One of the biggest lessons to learn as a parent is to get used to your efforts being spat back in your face. We use cookie cutters to make rabbit or butterfly shaped sandwiches only to have them returned without even a nibble taken. We bring home small gifts, carefully chosen in shops – to have them declare, that “Dora’s for babies” or to get a flat refusal to acknowledge said item. We book a whole term of swimming lessons, after a summer of begging – only for them to announce they changed their mind. (Accompanied by refusal to participate in expensive lesson). Kids are fickle. They frustrate the heck of you, but you go back for more.
This photo popped up on my “Facebook memories” the other day (from 2014). It was a reminder of how unrewarding parenting can be sometimes. I normally avoid the Base, like the plague -but decided, since I’m a good Mum… I’ll put my own feelings about mass-consumerism aside and take her to meet Elmo and Cookie Monster, who were visiting for the holidays. The flashy, white shininess of the mall blinded me and I was dismayed to see a line (despite being early to avoid that situation).
However Ella’s excitement was contagious and I remember telling her how excited I was because I never got to meet them when I was her age (clearly a little bit of embellishment for her benefit). She made friends in the line, with other well dressed, well behaved little people and as we got near the front of the line (30 minutes later!!!) something began to change. She became quieter… less chatty and then told me she wanted to go home. HALF a fricken hour after getting in line!! We were so close.
So, I did what parents do best… I went into bargaining mode, telling her – she will like it when it’s her turn and that she’ll regret it if she didn’t meet them because they might not come again. I tried telling her Elmo would be said, that Cookie Monster would be disappointed (yes… I used the word ‘disappointed’ to manipulate a three year old kid). Then, I got desperate and the bribes started… first a lolly, then McDonalds… but it wasn’t working. Elmo came up to her to say Hi…. the tears were welling, ready to explode… this was it. With a sigh of resignation I held her while she tried desperately to hide from him, grimaced for the camera and we were on our way.
Good parenting has an element of show. You cant tell behind that “haha” grimace I was losing my shit. Losing it, over driving to a mall I loathe, waiting in line and then having to pretend it didn’t bother me that it ended this way. Good intentions are not always rewarded. There isn’t always a happy ending. I showed her this photo before writing this and she shrugged and said she remembered she didn’t like it. I asked if she was glad she went anyway and she said No. So much of what we painstakingly do is a waste of time. Moral of the story. There is none.