her timing.
Occasionally, when we’re not glued to separate computers typing and photo-processing, Mark suggests we watch a film. And after I have established that he does not mean a pants-wettingly scary horror film (his favourite), I usually agree. I mean, it’s nice to spend a bit of time together, isn’t it? I think so.
So does Squeak.
As we sit down, I hear the first snuffles, shuffles and squeaks. Oh yes, she is awake. At the very moment we hit play. It’s still salvageable, though. I run upstairs to settle her down again.
After 15-20 minutes, I realise that it may not be salvageable.
After half an hour, I realise that it definitely isn’t.
Squeak goes back to sleep, and I go back downstairs. I check the clock, and see that it is now far too late to start watching anything. Typical.
Everyone knows that it’s pretty risky, giving children choices. If you ask them to choose between raisins and grapes for a snack, they will ask for a banana. Or something obscure that you last bought 3 months ago.
This only gets worse with multiple children. If I make the mistake of asking Big Girl and Little Girl to choose between two films to watch, Big Girl does a most irritating thing. She waits until Little Girl has chosen, and then says the opposite.
Obviously, chaos ensues as I try to get them to compromise. It’s predictable, and super annoying.
I would like to say that this is one of the reasons I decided to spawn another small human. With three, there’ll always be a decisive majority. Win.
Although I admit, I didn’t exactly take this into account.
It also wouldn’t work when my step-daughter is here.
But otherwise, a stroke of genius!
The Happy Ending
I would hate you to think that it’s all bad in my house. It’s actually mostly really good, if a bit crazy. So I decided to finish on a positive.
I can guarantee that, when I’m at my most frazzled, when the world feels like it is against me, one simple thing will happen.
As I am standing, head in hands, sighing in desperation, Big Girl will come up behind me and say:
“I love you.”