SERIOUS POST AHOY:
Something funny happened to me this week. I wrote an article for What to Expect and it mutated into a monster. I wrote about toddlers – in particular my lovely, hilarious, maddening boy. I wrote about his eyes and his chatter, and a bad day he had once that was set off by a series of poor choices I made. And I wrote about how hard it is to watch toddlers flail their way into independence, and how this messy, necessary process ends in days when we just don’t like each other very much.
So far, so normal, eh? Amateur toddler psychology is the bread-and-chocolate-spread of this girl’s days – just look around here. I didn’t think it was remarkable. But then it all exploded: there are now hundreds upon hundreds of people saying horrific things about the two of us. It’s kind of breathtakingly vicious and I don’t really want to quote it or for you to read it, so please don’t. So many of these people are women and fellow mothers, and somehow I feel grosser about that than anything.
I’m not writing this for reassurance, as you’ve been kind enough to send a lot my way already (and thank you so much). I know posting anything on the internet comes with a risk of negative attention. But I’m not sure people who write comments like this ever stop to think about how it makes someone feel, so here’s my best shot at it. I feel like I’ve been making friends with this friendly Internet dog for years, oh, pat pat pat, aren’t you wonderful company, and suddenly it has bitten my hand off. And now it has rabies, and now all my skin’s going to fall off before I die, hey, thanks, Internet Dog. I feel bruised, and sick, and so, so embarrassed. I’ve spent far too much of the past 48 hours plotting all of the things I would say if I weren’t now avoiding that comment thread for the rest of eternity, such as – there is so much I left out of those 800 words. And do they remember what it was actually like, parenting their first toddler and terrified of getting it wrong? And I want to tell them about my boy – how he tried to get out of eating his lunch today by quoting Green Eggs and Ham, how he says ‘please may I have’ and ‘thank you very much’ and ‘oh mummy, you so pretty’. How every negative minute with him is twelve-times overwhelmed by his brilliance, and how I will never, ever forgive myself for taking him into a public arena to be stripped down and howled at by five hundred anonymous faces. I just wanted to be honest, but it was naive.
You know. Dramatic stuff like that.
This morning I seriously wondered whether writing about realistic parenting is a good or helpful thing to do. I tread a fine line, here, talking about my children while respecting their future feelings and without soft-blurring the picture. Perhaps it would be better, after all, to only talk about the good days. But then I came over a bit Braveheart, and put on a bad Scottish accent and hunted around for some blue face paint.
Because, NO. Heck. No. Aren’t we all in this together? Isn’t it a wondrous and frustrating thing, parenting a child? There are moments that soar like stars and moments that seethe with insecurity, and pretending it’s just one or the other isn’t helpful to anyone. When I wrote this article I pictured a mother who, like me, worries that one tantrum will make her child a horrible person forever. And who, like me, falls so short of the Mary Poppins marker she sets herself that sometimes she thinks it might be better to pack it all in and go to sea. I wanted to tell that mother: you’re normal. You’re doing your best. It’s ok to feel how you feel, whatever that feeling is. Look, here am I, shambling along beside you and feeling the same way. The sea hasn’t got anything on the vistas we survey here. I wanted her to feel less alone, so she could stand up, fix her make up and sally on out to try again.
I will be honest here, and I will be kind. And if you will too, we can tell each other funny, horrific stories with snot in our hair. Then stand up, with our best Braveheart faces, and go and get this crap done.
Normal service resumes tomorrow.