Today was probably the toughest parenting moment I have had in the 653 days since becoming a mother. I know I have said this before and I will no doubt say it several times again over my lifetime, but today almost broke me. No, actually – it did break me.
To give a quick (ish) summary of the events I went to meet a friend at IKEA with Chloe and she had a temper tantrum within seconds of getting out of the car as she didn’t want to hold my hand on the road (something I have been gently teaching her we must do when near a road). She was not a fan of that idea and a 20 minute long tantrum ensued. She was beyond the point of no return mid way through the bedding section so I pulled her into a quiet corner to try to calm her down. She wouldn’t, so naturally I had an anxiety attack and started crying uncontrollably as I didn’t know what to do at this point other than smuggle her under my jumper to muffle her relentless screaming and leg it out the fire exit (as Ikea is like the matrix and you need to find the chosen one before they will let you leave). I pulled myself together with the help of my friend (who I am pretty sure I may never have the courage to see again from pure embarrassment) and we trekked a little further only to have Chloe slide off the trolley and start her tirade again.
I could feel eyes on me, not judging me but feeling sorry for me. I was red and puffy from crying, Chloe was throwing herself around like a wild animal and I think they were just waiting for me to snap and run outta there crying. Which of course is exactly what I did. I gave my friend a hug, picked Chloe up whilst still thrashing herself around ferociously as I felt my eyes welling again and started making my way through the crowd trying to deep breath to stop myself from sobbing uncontrollably (breathing didn’t help, I bawled the whole way out – seriously IKEA, you need an emergency exit for these kinds of scenarios). I was absolutely mortified, I had left my sunglasses in the car so there was no way of hiding my tears and I just wanted the ground to swallow me up. It isn’t the first PDE (public display of emotion) I have had but it was definitely the worst.
There were a few other women in the store close by with their children, one had even said as we walked past her earlier “Oh, I’m just glad it isn’t mine this time” referring to Chloe laying kicking the display ovens screaming her face off. As I made my dramatic exit a few of them had said to me as I rushed past “Aw, you’re doing a great job” with empathetic looks which of course was lovely of them and I truly thank them for their understanding and encouragement, but I couldn’t even stop to give them a thankful nod. I just put my head down in shame and moved faster. I even got a bit of pity from a staff member who let me leave through an actual fire exit, I think she knew the face of a defeated toddler mum.
It didn’t get any better after our escape, Chloe screamed the whole way home and I cracked. I screamed so loud I hurt my own ears and threw my drink bottle at the dash in a frenzie resulting in water spilling through the entire front of the car. I had completely lost my cool and was an emotional wreck which only made Chloe worse. She saw that I was out of control so she didn’t feel safe and spiralled even deeper into hysteria along with me. But through all of this I never once took a second to look at what was happening and realise something wasn’t right. I just got angry and let myself tip over the edge.
After a shower while Chloe was napping to clean off all the bleeding mascara and a bit of reflection time (the sound of running water calms me) I thought I should probably call our GP and rule out any illnesses, quietly trying to convince myself that my child wasn’t broken and that I wouldn’t have to avoid IKEA for the rest of my life. And wouldn’t you know it, double ear infection and bronchilitis! Fuck! Mum guilt set in pretty quick, I cried on the way out of the doctor’s surgery and most of the afternoon. I can’t believe I let myself get so angry at my poor sick babe, I can’t believe I got myself so overwhelmed that I didn’t see that something wasn’t right. I always say Chloe is and always has been an unsettled child but I should have known she was is pain, I should have seen the signs. What kind of mother am I if I can’t even decider normal toddler whining to a horrible double ear infection and a throat infection?! I’m sure all those encouraging mamas in IKEA wouldn’t be cheering me on if they knew what a mum failure I was (queue worlds smallest violin orchestra).
I guess other than a bit of sympathy and reassurance that I’m not the worlds worst mother, all I really wanted from this story share is to show that sometimes us mums tip over that edge we teeter on so often. Sometimes is can be one too many nutritious dinners you slaved over thrown on the floor or the constant droning “muuuuummmm” ringing through your house day in day out – sometimes it all just gets too much and we boil over. But it’s important to remember we are all human, we will all make mistakes and occasionally let ourselves get caught up in the whirlwind of emotions that our children often struggling to control. It doesn’t mean you are the worlds worst mother, mum guilt will most likely wash over you and saturate you with doubt but it will pass. And something that Chloe continues to teach me, your babe will always forgive you because you are their everything.