The only way to actually understand children is to accept that you don’t understand them at all. Not really. Think back to all of the weird shit you used to say and do and believe when you were a kid. Does it make sense to you now? No. Of course it doesn’t. You believed in the tooth fairy, didn’t you? An entity whose sole purpose in life is to collect teeth from beneath the pillows of sleeping children and… do exactly what with them? Make a necklace? When you think about it, the concept of the tooth fairy is really fucking weird and creepy. But when you were a kid it wasn’t, and usually she/he left you money, so who cares?
At the moment, O believes that when he is very naughty his cuddly rabbit, Bab Bab, runs away from home because he is sad. He also believes that if he is very, very good for the rest of the day, Bab Bab will return at bed time and let himself in through a window using a special key. What really happens to Bab Bab is that he is hidden somewhere in the house and I spend the whole day hoping I can remember where I’ve put him. If I was O, I would want to know where Bab Bab goes and who looks after him and how come he has a key which fits every door and window lock in the house when nobody else does. I’d be very puzzled by the idea that Bab Bab’s floppy little legs are capable of running away in the first place, never mind how he made it back home when we “left” him in B&Q car park after a car seat related shit fit (He was in the glove compartment the whole time. Obviously). But O doesn’t care; as long as his friend comes home, he has no interest in where he has been or how he got back, no matter how implausible the concept might be.
I don’t get why kids fight sleep when they’re tired. Why don’t they just give in? Sleep is awesome. I don’t understand why F will happily snack on cat food, yet he turns his nose up at 80% of the finger foods I offer him. Especially when he’s just seen me eat the same thing and should know that it is not poisoned. I cannot get my head around why both of my kids repeatedly do insanely dangerous shit when I have told them a million times to stop climbing stuff and trying to run off in the middle of every car park. Seriously. How hard is it really?
Well, pretty much everything is insanely hard when you’re a kid. Remember when you couldn’t tie your shoelaces or brush your teeth or figure out how to use a knife and a fork at the same time? That’s the thing; it’s actually really hard to recall a time when all of the things you can do now seemed literally impossible. That’s why being a parent is so unbearably frustrating sometimes. I have days – usually when I am tired – when it’s all I can do not to mutter “just put your fucking shoes on” after O has asked me for the gazillionth time which one goes on which foot. Sometimes I forget that it’s not easy for him because he’s only three. And sometimes it doesn’t occur to me that he’s only being an asshole because he’s tired or hungry or frustrated.
Sometimes, it’s really easy for me to beat myself up about not immediately understanding why some things are so difficult for my kids. I get irritated with myself for snapping at them about stupid things they do, even though I know that it’s only because I love them so much. And I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true; I don’t want them to hurt themselves or be hurt by anything else. But kids are kids. They don’t see the world the way adults do. For a child, the world isn’t fraught with danger; it’s new and exciting and full of stuff to do and see and explore. Sleeping means missing out on stuff and sitting down to eat means having to stop playing. We can’t see the world the way our children do a lot of the time because we couldn’t keep them safe if we did. And I think that’s probably okay, as long as we can do that while still helping them to develop their imaginations and get excited about life and the world around them. I think that’s a huge part of our job as parents.
As for me, I probably need to find a little more patience every now and again and remind myself of the limitations of my childrens’ abilities. I may not be able to stand in their shoes, but at least I can help them put them on so we can just leave the bloody house already.