I’m spending the journey home from work today googling advice for tonight. “How to be patient when your child throws food at you”. “How to keep smiling when your child throws the thermometer in the toilet.” “Do the no smacking laws really apply if you’ve been “accidentally” pinched? Again.”
I run to pick up the little man at the end of the day. He shrieks “Mummy!” and dives into my arms, holding up a car and singing at the top of his lungs. For a few, brief, moments, our 2 hours together are too short, and overflowing with promise. But the boy I pick up at 5 is not the same boy I take out of the cot on a Friday morning. He is tired. I am tired. He arches as I put him in the pram, crying out to walk home. But he walks into the street, or closing shops, or sits in puddles, so I force him into the pram in tears. He might be so gracious as to let me gather him up on my knee at home to watch Thomas; he won’t eat anything I cook. His only giggle is when he throws yoghurt in my hair, or bath water on the floor. It’s not all bad; those giggles make him sound like an evil mastermind disguised as a toddler, and when I laugh, he laughs. But it definitely isn’t all good.
What’s the answer from the googling? A lot of sites run Wednesday whines or winges. A lot of these come from 5pm to 7pm. It’s called the witching hour. Be calm. Be patient. Pour a glass of wine and wait it out.
It always comes back to the most important lesson I’ve learnt about parenting so far: let it at all go. All expectations are of f-all importance. Just because I haven’t seen him all day, doesn’t mean the boy isn’t going to be a monster. They are all monsters at that time. Most adults are a little bit monstrous before bed. The TV is fine, if it means I get cuddles and can make dinner. Abandon all guilt, all those who do bedtime. Shortening stories is fine, if it means I get through them without wanting to chew off my own arm in boredom (I know everybody loves The Gruffalo, but really, what is the fucking point of that story? Implausible lies stop you getting eaten? FFS).
Parental sanity balances on picking battles, celebrating those beautiful moments of glory, and letting everything else slide. The train is pulling into the station now, and I’m working on changing my expectations. That moment when he first sees me, and his entire being is just a smile on legs, might be the only highlight of this evening. And, today at least, I will linger on that first cuddle, and remember that just one moment of glory in an evening has to be just fine.