This morning, I was pondering a word that sums up parenthood. This was obviously in the nano-seconds that occurred between throwing porridge in the general direction of E, assembling rain coats and school bags and chasing B around the kitchen table brandishing his shoes and trying not be irritated by the fact that he clearly thought this was the best game he’d played since 4.30am this morning, when he was wide awake and trying to gouge my right eyeball out using only his forefinger and a smattering of dribble.
Fulfilling. Enlightening. Joyous. Inspiring. Affirming. Nope, none of these words sprung to mind when I considered parenthood. Once I had worked my way through a number of swearwords, one word remained: Confusion. Later, I looked up the definition of confusion (let me clarify: fatigue may have dulled my mental facilities, but I did remember what confusion meant, I just wanted help putting the words in the right order), and the first entry I came across read:
‘Lack of understanding, uncertainty. A situation of panic; a breakdown of order.’
Now, if that is not the perfect explanation of parenthood, I don’t know what is. But then I probably don’t know what is, because being a parent, I am in a perpetual state of confusion.
I find myself confused a lot. And Confusion is not just content with hanging around like a house guest that has not only over-stayed its welcome, but also seems to have unpacked its suitcase and put its toothbrush in the cup next to the sink. Confusion makes you shrug a lot as you look at your one year old screaming and wonder quite what the hell is wrong with him, and then before even have time to scratch your chin, quickly introduces its best friend, Guesswork, who appears to have slipped in through the back door when you weren’t looking.
Perhaps my son is teething, I guess, as I look at my crying son, reaching for the Calpol. Or maybe I have given him my sore throat, I muse, shaking the Calpol bottle. Although it could be a viral thing, I shrug, but open the bottle of Calpol anyway. I suppose it could be something else entirely, I think, as he swallows a dose of the strawberry loveliness and then continues to scream anyway. Maybe it is life threatening. Should I take him to A&E? Or perhaps just a cold? Or possibly he is just bored and screaming is a good way to pass some time.
I am confused about what stage B should be at in his development. Should he be feeding himself by now, I wonder at lunchtime. Probably not, I decide (spot the advanced level of guesswork at work here). At which point he commandeers the fork from me, spears a piece of chicken and pops it in his mouth, looking at me with those ‘you really are a twat, aren’t you, mummy’ eyes.
I am confused about his needs. He points and babbles in a very determined way, but most of the time, I have not got a clue about what he is after. So confused was I yesterday by his vehement pointing, I traced the line of his finger direction like a forensic scientist tracking the path of a bullet, holding up every object in its trajectory, but he just shook his head and grunted more loudly, waggling his forefinger in the air. In the end, I offered up the fridge, a door, the light bulb and some floor fluff in a desperate attempt to find out what he really wanted. It turns out that time, he had something stuck to the tip of his finger that he needed me to remove. It looked like a bogey, but hey, I’m just guessing.
I am confused about why my four year old can be breathtakingly well behaved, offering to wash up and tidy away his toys (I did have to ask him twice to repeat that last one, so astonished was I), only to be found face down on the floor screaming about the unfairness of it all three seconds later. I rarely find out the exact cause of the meltdowns, but with a recent incident, I am guessing (there I go again) it was me and my big mouth having the audacity to say something contentious like ‘let’s take your library books back this afternoon’. I know. What a bitch.
I am confused as to why my one year old wakes up in the dead of night, then is quite happy to spend the next hour staring, wide-eyed at me through the cot bars, only screaming loud enough to peel wallpaper the moment I threaten to leave. Actually, I was confused about this. Now I am just mightily pissed off.
I am confused by my son’s questions. No, I don’t know what slugs eat. I don’t know why electricity is invisible. I am not sure he is right that there is good oxygen and bad oxygen, but then again, I am not sure. Let’s just leave it as a ‘probably’, shall we, and move onto safer ground like what we are having for dinner.
They say there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. Although when I first heard this adage, I heard it as death and taxis. Which seemed a little less profound than people seemed to give it credit for but pretty realistic, as anyone who has tried to hail a black cab on a Friday night in London will contest.
However, it seems there is only one certainty in parenthood: Confusion. I checked back on the definition of this word. To clarify the aforementioned definition, the online dictionary I used gives the following example:
“The shaken survivors retreated in confusion.”
Which pretty much says everything I wanted to say about parenthood in six words. I not only rest my case, I lock it in an underground chest constructed of reinforced concrete and go and lie down in a darkened room for a while. You know, just to have a few more guesses about my children.