Why it’s ok to lose it at your kid (occasionally)

When your child is a blameless baby you cannot imagine being angry with it.

You hear mothers and fathers expressing exasperation at how annoying their kids are, how guilty they felt for shouting the other day, how they had to dish out a smack and felt awful.

‘Your kids are obviously horrible Supernanny candidates,’ you think to yourself as your six-month-old gurgles and grins and bats a few dangly toys about.

Then one day when your child is a toddler or older you will suddenly flip and go completely fucking apeshit and scream at it and possibly even smack it on the bum or the leg.

Even later, at nine or ten months as your kid revs up to be a bit more angry at the world about not being able to crawl or walk or fit this lid on that box, having small arch-backed fits about getting in the buggy or the car seat, you stay calm and think, ‘See, I am so calm with my slightly annoying child. I will never shriek at or smack it. I am a terrific parent.’

Then one day when your child is a toddler or older you will suddenly flip and go completely fucking apeshit and scream at it and possibly even smack it on the bum or the leg.

Who knows what the trigger will be? Maybe another baby has arrived and you are completely exhausted and the older one hits you in the face with a toy or keeps saying ‘Can I have a knife to cut?’ while pointing guilelessly at the Japanese sushi sabre hanging on the wall, or sullenly knocks over a bowl of food or snack that you have just handed it because it is somehow incorrect in colour, amount or presentation style.

You will boil over and shout and shout and shout at the tiny child. And the tiny child will either cry or go pale and look scared or, if you’ve got one like mine, blow you a massive raspberry and shout back, ‘Don’t do a horrible talk to me!!!’

Either way, the sky will not fall on your head because of it. You will feel bad, of course. But a small part of you will also feel a sense of release.

The child, you rage internally, must understand that it has pushed you to the edge and when that happens, it gets shouted at or a smacked bottom. This is the limit, this is the boundary, this is where your patience ends. Because your children will wind you up to infinity and beyond. They will drive you fucking crackers.

You may decide early on that you will never, ever smack your children. You may have ideas about how, when you lose control and shout at your child, they have won and you have lost, and also that by smacking them you are reinforcing the idea that smacking is okay – hitting is an option.

You may be confused about the law and believe that smacking is illegal and you will be slammed in prison for it. You may arrange with your husband that you, the mother, are allowed to dish out a smack in extraordinary circumstances but that the father must never raise a hand to a child, ever.

It recalibrates in your mind what constitutes ‘annoying’ and you are consequently so much more zen

You may be overwhelmed with three highly energetic, willful and insanely creative children, and walloping them pretty much constantly is the only way to impose any kind of control or order.

But whatever you decide about discipline – smacking or not, naughty step or not – one thing is for certain: you will at some point completely and totally lose your mind with rage after you have kids.

Personally, I think it’s a good thing – it recalibrates in your mind what constitutes ‘annoying’ and you are consequently so much more zen about flight delays, builders, traffic jams and work demands.

I used to fly off the handle at a moment’s notice when I was an angry young woman, but now I can keep a cool head in even the most aggravating situations (I mean, as long as none of my children are involved).

This extract is taken from Esther Walker’s new book Bad Mother. If you can’t wait for the next instalment, buy and download the whole book here

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