I found last summer difficult. Being a stay-at-home-parent who also works from home brings with it an entirely new juggle, never more keenly felt than during the summer holidays. On broaching this topic the previous year, I was met with considerable backlash.
Branded everything from a ‘bad mother’ to ‘ungrateful’, the question was raised: “Why did she have kids in the first place?”
It was a harsh lesson learned in regards to the realities of the internet and completely sent the notion of ‘we are all in this together’, down the proverbial, digital Swanee. This year, things have taken a decided turn for the better. My husband noted the change also. On returning from work one evening, he could barely contain his bewilderment, observing: “I don’t get it. None of you are crying!”
“I know,” said I. “I don’t understand it either.”
I cannot pinpoint the exact moment things suddenly became less taxing. It was almost overnight, or so it seemed, that the whining seemed to be less frequent. They also became more independent, requiring our help for fewer and fewer tasks.
They were tolerant that my window of working, which was normally during school hours, was now reduced for the next number of weeks and occupied themselves by playing outdoors either with friends or, shock, horror…with each other. Whereas before, I had found myself crossing off the days on the calendar, counting down to the advent of summer camps with the frenzied glee of a child counting down the days to their birthday, I now realised that I hadn’t given them a second thought.
This was surely the ‘golden age’, where they could do little tasks and occupy themselves, but were still willing to engage in conversation during the evenings. Maybe this was the gift bestowed upon you to ease you into the teenage years, so as to look fondly back on those moments to steer you through the fog of hormones, sweat, and believing parents are little more than an ATM.
Lest you think we were the picture of familial bliss likened to The Waltons, that was indeed not the case. There were still days where the familiar refrain of ‘I’m bored!’ ricocheted back and forth between them like a tennis ball during the Wimbledon showdown.
But those instances, where once in the majority, were now firmly in the minority. What they did hone their development of, however, was their skill of negotiation.
As parents, you pretty much spend an inordinate and wasteful amount of time worrying about messing your children up. The daily grind of arguments, school-runs, homework, and the general daily minutiae occupy every waking second, leaving you to then drum up ludicrous and fretful scenarios once they are asleep.
Your children know this. They will capitalise on your unconditional and enduring love for them and use it to their advantage. My daughter started harnessing the above at a far earlier stage than my son. For her fourth birthday, she received a gift of a crayon set.
You can imagine my surprise and suspicion when two days after receiving it, our walls still remained devoid of lurid scrawls. Until that evening, as I turned on the TV and noticed the waxy residue on the screen, of dozens upon dozens of furiously-etched circles. There was only one culprit.
When questioned the next morning, she looked me dead straight in the eye and said:
Did you see me do it? No. So you can’t prove it was me.
This was the moment I knew I had met my match. As I confiscated the crayons, she barely cast a glance. She knew she was the culprit. I knew she was the culprit. Yet she had wormed her way out of it by blatantly lying.
Fast forward a few years, and the fibbing has evolved to negotiating, the level of which would put even the most dubious politician to shame. They have garnered a broader vocabulary and know how to bide their time. They also know they have got you right where they want you when your only response remaining is “because I said so”. So now, you add to the worry bank that you may well in fact be raising compulsive liars and emotional manipulators because you are continually messing them up. Until at dinner one evening, my son remarked the following to our daughter: “You can’t say that. It’s sexist.”
“Ugggh! Like you even know what ‘sexist’ means.”
“It means judging someone based on their gender. So, just cop onto yourself.”
I glanced at my husband, smirked, and thought: “Well, if they’re going to try and best one another instead of us, we may stand a chance after all.”