Let me tell you about my friend, Tanya.
She has a laugh that makes everything okay, a heart as big as the ocean, and a sense of humour that turns the most dire of circumstances into something actually digestible. And she’s smart. She just knows stuff.
I got a call from her a few days ago, just checking in with me. Obviously, she had read my recent blog posts and thought it wise to see how close to the edge I was really teetering. The minute I heard her voice, I felt better. You see, she looks after kids. ALL DAY. And two of them are her own. So there is no one more qualified than her in my entire world to tell it to me straight.
So she told it to me straight.
She gave me the truth.
She gave me advice.
She gave me similar, and worse, stories than my own.
And all the while, she was laughing. Not vindictively, but because it is just all so absurd. This parenting gig.
Just because it is the craziest, most shocking ride you will ever go on.
Just because, when you look back, it actually is so funny.
Just because she knew.
She told me her three rules of parenting which I have now scribbled across the blackboard in our lounge room. The blackboard which sits next to a clock, because friends, if there is any place my eyes fall upon regularly each day, it’s that clock.
What used to be on the blackboard was this:
But whatever, Joel. Yeah you work hard, don’t we all. TIME TO MOVE ON, ALREADY.
I had my worst Mummy moment earlier this week. I had Ella screaming into my ears non-stop for hours. I was so incredibly exhausted, and there were tears streaming down my face as I paced the floors for the millionth time, cursing her to sleep and saying (sobbing) out-loud: I am in my happy place. I am in my happy place. I AM IN MY HAPPY PLACE.
Well, friends, there was no happy place. It was snowing there. Dark, cold and wet. Even my happy place was on strike, so I sobbed some more. I smartly put Ella somewhere safe, walked outside the room and yelled, ever-so-loudly, all my built up frustration and exhaustion and desperation into the open space of the lounge room. I was gone. Completely unable to snap myself out of it. Completely unable to talk any kind of logic or positivity. Completely unable to last a second longer.
Somehow, I lasted. But it broke me for the rest of the week.
Hence the call. From the lovely Tanya.
So now, every time I’m having a bad day, I look at those words. They help. Mostly I think, because I picture Tanya in a situation similar to mine, trying with all her might not to lose her s***, saying these mantras out loud, desperately, like they are the last bit of heroin a junkie upturns her room looking to find. And clinging onto the words with quivering hands like it’s the last shred of hope before crossing ‘the threshold’. And it makes me laugh.
Because I’m not alone.
And because it’s really just so absurd. This parenting gig.
And because, when you look back, it really is so funny.
The day after she called me, she sent me this message:
From one mother who often visits ‘the edge’ to another who has set up a temporary base camp there, here is a sampler of some great quotes from my parenting journal which you yesterday inspired me to write in and which today I reread and laughed out loud at a few things that at the time made me want to cry. There will soon be laughter, I promise.
“Children can be awe-inspiringly horrible; manipulative, aggressive, rude and unfeeling to a point where I often think that, if armed they would make up the most terrifying fighting force the world has ever seen.” Jill Tweedie.
“The first half of our life is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children.” Clarence Darrow.
“Families are about love overcoming emotional torture.” Matt Groening
“There are times when parenthood seems nothing but feeding the mouth that bites you.” Peter de Vries.
I couldn’t help but laugh.
Love and solidarity right back at you, Tanya. May the bad days be scared of us.