Those photos of poor Charlize Theron trying to deal with her son’s tantrum in the full glare of the media made me wince painfully the other day.
In a kind of sentimental way, really, because we’ve all been there, and they weren’t much fun when you’re a nobody from suburbia, let alone a Hollywood celebrity being stalked by the paparazzi.
So I’d like to dedicate this post to all those stoic young mums of imperfect toddlers, forced daily to do the dragging and pulling walk of shame dance to the car that toddlers force you to do when they don’t want to get in their car seat. Because all mums know that it’s traumatic enough to be on the receiving end of a full-blown tanty in your own private space, but a public one is triple points.
I’ve earned my stars in this department and so can speak from experience. In fact, I swear I wore the tee-shirt for birthing the most tantrumming toddler in NC, which I realise may be hard to believe from what I’ve divulged about my nerd… daughter in previous posts, but I have loads of friends that will vouch for me.
NC was a troubled child until around the age of ten, but the most trying period was in the four torturous years before she started school, when I was still green in the parenting department – AKA not having a fucking clue what I was doing. What made it worse was that the old man and I were one of the first in our peer group to fall pregnant, so we had nothing to compare NC to, just those Disney-like fantasies of raising the perfect baby I’d devoured through my pregnancy.
After the first post-natural childbirth-birth classes where everyone sat around and smugged on about what an amazing time they were having with their new baby, I remember one of my friends, who had obviously caught the look of contorted pain on my face whenever I looked NC, attempted to make me feel better after my precious bundle had screamed solo the whole way through baby massage. (I will always be grateful to you for that, Alice). She suggested that NC’s irritability might be because she was so bright – obviously trying to be kind – which the old man interpreted later that evening to mean that NC was obviously bored with the limited intelligence level of my postpartum company.
Whatever the reason behind my daughter’s disappointment with life and her new family – and truthfully there could have been any number of reasons such as not eating, hating the clown wallpaper I’d chosen for the nursery or the realisation that she had been unfortunate enough to get the fruitcake for a mother with not an ounce of maternal intuition – I’m certain that her anger was due to the debilitating tiredness bought on by her refusal to sleep at any point during the day, which meant that by witching hour our house would resemble Armageddon.
NC was a child who was fundamentally very unhappy in her own skin.
Anything and everything set her off. She screamed at the sight of men she didn’t know, hated being strapped into the pushchair, threw herself out of the car seat and screamed when I left her with the child minder. Once she even bit me when I came to pick her up to go back home.
Is it any wonder that wine time became quickly synonymous with witching time in our relationship?
And it’s why, these days, whenever I witness a child over-heat in the supermarket and some poor mother try to calm the situation down without giving in, I find it hard to know how to react towards her. What I really want her to know is that it’s okay, that most of us have been through what she’s suffering, to offer her my best ‘been there’, ‘feeling your pain’ kind of sympathetic smile, without coming across as some patronising, judgmental middle-aged smug. Perhaps it would be better to ignore her completely so that she doesn’t feel like there is some national conspiracy to make her feel like she’s the worst mother in the world.
Because that’s how I felt.
We feel your pain, Charlize, and if it wasn’t for Kurt I could tell you with my hand on my heart that it will get better.