Warning: This contains the odd swear.
At the weekend we were at party. Unlike the form of late it was a birthday party for an adult, but there were plenty of kids there and surprise surprise, a fair bit of stoned meerkat action the day after. Hazards abounded at this party- a bonfire, a creek (unfenced-gasp), a driveway with about a thousand scooters and skateboards littered around it and all situated in a vast open area. What could go wrong?
Nothing. That’s what: absolutely nothing went wrong apart from the odd scraped knee and the repetitive “We share and take turns, remember:)? *cough* obvs not because I’ve told you a million fucking times since we got here alone *tamped down rage cough*??”
And it was only after chatting away with the other party goers that I realised the significance of the event- I was actually having a conversation. Not a stunted and frustrated exercise in practicing haiku-like sentences thrown at another adult, but actual conversations which came to their natural end, rather than in calls for water in sippy cups or someone’s bum to be wiped. And not just one conversation, but conversations. Plural. Sorry what?? What just happened???
To be fair we’ve been pretty footloose at this kind of gathering for some months- Sussie only comes back for food or to dump superfluous items of clothing and the Boetman, at nearly four years old, is becoming pretty self-sufficient as well (notable exception being the sharing/take turns conversation of above- how fucking hard is it??). We had moved into the next phase of child rearing and I have been so consumed with being Mum, that I didn’t even notice.
Jo brought it to my attention. Jo and her just starting to toddle toddler. Jo and her very real and justified fears of the fire and creek. Jo, whose conversation included, but was not in any way limited to, such well explored topics as ‘I Am So Bloody Tired’ and ‘Where Is -Oh There She Is- What Did You/I Just Say?’
Jo is still waist deep in those baby-toddler trenches, still sleep deprived and probably still mastering the effects of hormones gone wild. She’s also got that slightly crazed, defeated air I had at the same stage.
I remember stopping at a friend’s house when the kids were two and five and there were other people there with kids, the youngest of whom was 7 years old. After about 45 minutes of me being up from my chair to organise water and trucks and nappies etc one of the other mums said: “Oh I forgot how much you have to get up when you’ve got little kids?!” It made me stop- do you mean you don’t always have to get up out of your seat? Does this end?
Did this mean, one day in the distant future, I would perhaps be able to converse with people and finish a sentence or three before I was called upon for mumsy duties. It felt like a distant future. Very distant.
And yet here on Saturday night was the proof that no, the future was here. It was now. I’m not going to go into the poignancy of it all or how I miss those babies for whom I was the entire world. I just want to make Jo feel a bit better, or at least tell her what I didn’t realise:
Child rearing doesn’t get ‘better’ or ‘easier’: it just changes. Teenagers anyone?
- You will sleep again.
- You might not ever feel completely rested again, but you will sleep for an 8+ hour block again. Regularly.
- You will gradually get all those pieces of yourself back which were left in an undignified heap next to your crumpled dignity in the birthing suite. Magnificently, there’ll be extra bits of yourself now too.
- One day you will finish a conversation- it will be glorious and worrying.
And just like I would have, she’ll probably agree and nod and totally ignore me since I sound like a condescending twat. Because nothing can get you out of those beautiful trenches, just time and eventually a little plastic ladder from the cubby house.
What’s your advice for someone in the thick of the toddler trenches?
Or are you still there?