Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

There are many reasons I would like to live in a detached house, and my children are two of them.

Dear Next-Door-Neighbour,

Thank you for banging on the wall during bedtime.  I can only assume you somehow believed I hadn’t noticed that Small Girl had been having a tantrum at top volume for the past forty minutes or so.  Although I would also then have to assume that you are a moron.  I’m prepared to go with this.

Or possibly you thought that I didn’t give a shit that my child was clearly distraught?  But then, why would you expect me to be bothered about you?  Your reasoning is, quite frankly, illogical.

I suppose the final possibility is that you were annoyed by the screaming (which I can quite understand – I wasn’t really enjoying the experience either) and decided to vent it by thumping on the wall.  What you actually achieved was scaring my three-year-old, who was quite alarmed by loud banging noises coming from the walls.  Way to go. You’re clearly a hero.  Let’s hope you haven’t given her nightmares.

Actually, and not that I feel particularly obliged to explain myself to you, Small Girl had been away from me for three nights while she was at her dad’s.  I can only assume that this was a bit challenging for her.  She’s only two, so she struggles to deal with all the different emotions going on, and tantrums are her way of expressing that.  Not that she has them very often, so banging on the wall seems somewhat disproportionate.

This takes me back to the last time you banged on the wall.  Actually, there have been a few.  When she was around 4 or 5 months old and would wake in the night and scream, going from 0-60 in a few seconds, and I could find no way to quieten her, and didn’t dare take her downstairs as I was frightened she would wake her sister, you used to bang on the wall.  I appreciated your intervention then even more than I do now – as a newly-single parent to two small children, sleep-deprived and grieving the loss of my marriage, I was delighted to also have to worry about you banging on the wall.

I’ve also appreciated your willingness to talk to me about this.  I am actually very aware of the noise my children make because I have (a) ears and (b) respect for my neighbours.  So I decided to come and speak to you about it after you banged on the wall at 9 am one day.  I knew you were up because you had just banged on the wall, so I hoped you would answer the door.  When you refused to do this, I put a note through your door outlining the impact your banging was having on me and asking you to come and speak to me.  You returned the note having scrawled threats to call social services if I continued to neglect my child and leave her to cry at all times of the day and night.  I would have been impressed by your x-ray vision and ability to see what was happening in my house ‘at all times of the day and night’, if it weren’t for the fact that I wasn’t actually neglecting either child.

I’m not really sure what you expect me to do when my child is having a tantrum – which, while loud, are not that frequent.  I could cut her vocal cords, I suppose (could I? Could I? Is that even physically possible?) but that would be cruel, illegal and unnecessary, and she wouldn’t be able to talk any more.  I could put a bag over her head every time she cries, but that could suffocate her and I hope you’ll agree that that isn’t an ideal outcome.  Of course, if you’d like me to stop her crying as soon as she starts I could give her what she wants every time she cries.  But bear in mind that you’ll be living next door to the nine-year-old from hell in seven years.  Or I could keep doing what I’m doing, which is responding to her needs while trying to ignore the tantrum, and helping her to feel as loved and secure as possible.

Of course, if you are actually concerned for my children’s wellbeing, feel free to ring Social Services. Explain to them that you live next door to two small children and you think they are neglected because they occasionally cry and have tantrums.  They may *sound* like they are taking you seriously, but I know they have real concerns to deal with.  Or, if you think my children’s behaviour constitutes serious nuisance, ask to speak to the antisocial behaviour team.  Again, I’ll be interested to hear how you get on.  You can contact either team by ringing the local council.

Or alternatively, you can fuck off.

Thanks.

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Roll out the bunting, I’m feeling irritated

My children are wildly irritating.  They have irritated me all day.  They have irritated me nearly all week.  So, so, irritating.

On Thursday, when they came back from their dad’s, I thought it was because they’d had a late night at his house, and then a nap during the day, and that they were a bit unsettled by only having one night at his house when normally they had two.  That could explain them playing up.

On Friday, I assumed it was because we’d all had a bad night the night before.  I hardly slept.  Big Girl slept a bit.  Small Girl slept more than I did, but less that she should.  So we were all tired.  That would explain how annoying they were being.

By this morning, after a decent night’s sleep, with a good day ahead of us, when I couldn’t bear my children to sit on my lap, ask for a drink, ask for a cuddle, or talk to me, I realised that the problem *might* not be with them.  It’s ok, Big Girl and Small Girl: it’s not you, it’s me.

I am guessing that I have PMT.  This has not happened for five years.  Five years of pregnancy, post-natal depression, another pregnancy, chronic tiredness and then the pile of shit my life turned into when Ex-Husband left – finally I am happy enough to notice PMT.  My life is now good enough that I can be unhappy and find nothing which could explain it.

Of course, I feel like a bad parent.  I have been grumpy with my children.  I have not been fun to be with.  I have spent the past few days wishing someone would come and take them away, because being unkind to my children is excruciating.  And now someone is coming to take them away – tomorrow they are going back to Ex-Husband’s house for three nights.  I will miss them and I will be filled with guilt for not forcing myself to be kinder and more patient, and remorse for wasting my lovely time with them.

But still, at least my children are not irritating.  It’s just me.

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I have tidied my kitchen and now I can conquer the world

I am not a tidy person.  I like being untidy.  It’s probably your basic teenage rebellion extended by about twenty years too many.  In my defence, however, I’ve always found that I can either spend time keeping my desk tidy or I can spend time working, but I really can’t manage both, and I *think* I know which my manager would prefer.

However, the sort of mess you create when you’re a student (yes, 5-month-old letters.  Yes, my housemate’s plate.  Yes, books I’ve borrowed from the library and forgotten to return.  But ask me where anything is and I can tell you) is quite different to the sort of mess your two-year-old and three-year-old create.  Somehow, mess is just less fun when it’s not your own (This may be what Ex-Husband was trying to tell me shortly before he left).

So finally I gave in and tidied my kitchen.  I realised that most of the mess was static.  It was just on my kitchen table because I hadn’t yet put it away.  It wasn’t particularly growing, apart from the occasional piece of post added to the pile.  It wasn’t doing anything useful.  It was just stuff on my table.  And some toys on the floor, and bits of fluff and some bags of things which should have been in the cellar – nothing which couldn’t be easily thrown away or tidied away.

So now I have: a clear kitchen table.  An (almost) clear floor.  Clear worktops.  And my washing up done every evening (almost).  And I feel very proud of myself.

More than that: I feel in control of my life.  There’s something good about knowing there are no surprises lurking at the bottom of the pile on the table.  And there’s something about knowing I’m keeping my kitchen tidy (yes, we’re on day four now.  I may regret writing this, some time around Tuesday, I suspect) that makes me feel I can manage the rest of my life as well.

Work feels more settled – I explored some career-changing possibilities and came back to work feeling it’s probably the right place for me for a while, and I feel much happier.  I can’t remember the last time I thought my children should go and live with Ex-Husband because they would be happier with him.  I’m starting to stick to a budget which means I’m not spending more money than I actually have.  I plan meals more than an hour in advance.  I’ve, very sadly, stepped down from my NCT voluntary role ‘to spend more time with my family’ – and I like the feeling of freedom.  Oh yes, and last night we all slept all night in our own beds.  I think, finally, my life is stabilising – and I feel happy.

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