It’s been a truly horrible morning. Who knew that buttoning a cardigan could cause so much anger, frustration and distress? But it can when there’s a four-and-a-half-year-old involved. At least when it’s my four-and-a-half-year-old.
My daughter is going through what I’m optimistically referring to as a ‘phase’. We’ve had the Terrible Twos and The Threenagers. Now we’re onto what? The Furious Fours?
Her anger is awesome. She literally trembles with rage, her cute little face turning puce with seething ire as she screams:
GET OUT OF MY ROOOOOOOM!
WHY CAN’T I DO THE BUTTONS?
I DON’T NEED HELLLLLLP!
WHERE’S MY CARDIGAN BOX? (Nope, I didn’t understand that one either)
WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS SO ANNOYING?
And I tiptoe around the house, trying to a) placate her so that she’ll stop screaming and continue dressing, while b) trying to do all the other things I need to do to get them both to school on time.
My son has retreated to the safety of the living room. My husband is stoically continuing his DIY-athon in the bathroom.
I’ll have to do this alone.
I find another cardigan. Quickly do the buttons up and present it to her, suggesting she put it on like a jumper.
I do get out. And quickly.
Breathing out through my mouth seems to help me stay calm. Long, deep breaths sighed out of my tensed-up body. Stomach churning with a mixture of acidic anger, frustration, anxiety. Maybe she feels the same? It’s like having a volcano in the pit of your stomach.
Sometimes I can’t stop it from erupting. So how can I expect her to?
WTF? Is she humming?
I creep back into her room. So far, so good.
She could turn at any moment, further impeding our exit by precious minutes. We’re already pushing it.
But I indulge her as she builds some sort of city scape with Jenga, dressing it with random paraphernalia from her bedroom floor. This ordering, sorting, building is a clue that she’s back to functioning in her higher brain. At least that’s what I tell myself as I humour, rather than hurry, her.
All the while, gently coaxing her hair into a half-arsed ponytail. It’s not pretty but it should keep any insurgent nits at bay. Raw memories of the three months evicting the devious little b*stards from her golden locks mean there’s no question of hair down for school. And I’m willing to suffer another tirade in the process.
I get away with it.
By now she’s chatting away. Seemingly sweet again. But there are tears lurking in the back of those steel blue eyes. She’s not completely over it yet. We are not yet safe. And getting to school on time isn’t yet a certainty.
She compliantly cleans her teeth, leading me into a false sense of security.
I glance at the time on my phone.
She’s downstairs. Faffing about in the hallway. I lose my nerve and try to hurry her into putting her shoes on.
She throws another wobbler. Not of the screamy variety. This one’s the teary, flop down on the stairs and stop getting ready sort.
Her power lies in her despotic control over the minutes, seconds, milliseconds we have left. She exercises it through this rage. These tears. These screams.
My power lies in my (feigned) calmness. My control. My reason. My capacity to balance her mood and our progress through the front door.
But the payoff is heavy. As mother I have to suck it all up – all that anger, raw emotion and horror – so that she can feel better again. So that we can complete this seemingly simple process of getting into school.
We get to school.
She smiles at me. Butter wouldn’t melt. I smile back.
I leave her in the classroom. All smiles. Perusing a Frozen book with her girlfriends.
I walk back to the car. Barely holding it together. Nursing all that toxicity in the pit of my belly. Slam the door. Sit for a while.
It’s been a truly horrible morning. But it’s over now.