It’s 1:53pm on an ordinary school holiday Friday and I have locked myself in my bedroom, leaving my kids to fend for themselves downstairs. I’m not being entirely irresponsible. Before coming up here, I reminded them to put hats & sunscreen on if they go outside. I then told them where I’d be and that I’d come out in time to make dinner. I have disconnected all the screens in the house and removed the unhealthiest snacks from the pantry since I’m not around to supervise consumption of these things. They’ll find something else to sneakily indulge in, I’m sure. In fact, they’re pretty quiet right now. But I’m not even curious what they’re up to. I’m fed up.
More than fed up, if I’m honest. Furious. So furious I’m bawling. I’m not sure, though, if I’m more furious with my boys for their impossible behaviour or with myself for my ineffectual parenting but I can feel the fury coursing through my veins and it’s flowing with so much pressure it could well burst right out of me.
The school holidays have been kind of tough so far. Much of the struggle has been due to my boys’ behaviour which has brought many pleasant and fun experiences to an abrupt end and deemed others impossible. Case in point – today.
I spent the morning motoring through the housework so my boys and I could have a nice afternoon outing in the city together. Our first stop was to be a quick visit to a homeware store to choose frames & hooks for putting their art on their bedroom walls. This morning, Thomas finished a mosaic he has spent many hours working on and he was excited to finally be able to put it up. As soon as we walked into the homeware store, though, the “behaviour” began.
Not a minute had passed before one boy had grabbed the other and it had turned into a chasey grabby game in between the shelves of crockery, glass picture frames and other very fragile items. They ignored my repeated instructions to leave one another alone & settle down and my firm warnings about the breakable objects around them. After a few stressful minutes of trying to juggle my task and supervise them, I resorted to getting them to sit on the floor of separate aisles so I could have just 2 minutes to think through which frames & hooks would meet our requirements. But, of course, they scooted along the floor on their bottoms to get to one another and continued to mess around together, coming dangerously close to the laden shelves. I was terrified they’d break something and couldn’t focus to work out which picture hooks to get. When one boy pushed the other into a trolley of mismatched plates and bowls, I abandoned the outing.
We promptly left the shop without frames and hooks. When we got to the car, my frustration and embarrassment erupted out and I hollered at them about being untrustworthy and ruining so many of our outings recently. Then we drove home in complete silence. After taking the necessary measures and pouring a strong cup of coffee, I came supstairs to my bedroom, being sure to lock the door behind me.
And now, here I am. Bawling and punching my keyboard as if it were in the wrong. And feeling utterly defeated.
I wasn’t at my best today to begin with. The school holidays have already included sickness, a trip to the hospital and too many nights of broken sleep. And this behaviour from my boys, which has become an unwelcome pattern, has worn me down. So a shouty outburst in the car was, perhaps, brewing.
But, really, I don’t understand how we’ve got to the point where I can’t make plans to do nice things with my kids because odds are they will either fight or get too silly together. Once they’re in that zone, just the two of them engaged in an unproductive way, they become incapable of listening to me. I had thought that opportunities to do interesting things together would increase as they got older but, right now, the possibilities seem to be narrowing and I feel both resentful and sad about that.
Thanks for listening. I know I haven’t given you much to take away in this essay. I just wanted to get it out and to say that it’s not all “soulful” over here. But perhaps the soulful part is what I do now. Now that my boys have thoroughly embarrassed, tested and crushed me. Now that I have shouted and withdrawn, both of which don’t align with my parenting ideals.
I’m bound to have written an essay or two which will help me gain perspective and figure out where to go from here. But I’m not ready to consider those yet, I need time to defuse. Frankly, lying here on my bed is probably the safest place for me to be at this moment. My husband gave me a box of deluxe chocolates for our 10th Anniversay this morning which I stashed in my bedside table drawer so my boys couldn’t beg me to share. 3 or 4 of them and a rollicking Liz Gilbert novel are probably the best thing I can do for us all right now.
PS Nothing got broken in the homeware shop.
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