“We should just admit that all adults hate some children. At least some of the time.”
The wise words of my husband. A man who in the early years of parenthood also admitted “I don’t really like children. Only my own. The rest are annoying.”
For many years, since before we had a child of our own, I have admonished him when he expressed his reservations about the children we met.
“You can’t say things like that! All children are beautiful/lovely/special in their own way” I would preach at him, reeling in shock at his cruel, thoughtless and downright un-fatherly comments.
Parenthood should be a special time, in which we discover all the ways children can enrich our lives. We discover that they see the world in a whole different way to us, and their innocence, curiosity and wonder infects our own cynical and world weary perspective on life. Indeed, all children are beautiful, wonderful creatures to be treasured. After all, they are the future.
Except that, some days, they are just a pain in the arse.
The thing about being a parent is that you don’t just get to know your own child, you get to know others as well. You become friends with other parents and, before you know it, your calendar is full of ‘play-dates’ and babysitting swaps. Suddenly you get a chance to see what children are really like, close up, without the inconvenient blindness of parental love. It really is an eye opener.
Last weekend we looked after a friend’s toddler. We thought it would be simple. All we had to do was double the entertainment and food we normally provided and find another place for someone little to sleep. It could even be fun!
15 minutes in, everything was great. They were playing happily and if anything it felt easier than usual! We didn’t have to play garage for the sixth consecutive hour because there was someone else to do it. Wonderful. She could come stay round all the time.
30 minutes later, in the midst of a full on screaming fit seemingly for no other reason than she had suddenly decided she didn’t like us, things were looking less rosy.
One hour and several more screaming fits later my husband turned to me, stony faced and said “I’m starting to think I don’t like this kid…”
“You can’t say that…” I began to protest, before I was drowned out by a new realm of sonic pain and a number of podgy, drool covered fingers being rammed in my face.
Another hour later, a few brief happy moments, a near A&E trip and some more screaming later, I was beginning to wonder about my ‘all children are wonderful’ philosophy…
The following day I handed her back (My other half had buggered off to a conference leaving me in sole charge of the screamer. There are few things that 4 days in a Travelodge in Glasgow covering the Lib Dem conference is preferable to, but apparently this was one of them). I smiled, said it was ‘no problem’ then savoured the peace and quiet as the door closed and the screaming left for good.
Thank God my child is so well behaved, I thought. I don’t just love him, I genuinely like him. He’s actually a nice person to be around.
Fast forward two weeks and fate has come back around to bite me firmly on the backside.
If parenthood is a journey, the early days were the slow trudge through the slip road to the motorway – tough but necessary and ultimately worth it. The following two years were a slow drive along the Northern Irish coastal road – each time you think it’s the best it’s ever been, a new scene of beauty and wonder unfolds even better than the last and you smile, happy and slightly smug that it’s all so much better than others led you to believe. From walking to talking to full blown conversations – it’s just gotten better and better as the boy has grown.
Unfortunately, in the last few days we’ve hit the inevitable traffic jam. We’ve been diverted away from the coast onto an ugly inner city ring road, where bumper to bumper traffic jams have forced us to stop at Little Chef, sitting on ripped up plastic seats, eating cold eggs on toast and drinking bitter coffee from chipped cups as the rain beats down on the dirty windows. We know it’ll be worth it when we get out the other side, but it’s hard to seat that when you’re choking on a mouldy toast crust.
We’ve officially hit the terrible twos and after being stranded outside our home in the pouring rain with a toddler who steadfastly refuses to move – “Mummy go in. I stay here!” – and a visit to a friends which started with a refusal to go in, moved into a refusal to eat dinner, and ended with a refusal to come home – “No! I want to stay here forever!” – I’m starting to wonder what someone would think if I left my son with them for a weekend.
How long would it take before one person turned to another and muttered: “I’m starting to think I don’t like this kid…”?
Love may be unconditional, but liking isn’t. I will love my son with every fibre of my being until the last breath is dragged unwillingly from my body, but it’s tough to like someone when you’ve run yourself ragged for days on end just to sneak home to see them half an hour early and they greet you by crying and running in the other direction.
Cheers mate – right now, the feeling’s mutual.