And Then There Were Two: The Gruffalo and Other Parenting Disappointments                                                          

The Gruffalo and Other Parenting Disappointments


Before I became a parent, I had very idealistic ideas about how I would spend my days with my children.

If you type into Google Images 'Mother baking with children', 'mother at the park' and 'mother shopping with kids', you will see all these ideas in their full, unapologetic naivety.

In short, our days would be filled with bread making, painting and dancing around the living room like the family at the end of the Disney film Enchanted (if you haven't seen it, the fact that it's a Disney film should give you some idea. As a brief synopsis; no magnetic trains strewn across the floor or playdough trodden into the carpet. No Bing on the TV. Both parents look the opposite of tired and stressed out. The daughter is twirling and dancing about and definitely not saying things like “come and look at my big poo” (a genuine request of my husband, from our eldest, yesterday)).

Anyway I digress.

Apart from the fact that I never realised parenthood would involve invites to stare down the toilet at my children's excrement, there have been some huge disappointments for me in this whole parenting lark:

1. The Gruffalo. Now it's not The Gruffalo himself who is the disappointment. But, as a teacher, and really, a human, I adore the story of The Gruffalo. And having taught it and read it for years to the point where I can recite it off the top of my head, I have never met a child who doesn't like it.
Enter child number one. Who hates The Gruffalo. Who is scared of the Gruffalo. Who will happily read all the other pages of the book, except the ones on which there is an illustration of The Gruffalo. Who, therefore, will not entertain notions of The Gruffalo's Child. Grrrrrrr.

2. Baking. Now perhaps it is just my child. But we have only just got to the point, at three years old, where baking lasts more than ten minutes and the boy shows enthusiasm for more than just the eating part. Previous to, pretty much this week, baking had involved the following steps:

a) Me saying “shall we bake biscuits?”

b) R hearing 'biscuits' and saying a very enthusiastic “yes”

c) Me gathering all ingredients and weighing them out whilst...

d) R plays with the biscuit cutters and asks “how many minutes?”

e) R pouring ingredients into bowl, spilling a lot on the floor/ worktop/ himself/ me

f) R asking “how many minutes?”

g) R stirring ingredients around bowl, spilling a lot on the floor/ worktop/ himself/ me

h) Me stirring and bringing the dough together whilst...

i) R dips his finger in the bowl and tastes the dough repeatedly

j) Me shaking flour onto the worktop

k) R spreading flour all over the worktop/ floor/ himself/ me.......

And so on. He used to get ridiculously bored after flicking flour all over the kitchen. Then I cleaned it all up. Then he ate the biscuits.

3. Crafts. Specifically painting. I always envisaged that this would take up a good hour of our (sometimes seemingly never ending) days. In reality it takes more time to get all the sodding stuff out than it does to actually produce the painting. To add to the joy of crafts with a toddler, I'm a Virgo which means I'm a bit of a perfectionist. So when R is painting and chooses to dip the paintbrush in every colour before applying the greying-browny mess to the paper, or mixes the playdough colours (*gasp*) I have to stamp all over my inner OCD goddess and remind myself that he's only three and he's just exploring. But still. It is not the mother, son painting extravanganzas I see on Google Images.

4. Soft Play. If you read my recent soft play post, you'll know how much I enjoy (ahem) soft play. The main issue with my parenting expectation versus parenting reality of soft play is actually me. My parenting expectation was that I would be positively thrilled and beside myself with glee, running through the too-small foam tunnels and diving into too-shallow ball pits. The reality is that I'm effing tired and the whole reason I go to soft play is for the big padded maze to entertain my children whilst I try not to fall asleep over my latte because the baby is teething and is a bit anti-sleep at the moment.

Thankfully there is one hugely important aspect of parenting which has not disappointed me and has more than made up for the fact that I do not look like a sultry-but-cute Nigella Lawson when cooking with my kids:

My kids.

They make me tired. They make me frustrated. They make me yearn for a wee in peace and for the Tweenies to retire.

But they also make me smile. They make me happy. They make me proud.

And maybe, one day, they might even like the Gruffalo.