I’ve gone out Christmas shopping with the best intentions and my daughter has displayed her defiant, complicated, clever and independent nature by doing the opposite of what I wanted and I have shouted. Loudly. In front of people.
Carols are playing in the background. Shop fronts depict charming displays of christmassy loveliness and here we stand amongst it – a small tantrumming child and me with my red faced fury. I’ve got a loud voice at the best of times but I think this time I might have actually shattered a few windows.
I’m not proud of it. I have known all along that shouting wouldn’t work, it’s just that in the moment of frustration my brain won’t do the new thing of waiting and not fuelling the fire. It reverts straight back to it’s reaction of choice – anger, and trying to unlearn that stuff is really really hard work. My brain protests in indignation at the unfairness of having to do it after all these years of coping this way.
I had imagined this Christmas as a picture postcard of me and my daughter laughing gaily as we make snow angels and decorate the tree yet here I am I’m barging huffily through the crowds and finding it hard not to grit my teeth as I buy some crackers.
“Are you happy now?” My daughter asks meekly as we finally clamber into the car, and I feel ashamed. I had no idea that having a child would bring up so much stuff in my own psyche. It’s like a mirror being held up and I sometimes squirm at what I see. “Yes darling, I’m fine.” I say. “I’m sorry for shouting, I’m just a bit tired today. Shall we go home and play a game?”. Her eyes light up and she gives me the biggest smile. “I love you Mummy” she says, and I feel like someone is squeezing my heart. I literally melt right there on the spot. She is the best thing that ever happened to me and I love her so much. I don’t want to be a shouty parent. I take a breath and remind myself of all the laughing and mucking about we also do together. It’s not an all or nothing situation. I just need to keep working on trying to be a bit gentler on both of us, which is easier said than done.