Parenting: Will I Always Be One Beat Behind?

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It was like being in a cool band where she was the lead guitarist and I was the drummer; Freya brought the melody, excitement and showmanship but I provided the beat for her to follow.

I was looking forward to getting back to that over the Christmas holiday – the first proper break she’s had since starting school full time in September (we went away at half term) – but I think we had what can safely be described as some “creative differences”.

While I was playing pop music, Freya strayed into heavily metal. We tried to jam together but we sounded terrible – and like a lot of bands, felt like going our separate ways.

I’ve read so many Tweets and comments from parents saying how much they hated their children going back to school today. Before the holidays I thought I would be among them but, frankly, not only did I want her to go back to school, she couldn’t wait either.

And that makes me really, really sad.

Motherhood isn’t for everyone – and, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve questioned whether it should have been for me. Maybe those two loses before Freya were actually someone, somewhere, telling me I wasn’t cut out for it? I know that’s a silly thing to say but her first year was hard, hard work. We came out the other side stronger and even as I struggled I knew just how privileged I was to get this chance.  As she grew, our relationship did too. We had fun, we explored, learned together – even surviving the terrible twos relatively intact.

Then it was time for school – something that she was ready for, even if I wasn’t.

She has loved most of it and perhaps I was naive to think that we could just slot back into our old band when we’ve both being doing some solo stuff for a while now.

Over Christmas, we still went out and explored, splashed in muddy puddles, had playdates and enjoyed ourselves but when we were at home it seemed like she missed the schedule of school, of having a million things to do and right at her finger tips. We would paint and cook and craft and play and have iPad time and read but, whereas before that would be spread across the day (or more like different days), this time she was done in 15 minutes (from 5am).

I know that some of it was just the excitement of Christmas but there were several points where I just thought ‘I have no clue what to do now’ and because of that she went into meltdown. The last couple of weeks have not been my finest as a parent. After she had gone to bed, I would look at her, peacefully asleep ,and the guilt was almost overwhelming. It felt like that first year all over again.

Just when I thought I was getting the hang of it and keeping a steady rhythm, the song changes and I’m left a beat behind again.

The thing is, I want to be in our band but I’m not really a fan of heavy metal and it doesn’t seem like she enjoys pop anymore so I’m not sure where that leaves us? Maybe we need to explore some other genres.

Anyone know anything about jazz?

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The “24 Month Questionnaire” – a test of her skills…or mine?

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Question: When it comes to tests do you?

  1. Dislike them intensely.
  2. Hate them with every fibre of your being.
  3. Feel like you would rather cut off your own arm with a blunt knife than sit one?

My answer? None of the above accurately depicts my absolute and utter horror at having to sit exams (and now, see, I haven’t answered the question properly and so I’ve failed. Just one of the reasons I hate them so much).

Thankfully, being 39 and qualified in my chosen profession, I thought I was well beyond the need to take tests – and then the 24 Month Questionnaire from the health visitor plopped on to the doormat.

I was pretty calm, at first.

“It’s not a test,” I told myself. “It’s just to check that Freya is roughly where they think she ought to be, developmentally, for her age. And, even if it was a test, it’s not me under the microscope, it’s her. Right?”

Right.

WRONG.

I believed that right up until question six.

“Can your child string small items such as beads, macaroni, or pasta “wagon wheels” on to a string or shoelace?”

I had to read it three times before the penny finally dropped; this one isn’t about her skills at all, it’s testing me.

I ran through the list.

Do we have:

Beads? Surely a choking hazard?

Macaroni? No.

Pasta “wagon wheel”? I honestly don’t even know what that is.

String? Erm, no.

Shoelace? Come on, we MUST have a shoelace. YES! Finally a win. I even overlooked the fact that it was coated in mud so thick that it was almost double the size.

Ok, great. Now what can I (she) thread?

I know, penne pasta.

I’d taken the time to unlace the shoe and given it a quick wet wipe but it soon became clear that it was too big to go through the pasta.

Right, think again.

I riffled through the drawers and after considering using a USB cable I finally came across some ribbon. Success!

Well, not quite.

Freya was sat at the dining table looking at me expectantly. My plan was to show her what to do once and then hand it over.

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Seriously, it took me five minutes to get one threaded. If I can’t do it how is she expected to?

Although, actually, that no longer mattered because I’d taken so long she’d got bored, taken a handful of pasta and wandered off (is the next question about her concentration? Argh).

Ok, test masquerading as a questionnaire, you’ve proven your point. Freya’s growth is being hampered by my lacklustre pantry.

What about points for ‘thinking outside the box”? For having some pasta even if it’s not the right sort? I have a good mind to put some of my own questions on the form (surely that’s what the notes section is made for?).

Before I do that I think I’ll just go and stock up on rotelle, macaroni and some new shoelaces – you never know when you might need them.