Every day is the same around here, we’ve gotten into somewhat of a routine, dependent on whether or not it’s a crÃ¨che day. This is the kind of thing all the parenting books tell you to do from the second the child’s umbilical cord is cut, and I acknowledge we’re a little late to the game since his second birthday is next month, but I digress. Routine is one word for it, Groundhog Day is another. Every single day I get to bedtime and am relieved when I’m allowed to collapse for it all to start again at the crack of dawn the following morning. You know, if the crack of dawn time is set on the 21st of June like it is in my toddler’s head, and not the darkened sky version of Dawn we’ve had in recent months.
6am (or thereabouts): Am woken by Braveheart running down the hall. I can hear his “FREEEEEDOM” chant coming at me, but covered up by a “Dadeeeeeeeeee” as to hide his militant ways at that hour of the morning. The volume and the urgency doesn’t differ much from Mel Gibson’s though – and it is ALWAYS my side of the bed, despite his “Da-deeeee” being asleep on the other side. Lift up, into the centre of the bed, praying he hasn’t managed to pee through the nappy (or worse).
6.02am – Tiny feet enter my rib cage, not unlike the way he used to in the womb, except this time it’s to kick me out of my side of the bed. My pillow is not my own, Once I have gotten his firm message that this is not my bed, I am handed his bottle with a firm “All gone” or “Boba” – those are my marching orders right there. Dada snores on undisturbed by the little bed stealer next to him cuddling into him. Sometimes he goes back to sleep, other times not so much.
6.15am On the mornings without sleep after the ceremonial bed-kicking-out, we wind up on the sofa watching Paw Patrol, Fireman Sam or Postman Pat. Honestly, it’s normally Paw Patrol. Much to my absolute joy, as you can imagine.
7.20am CrÃ¨che mornings – time to start getting dressed. Oh yes, start. “Come here and let me dress you” “No”. A tantrum over things going on over his head is normal, then a rather urgent hunt for shoes, which he’s obsessed with having on at all times.
At some point in the next hour we leave the house, sanity somewhat intact after the battle of the coat. Everything is done on his terms and trying to fit that into the grownup schedule can be taxing some mornings.
CrÃ¨che drop off is between 8.15 and 9.30, I aim for the earlier and make it in sometime just before 9 most mornings, always forgetting that it takes 25 minutes to walk in with the buggy. He runs in, doesn’t look back, thrilled to be away for the day with his friends and the clearly much cooler toys crÃ¨che has to offer. His minders tell him to “Say bye to Mam” – he never looks back (but some other children do say goodbye). I try not to feel offended and head for a coffee.
On non crÃ¨che days, it’s a bit more relaxed. We go for many walks. Sometimes to the playground. Often to a local soft play area, or the one in the shopping centre where he can run off a tonne of energy and then sleep so I can grab a much needed coffee. There are tantrums about lunch, about having to be in the buggy, about having to hold my hand. Many times he calls for his Daddy, who is in work and not with us, and when I tell him we’ll see him later, I’m met with a filthy look that he’s clearly perfected. We see dogs, he barks at them. We go on the bus and he says hello to everyone, at first in a nice friendly way, but if he isn’t replied to in a rather insistent way until everyone has responded. Hell hath no fury like the toddler ignored. If we’re at home the house starts to resemble the ruins of a hurricane. Hurricane Eliott has come to visit.
Pickup at 5 is roughly the same as drop off. Some days he’s happy to see me, the battle with the coat isn’t quite as hard, he’s happy to head home. Others, like the days this week, he cries when I get within his sight line, any mention of going home with me is met with a stern “no” and trying to get his coat on would likely be more difficult than dressing an octopus.
At dinner, food is thrown, food is stolen from other plates, food is rejected. He’s become better this week, meaning that only half the plate is left on the table and none off the walls. I try to stay calm but find myself on edge as he tips the plate over and shouts “All gone” as the mess is on the floor.
Bedtime is another battle most nights, the big boy bed means he can easily climb out, but it does mean we can hop in next to him with ease. Some nights he cuddles in and heads off to sleep in 20 minutes. I love those nights. Those are never my nights for bedtime. Other nights it can be a two hour struggle with multiple bedtime stories, requests for bottles, some musical numbers (some from him, most from me – a Beatles medley seems to work best) and many prayers for sanity.
And then he’s asleep and I look at this cute child and think “Yeah, we did good”.
Over and over and over again. It can be fraying on the nerves, especially on days where I’m having more pain than normal, or where it seems that nothing I say is being listened to. I know my attitude towards it contributes a lot, small kids take in absolutely everything and I know when I’m more tense it makes for more tension between us. I know he’s actively not being bold for the sake of it (most of the time), he’s just not doing things the way I would like him to or at the speed that would mean we’d get out of the house on time. But on the days where I feel like running away, changing my name and switching continents to start a new child free life, none of this occurs to me and I need to remind myself he’s only small and he doesn’t know better. I’m the adult here, even if I’m not all that good at adulting. And inevitably one day, there will be rose tinted glasses looking back at this time, telling me how lovely it was when he was that small, with the phrase “Little boys, little problems, big boys, big problems” being parroted at me.
I don’t know how full time stay at home mothers do it, honestly, they have my utmost respect because even with part time childcare, I feel like running away more days than I should. And then I get a cuddle or a kiss blown at me and the travel plans through Asia solo are put on hold again, until the next tantrum.