A few months back, my darling, precious, angel child played one of her favourite games. Let’s watch mummy slowly lose her mind through sleep deprivation.
It’s a super fun game and so far, despite my mental breakdowns, I have emerged victorious.
She gave up on the game for ages, which lulled me into a false sense of hope that she had grown to love her mother and put an end to her torment. When she was about 16 months old, she was back with a vengeance.
I had all the mummy experts’ wax lyrical about the “18 month sleep regression” and all the tips and ideas. Here’s a tip, when your kid is being an asshole, no matter what age they are, there doesn’t have to be a damn text book definition of what’s going on. They’re kids, they’re growing, whatever they are going through is part of the game and they will get over it eventually! It doesn’t have to have a name and it doesn’t have to have a ‘solution’. Patience, coffee, wine and a good sense of humour will usually do the trick.
Oh, and one more thing, a little empathy and support from fellow parents.
One day, after a particularly grueling night (running on fumes and a distant memory of what sleep was) I braved our local shopping centre. I don’t remember getting the child in the car or getting to the centre. I was a walking corpse by this stage. I discovered a new level of fatigue I didn’t know existed.
Come lunchtime I realised I had to feed the child. I had completely spaced on packing any food for the kid at all. Not even a snack. I looked around the food court through the one eye that vaguely worked and decided on Oporto’s because shit got too hard.
I ordered a kids meal for the child and a burger with fries for my growing foetus and me. Nothing but the best for my family*
I dragged my ass to an empty table and grabbed the nearest high chair I could find. Just as I was putting my kid in the chair, a horrendous creature approached me with a pungent stench of judgment and snobbery. She was well put together and looked like the sort of mum that showered daily and had labels on her GMO free, sustainably sourced organic food in a super organised fridge that was cleaned weekly as part of a strict cleaning regime.
I’m not sure, as my vision and mental capacity were greatly encumbered at the time, but I think her shoes matched her nappy bag and her whole ensemble was colour coded to her pram that cost the same as my car.
In a tone dripping with passive aggression she proclaims,
“Excuse me, that’s my chair. I just wiped it down for my child”.
I instantly felt horrible, took Elena out of the chair, apologised profusely and offered the chair back. At this she put her hand up in protest and replied, “No no that’s ok. You have it. I’m just letting you know that I just wiped it down. But you enjoy it”. And she took her designer shoes and designer baby and left.
I’m not even kidding when I tell you that it took a good couple of minutes to comprehend the whole situation. I stood like a moron not having a clue what just happened or what to do. I walked over to her table again and offered her another high chair. This time she just snapped, “It’s fine. You just enjoy that chair. I had wiped it down”.
Three times now she mentioned that she wiped it down. I dragged my K-Mart thongs back to my table with the nourishing Portuguese chicken spread completely and utterly baffled. As I was eating my wholesome meal, I slowly started to piece together what had just happened.
This woman had taken it upon herself to go out of her way (literally longer to walk to my table and tell me about the wiping down of the chair than to grab another high chair) to put me down, make me feel like shit just to make herself feel better about her empty life. She refused my offer of giving her the chair back and didn’t even acknowledge my sincere apologies. I genuinely felt embarrassed and awful. I would never intentionally take someone else’s chair. Especially not after they had gone to such an effort to WIPE IT DOWN.
All day I was asking myself, what did she get out of berating me? Just looking at me, it was glaringly obvious that I hadn’t slept, I was going through a brutal mental breakdown or something horribly wrong was going on. It just so happened, that all of the above were true.
What kills me is that she had a fricken kid!! I don’t care how organised you are, what school of parenting you subscribe to or how well put together you are, every parent must have experienced sleep deprivation of some level at some stage. Surely she must have known what I was going through. And even if she hadn’t, what about a little compassion. Fuck me, even if you don’t have a kid, what exactly does one gain from being a dickhead? A passive aggressive, holier-than-thou, judgemental, mean dickhead.
So here’s my message to all parents out there. If you see someone who looks like they could be homeless, someone who walks with a distant glaze over their bright red eyes with their top on inside out, give them a break. Maybe even buy them a coffee. At the very least, offer a smile and a knowing nod. And whatever you do, just don’t be a dick. We suffer enough at the hands of our children. Thing is, they don’t mean it and their brains haven’t fully developed. As adults, we know better. A little kindness and compassion goes such a long way. And it doesn’t cost a cent.
* I actually am normally super health conscious and promote healthy eating and exercise. Our family does eat very well and we all make an effort to exercise daily. I am a sugar Nazi and ordinarily (when not pregnant or sleep deprived) only allow junk food as a very occasional treat. Keyboard warriors can take their hate elsewhere.