3 Years, 4 Months, 2 Weeks & 2 Days into Daddyhood

1 Dec 2011

Some days, like today, she’s up far too early – I looked at the screen of my phone at 4.09am. We try and tell her to go back to bed, play in her room for a bit, even to come in with us for a cuddle and a bit more sleep – the latter sometimes works. More often, though, I just end up getting up with her and trying to grab a bit of light snoozery on the sofa.

Last night then, she got just over 10 hours sleep. The previous night she got 11.5 hours. Where’s the pattern? Beats me. Anyway…

I didn’t really want to talk about my little girl’s sleeping patterns – rather the sort of thing that lack of and other (often complex and indiscernable-ish) factors can lead to. Namely, grumpiness, beligerance and tantrums.

This morning, for example, I let her have a bag of crisps after her cereal (I know, not the healthiest, but as I’d woken up so early I fancied some more breakfast myself, and since she’d already eaten a decent portion of Malties and Rice Crackles, I thought she probably wouldn’t eat the whole bag, so I could have what she left). I gave her the bag, which she wanted to have a go at opening herself, so in the name of promoting independence I let her, but she proceeded to (somehow!) pick bits off the crisp packet and drop them on the sofa and floor. Mummy had hoovered the previous day, so I didn’t want darling daughter making a mess, which I tried to calmly explain to her and say that I would show her how to open the bag. She said (beligerently), “No I want to do it” – and refused to relinquish the crisp packet. I continued attempts at negotiation followed by calm insistence and she continued stubborn refusal… and making a mess – well not actually making further mess, but I could see that she would if she continued in the present vein, as she could not, with her 3-year-old’s perspective, see and said, “I won’t now.” Throughout this process, she did in fact temporarily relinquish ownership of the crisp packet a couple of times, but snatched it back when she perceived I was opening it for her rather than showing her how to open it. Did she actually snatch or just strongly assert that the bag should be returned to her? Oh I dunno, it’s all a bit of a blur now. Well anyway…

The crisp situation escalated.

There was shouting and screaming and crying and slapping and removal of crisps to cupboard. This was, incidentally, after she had actually succeeded in opening the crisp packet in the way Daddy had showed her, but refused to say sorry or thankyou or anything.

Things settled down, but not before we had disturbed Mummy’s sleep (and no doubt that of the neighbours). We then cuddled on the sofa, shared the bag of Hula Hoops and watched some telly.

Being somewhat stressed and hyped by these shenanigans, I didn’t get any light sofa snoozery, and there was in fact a continuation of the shenanigans at getting-dressed time, culminating in my leaving the house for work in a rush, while darling daughter was sobbing and virtually begging Daddy for one last kiss and cuddle. I did just about manage to give her one last kiss and cuddle, but…

OMG, the guilt!

I know a parent has to be firm, to establish and assert strong boundaries and such things, but one can guarantee that I will emerge from such a situation mulling and torturing myself over how I could have handled things differently. Especially given the fact that I was tired and consequently not as patient or fair as I might otherwise be. And believe me, my 3-and-a-quarter-year-old little girl is developing a strong sense of fairness! My mulling might go something like this…

Did the bit of (potential) crisp-packet-mess really matter in the grand scheme of things, especially when set against the positive benefits of establishing independence in wanting to open the crisp packet by herself?

Considering that she had (more or less) relented in allowing Daddy to show her how to open the crisp packet, then succeeded in opening the crisp packet properly herself, did I really have to push her on saying sorry and thankyou?

When she was trying to drag the stool/foot-rest/coffee table to the kitchen to get back the opened crisp packet, could I not have said, “Yes you can go and get it yourself, but I will help you”?

She didn’t slap me hard, and it was after I’d given her a bit of a tap – did I have to make such a thing of it?

If I’d allowed more time to get her dressed, it wouldn’t have been so stressy and rushy and we could have made more of a game of it – so was it really her fault Daddy wasn’t organised enough?

Or then again, maybe I wasn’t firm or boundary-establishing enough, maybe I’m generally not, which is why she pushes and tests and gets away with stuff she shouldn’t…

Or maybe I should stop torturing myself, accept that nobody’s perfect, that I’m trying my best, that Talise is generally a happy, healthy and well-balanced child, and that all the guilt, the battles, the pushing and testing, the getting things wrong but learning from your mistakes, is part and parcel of parenthood.