When you’re exhausted and everything that could go wrong, does go wrong, you need a parenting hack to get you through. Spinoff Parents editor Emily Writes has a tip to change your mindset and help turn your little devils into little angels.
For much of my second child’s life I have wondered what’s going on in his big bald head. He has been a smiling goofy mystery since he was born. Recently he’s begun to communicate verbally. It goes something like this:
“Can mummy change your nappy?”
“Ok, well I have to change it so I probably should have just said that from the beginning”
“Come on, they’re falling down. I have to change it”
“NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO”.
It’s a joy. Just an unrelenting wondrous joy. “Shall we get dressed?” “NO!” “Time for a bath?” “NO”. “Would you like some lunch?” “NO!”
It has been a time. A time that makes me consider whether it’s socially acceptable to take a hip flask of gin to Chipmunks. A few weeks ago, I decided to reward my children for being delightful by taking them to the movies. My husband assured me our youngest was too young and I would regret it. So I listened to him – LOL JOKES of course I didn’t. Why would I listen to him? He was right of course and two and half seconds into the film my youngest ran for the door. I chased him into the cinema cafe while my oldest ran after me yelling “MAAAAMA THE MOVIE IS STILL ON COME BACK DON’T LEAVE ME FOREVER!” Thank goodness the folks in the cafe weren’t horrid jerks incapable of viewing small people as human beings. They all seemed to find my youngest running around laughing with me following sweating and red in the face quite entertaining. I am eternally grateful that the cinema is mostly frequented by kindly old grandmothers and young people who don’t hate the world yet.
So I bought them more popcorn. That didn’t work. Ice cream didn’t work. In the end I sat outside the cinema with my youngest while he watched Peppa Bloody Fucking Pig on my phone and periodically checked on my oldest who was in the cinema by himself. Because who wouldn’t want to watch an episode of Peppa Shitting Wet Stain Pig that you’ve seen 850 million times over a brand new movie that cost $10 for your mum to take you to?
After hearing this story you’re probably thinking I’m the last person to be handing out parenting advice. And you’d be right. BUT I’m going to tell you this one anyway.
As I was sitting there pondering my parental failures a lovely little old nana walked past and smiled at me. You can tell a nice nana because they always smile and they have things in their handbags like Werthers Originals and Thomas the (colonialist imperialist anti-union) Tank Engine trains. My mother-in-law always has a hairbrush for the children and her bag somehow always has the exact toy they want to play with in it.
So this lovely nana smiled and said “He knows his own mind that one – he’ll do wonderful things some day!” and of course I almost cried. I gazed lovingly at my honey baked ham. And then I thought HOLY SHITBALLS THIS NANA IS A GENIUS.
Here I was focusing on how my stubborn child didn’t even care that I’d given up seeing a potential Ryan Gosling shower scene movie so that he could watch two seconds of that stupid Lego movie only to use up all of my data watching Peppa Knobbing Asshole Pig when I could be acting like this nana.
This nana saw something I didn’t see.
She flipped the switch.
In that moment I realised I just need to think like a nana.
I thought about all of the comments made by nanas about my children. When my son got his head stuck in a toilet, his nana said he was “an explorer” and had a “curious mind”. She even wondered if it might lead to a cure to cancer.
When he screamed for the first two years of his life he was “probably going to grow up to be a singer. Or a great orator”.
Every second column on millennial parents is about how permissive we are. But uh, have you met a grandmother? My children can do no wrong. When they don’t sleep it’s because they’re “too smart, too much going on”. When they fill up on ice cream and convince Nana to have pancakes for dinner it’s because “they know what their bodies need”. Somehow they always come home with new toys because they’ve been “good”. And the threshold for “good” is lowered by the day.
So I’ve decided to look upon my darling offspring with the eyes of a grandmother. When they’re pissing me off I will channel a nana.
That nana wisdom is just what you need when you’re exhausted and overwhelmed. Nanas see your kids with fresh eyes untainted by a desperate lack of sleep or an exhausted need for just one warm coffee in peace. They haven’t been worn down by whining and screaming or that special kind of demoralising lunch where you’ve spent an hour trying to get your child to eat anything at all.
The kids are grandbabies to them. And grandbabies are perfection incarnate. The grandbaby is the best baby of all. Grandparents are putty in their hands. They see beyond the extremely long and inane story that turns out to be about nothing at all to comment on the “excellent communication skills” of your child. They smile warmly when your child gets covered in mud two seconds before you need to leave the house and insist it doesn’t matter if we’re late.
And maybe that’s because when they see their grandbabies they see their children. They see how fast their children grew, how it all felt like a flicker. They saw that the daily hiccups and bumps in the road were just that – and that the lasting memories were of children growing and thriving and full of wonder and joy. They know that at all too soon their grandbabies will be like their children, making their own memories and in time their own families.
I cannot imagine my children grown. I wonder what type of grandparents my husband and I will be. I sure hope I am that nana who smiles kindly at an exhausted stranger struggling with her babies. I know I’ll be thinking back and seeing only the joy of days when the children made me laugh so much my stomach hurt. When my face ached from smiling. When tears felt sure to fall when I took a moment to recognise how lucky I was to be able to have two children, and two such wonderful children too.
So I’ll do my best to think like a nana. I won’t be held hostage to the idea that this is all over too quickly. But I will remind myself, when I can, that while these days are ever so long, and these nights even longer, I can try as often as I can too look beyond my exhaustion and see my babies as they are, in this moment. Perfectly imperfect.
There’s delight around every corner even when there are grumpy toddlers and furious five year olds and exploding nappies and Peppa Co-Parent Pig.
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