1. Getting pregnant. Control freaks are not good at ‘leaving it all up to nature’ or ‘just seeing what happens.’ A lot of smug, got-pregnant-just-by-looking-at-some-sperm people told me just to relax and it would happen. I won’t lie, I wanted to gouge out their eyes with a rusty fork.
2. Pregnancy. Everything about pregnancy. All pregnancy. Especially the never being able to tell if everything’s OK. I had a minor nervous breakdown, spent much time on a babycentre site where everyone else were also having minor nervous breakdowns (in retrospect I’d say that only helped because it made me feel slightly more sane – at least I wasn’t as mental as they were) and I know every trick in the book for making a baby move. (With my first pregnancy, naturally; the second time around I had a practically newborn baby to worry about instead. Mostly I forgot I was pregnant at all; I was too busy being a control freak about the first one)
3. Breast feeding. The midwife gives you lots of undoubtedly excellent advice: ‘just put your feet up and let the baby feed. They’ll decide when they’ve had enough.’ It turns out they forget/ cunningly neglect to mention that that can mean the baby feeds ALL day and ALL night. And you’re still no bloody closer to understanding if they’ve had enough.
4. Making a baby sleep. I read every book there was. I was a particular fan of Gina Ford. All that routine was so -appealing. Knowing what was supposed to happen every hour. Being told when you could wash the baby bottles and when it was time to have a little sit down. Oh, it was a joy. For Child 1 that is, who just did as he was told and slept when he was meant to and finished all his food and was generally the perfect Gina Ford baby. Child 2, on the other hand…. Well, let’s just say it was clear she hadn’t read the sodding book.
5. Going to the zoo/ a theme park/ soft play when they’re little. Somehow they just don’t get that a) you’ve paid a ludicrous amount of money for them to have an amazing time and b) you’re not actually there for you. There’s just no appreciation of the fact that you’ve given up an entire Sunday for this germ ridden, sensory overloaded particular version of hell, and really, you’d much rather be at home on the sofa with a box set of 24. (Yep, that’s how out of date my cultural references are. I hear while I’ve been losing years of my life wishing children would go to sleep, forcing/ cajoling/ bribing them to go to sleep, going to sleep myself by 8pm, and generally obsessing about sleep, practically decades in the world of box sets have entirely passed me by. I’m no longer good with telly where any level of concentration is required. Or any past 8pm. I haven’t seen a film since 2009)
6. You remember when your first child was a baby and you bought them all beautiful wooden, locally sourced toys? You swore you’d never have any of that plastic tat in the house. So unsightly, so ugly, so not even good for their development? That doesn’t last past their first birthday, when you are deluged by a sea of plastic tat, and the only toy they ever play with is a bright blue, plastic Iggle Piggle that sings. Give yourself up to the tide. When they discover Disney, it gets a lot worse. And it’s best perhaps not to get into the whole Lego thing….
6. Potty training. Hell on earth. They don’t do it at a time when you want them to, or in the way you want them to do it. I bored even myself.
7. Friends. You’d like them to play with that child whose mother you really like, who is the best behaved, most angelic child you’ve ever met, and who is already a total genius. They head straight for the nearest little hell raiser who looks at you as if you’ve just crawled out from under a stone and teaches your child to swear.
8. School. You have to trust someone else to look after your child and, worse, manage their education. The fact that they’re trained professionals and you know – have done all this before, is small comfort.
9. Homework. They seem oblivious of the fact that this is their HOMEWORK BOOK, that the teacher will SEE. Do they not understand how they might be judged for this bloody awful handwriting, or the wrong sums, or the looks-like-it’s-been-drawn-by-a-toddler book cover they’ve scribbled in, just to get it done? My inner OCD gremlin might never recover from these years of homework.
10. Clothes. I try to allow them both to choose their own clothes, having read dire, dire things about self esteem and overly controlling parents. Child 2 merrily pairs spotty leggings with a party dress, a sparkly only-for-dressing-up hair band and odd socks with trainers while I’m practically rocking in the corner. I’m sure it’s a small price to pay for her self esteem.
11. Illness. It doesn’t matter what symptoms you google, the internet always tells you it’s meningitis. I’ve spent years of my life hunting for rashes, staying up all night just to check on them, and being told be kindly doctors just to give them more Calpol. Years, I tell you. And a lot of Capol.
12. It’s a sad fact that children are slow. They are SO SLOW, in fact, that you feel that you could get showered, dressed, apply a full face of make up, dry your hair, eat a leisurely breakfast, leave the house, do a full day’s work, and maybe write a novel or something in the time it takes them to GET THEIR SHOES ON AND WALK OUT OF THE FRONT DOOR. Minus their book bag and water bottle and indeed anything useful, naturally. Time means actually nothing to a child who just isn’t that bothered about getting to school.
Yes, being a control freak and a mother – I’ve found it hard work. Really hard work. But in amongst all the other lessons they’ve taught me, this is perhaps the greatest: that as long as they’re OK, my amazing little beings, everything else ceases to matter very much. I haven’t stopped wanting to control everything. But I have stopped thinking I can. Well, at least some of the time. A bit of the time. When I’ve had some wine.