Something I’ve noticed about parenthood is the immediacy of it. The urgency. Of course there are moments of calm, when your child is happily engaged and you can relax and enjoy watching their pleasure. And there’s nap time. But in between those times, the incessant demand, need and noise can become completely overwhelming.
It’s so easy in those moments to get locked in. To let your jaw set, furrow your brow and dive right into the melee. To keep on shushing the baby who just won’t sleep, to lock horns with the toddler who insists that banging your laptop with a hammer is the only conceivable way to have fun, to argue back with the child who tells you you’re wrong. And of course then it ramps up a level, your heart rate increases, your adrenaline surges, maybe you finally lose your temper and then it’s all just a big pile of snot and tears (including yours).
What can be hard to realise, especially as a first time parent, is how transient these moments are. It’s almost impossible to realise that the sleepless baby will one day kiss you goodnight and potter off to bed alone, the hammering toddler will become a sensitive child who can set their own boundaries, the argumentative child will become a questioning, assertive teenager. And even before that, maybe the next nap time will be better, the toddler will lose interest in the hammer, the child will be cheered with a cuddle and a compromise.
We can’t see into the future, but when the tricky moments feel intolerable we can remember that they won’t last. Maybe it’s too much to expect that we enjoy the intense moments as much as the calm ones, but they all merge together to create the complicated, wonderful path of your child’s life. And what we can do is increase our resources to deal with it all. There’s some great tips here. And one simple trick is, in those moments, to consciously take a breath, lower your shoulders, loosen your jaw and smooth out your brow – if you show your body you’re not stressed, it will listen. Failing that, there’s always gin.