The Temper Trap March 20 2015

I had long planned to write this month’s blog about my somewhat failing grasp on my temper. On the volcanic outbursts I find myself having at the children over small microscopic things like getting out of the house on time (never), with clean teeth (mostly), and shoes (quite often). But then something so incredibly awful happened that it stopped me in my tracks (let’s admit it, probably my trackie daks) and sent me running to my bed for a curl-up crying session.

I don’t want to write about it. I don’t want to talk about it. Especially not so publicly but I almost feel I need to name and shame. Myself.

March is our month of madness. We lurch from Dougal’s birthday (and I am first to admit I have a propensity to over plan and get a little to ‘into’ my kids’ birthdays and their parties) to two big weekends of country shows where we run around like crazy people in cowboy boots, with small children, big horses and all other sorts of animals, craft and cooking paraphernalia. In short they are long weekends spent away from home. And any time at home is spent planning to not be there. So domestically over this period I deserve probably a D for dodgy. I can’t recall if I vacuumed last week and I haven’t had a mop for a month since my husband used it to scrub down his new horse float... but I did manage to scrape together clean clothes for every body every day and we didn’t run out of nappies or toilet paper so I thought I did okay.

Until on Thursday after a day at work and general rushing about, my son came home from school with all his possessions in a plastic bag. Odd I thought. Something must have spilled in his bag. However my husband couldn’t quite look at me. And Campbell was rabbiting on something about ‘magnets eating my spare socks’.

Maggots. He meant maggots. Some of Wednesday’s ham sandwich had fallen out of his lunch box into the deep dark depths of his school bag and it had blown. There was an army of maggots on the march. The whole bottom of his bag was moving when he went to retrieve his lunch box. And his teacher, a woman I have known and admired for several years had had to clean out his bag, salvage the spare uniform and a few matchbox cars and bag them up. And another mother on canteen duty bought him an ice cream to cheer him up.

I died a thousand deaths of shame and embarrassment. I shrunk inside. I dry retched, because maggots at the best of times are so horrific. Let alone in a school bag. Yes, I can feel you all recoiling from your screens, but don’t panic, my poor parenting isn’t contagious.

I always check his bag for rubbish and scraps. Every night. But not this Wednesday. I was too busy cutting out 150 small daisies for a bloody cake to put in our local show. I was too busy checking all my jams were properly labelled. I was too busy making sure the children’s matchy matchy riding clothes were all neatly lined up so I could get a photo and post it to social media and wait for people to like it and say how good a ‘farm mum’ I am becoming.

I am so mortified in myself I have been dodging pick up. I can’t bear the thought of seeing his teacher or other parents who might have heard about Campbell’s bug collection. I wish we were in a big big school in a big big town. Where people didn’t know me. Where I could be anonymous until my shame subsides.

I am the ‘make my own play dough and do all my own baking’ kind of mum. I sign up for playgroup, for committees, for working bees, for reading groups. I have an amazing mum and I want to live up to her pikelets-and-milkshakes-everyday-after-school-standards. You can’t kill my enthusiasm with a stick. But somewhere in all of this ‘busying’ I dropped the ball on the basics.

And I am so sorry to my son.

The creepy crawly bag was actually the second cross for the week. The day before courtesy of a communication mishap neither my husband or I was there to collect him off the bus. I missed it by less than a minute, but never the less I had to follow it back to school and collect a very down little boy. Not a biggie, but still not great either.

The third and final black mark was actually quite comical. But could have lasting implications and lead to a lot of very expensive psychiatric bills. In yet another example of maybe just pushing it one step too far, during our local show we entered our identically dressed children and their only slightly manicured pony in a class for ‘best children’s pony’ which was to be demonstrated by not less than three children riding it at the one time. I had dreamt of this for many years as being the perfect photographic opportunity for our perfect little family. It would make the annual calendar, be framed on the family portrait wall and be posted out to all the great aunts and distant relatives.

Until it rained cats and dogs and we were all soggy. And the beautiful red hand knitted vests from the great grandmother began leaching dye into the children’s white shirts. And the pony had had enough and began to snort. And Elsie began to throw a major screaming fit, pushing and shoving the boys because she doesn’t like sharing anything, let alone the pony. And Dougal began to wail because he had had enough too and just wanted to get back to the car and watch Frozen on the DVD player for the nineteen-hundredth time.

And then the pony really really had enough as we paraded our screaming trio around the muddy ring… and she pig rooted. She dropped her back legs and then kicked them out. And the children screamed louder… and began gradually, in a slow-mo disaster kind of fashion to cascade off the pony’s side. Josh plucked Elsie from the front. I caught Dougal at the back and Campbell, bless him, slid awkwardly down the pony’s side until he landed, pressed cream pants on his bottom in the mud. And I turned to the crowd and curtseyed. And then we slunk slowly away…. Enough was enough. On the upside we got a blue ribbon for our efforts - maybe because we were the only ones in the class and the judge took pity on us. On the downside Campbell now wants to know why no one tried to save him. Yep, that’s awkward!

So the lesson I have learnt this month in all the chaos, cooking, creating, and crafting; meetings, menus and masquerading; hosting, hosing and horsing is less is indeed more. I don’t want to be the mother who says ‘yes of course I make my own playdough,’ implying I spend hours moulding miniatures, when all I do is make it and then throw it down on the play table and leave the kids to it. I don’t want to be the parent who misses the pick-ups and gets the tear laden questioning stare of ‘where were you?’. I don’t want to be the mum so caught up in meetings about the kids’ entertainment and education that I actually forget to be part of that education and entertainment.

I took the chance to forget about the pay for a few years and be ‘a stay at home mum’. I didn’t want to miss out on the play and playing the primary care role in their lives. Yet in all this rushing and rousing my parenting is often being outsourced anyway, and more often than I would like to admit to a screen.

So after a month of mayhem I now pledge to have a month of play and pleasure. Of slowing down. Of un-committing. Not forward planning the future and pushing away the now. I will appreciate April and everything my little Easter bunnies want to do. Of course, within the usual schedule of school, swimming, and soccer… But I don’t want to lose the living in search of having a life.

I hope I haven’t grossed you all out so much at the start of this piece that no one reads to the bottom. Apologies again. Especially if you were eating or planning to eat. Today I went to town and bought Campbell a new school bag. Everything from the old one was washed in Detol. I like to think we have all been cleansed and can now start afresh. xx