A Terrible Case of Irritable Yowl Syndrome

Irritable Yowl SyndromeIrritable Yowl Syndrome. No typing error here. The naming of this increasingly common affliction, suffered by mothers mostly (this is not based on gender discrimination, but more from general observation that will be explained later on), takes effect from the date of this blog onwards, with full credit due to me.

While it has nothing to do with intestinal disorders or symptoms, it most certainly comes about after a bad case of diarrhoea – verbal diarrhoea that is. In my case, it all started on a Thursday morning…

“Come on guys, you’d better finish your breakfast. You’ve still got to brush your teeth and get dressed… and we’re running late this morning. I’m sure you don’t want to be late”. It was my best attempt at putting the ‘I’m-not-going-to-lose-my-cool’ hat on and keeping my voice steady, calm, in control and below the usual banshee pitch. The ensuing elephantine thunder heading up the stairs towards the bathroom reassured me that they were on track and so I kept attending to my own needs, which included trying to find the new underarm deodorant that seemed to have disappeared within the mountain of things that I still need to sort out. On top of it, the heating in the bedroom seemed to finally be on top form and the beads of frustrated sweat forming under my arms and on my face were not helping my case.

The strange muffling and occasional thumping sounds coming from little man’s bedroom broke my concentration as my fingers just managed to knock the deodorant further under the bed, a haven for dust bunnies of the world. The kids were clearly having a little bit of a disagreement.

Now, mothers will know that dignity goes out the window from about the time that the little being within you enters the world. However, over time you try to build it up again, trying to forget the moments the children just NEED to tell you something important while you are on the loo or when they say the things that came straight out of your mouth in the company of someone who should not know that you could ever say those things. I could go on, but you get the just of it.

Dignity. All of it gone as I stomped across the landing in my underwear, painfully aware of the extra kilos nodding along as if in agreement with my stomping. Flinging open the door, I had no choice but to adopt sergeant-major tactics, clipped tones, loud enough to be heard but not by the neighbours, “RIGHT! Both of you, stop fighting right now! OH MY WORD! Are you still in your pyjamas?! ARE YOU STILL IN YOUR PAJAMAS?! That’s it! I have had enough, you’re going to school in your pyjamas!”.

The threat of my mother just glaring at me with her ice-blue eyes when she got cross was usually enough to stop me in my tracks, but with this lot here? Oh no, the fact I was stomping around like an ogre in ladies underwear was not enough. The fact my eyes were bulging in an attempt to recreate the ice-blue scary mommy eyes was not enough. The fact that they’d have to go to school in their pyjamas seemed to be the least scary of all, resulting in a look from both of them that showed they thought it slightly novel and considered it a darn good idea for a bit of a lark.

Finally, after having glared at them for a while as I tried – as ladylike as I could – to wipe the little bit of saliva from my chin that had escaped when I tried to express my shock at their lack of motivation, little man seemed bold enough to respond. I expected… Hmm, what did I expect to hear? Well, an apology perhaps or a promise to get a move on.

He opened his mouth, “Mommy?”. “Yes?” I replied with my hands settling on my hips. “Mommy, do you know if sharks can eat fish in a fish tank?”. “No, sharks can’t eat fish in a fish tank because sharks are in the sea and they also can’t fit in a small fish tank”. “But Mommy, what if sharks could fit in a fish tank? Would they eat my fish?”. “Argh! That’s not the point – you’re supposed to get ready now. Just PLEASE get ready, you two, ok?”. Trying to regain my composure, I steadied my voice again, trying to keep it calm and reasonable, pleading without being too desperate, with a slight intonation at the end without turning into a whine.

Finally, I found a use for the feather duster and knocked the deodorant from under the bed, and applied it generously to attempt to mask my efforts after grappling with it and the two tykes in the other room. I heard toothbrushes buzzing and the general sounds of them getting ready. Enough to relax for a minute as I got dressed and put my makeup on.

As I was concentrating on getting sufficient mascara on that one eyelash that decided to change direction like a squint eyeball, little man flew into the room with enough energy to cause the mascara brush to smash into my eyeball like a toilet brush in jelly, leaving a trail of black stripes across my entire eye area. “Mommy! Did you know that a jet wawawawawawaa? A-n-d that it wawawawawawawaa? A-n-d one day, I’m going to fly the fastest jet which is a wawawawawa! What do you think about that?”. First of all, I had no clue what he was talking about. It was just technical enough for a five-year-old boy to grasp and just technical enough for me to have to consult with a robust, yet idiot-friendly search engine later on. “Mmmm” was the best I could muster in an attempt to match his excitement, cover up my ignorance and to stop my eyes from watering from that fiercely unrelenting stinging sensation in my left eye. “No, mommy, I’m asking you!”. I sighed as I pleaded reasonably, “Let’s talk about it later then, okay my boy? I think we’re going to be very late now, so let’s get going. Can you get your boots, hat and jacket on so long?”. His little shoulders slumped and in an attempt to restore his spirits, I offered up a bit of motherly praise, “But good job for thinking of such a good question! We’ll look it up when you get home”. I don’t think it worked…

Five minutes later, with mascara hastily reapplied and an extra layer of eye shadow to hide the marks of the first failed attempt, I got to the door where the two were hanging around, chuckling like hyena pups. My suspicions and hackles rose simultaneously, but I breathed out, clutching onto the front door handle as I hopped about, zipping up my boots.

“Mommy?” it was little girl’s turn now. “Yes?” I said, trying to show interest (although “WHAT!” was what I heard my brain say). “Do you know what so-and-so said to Ms. (Insert teacher’s name) yesterday?”. “No, my darling, I don’t know. What did she say?”. So, with that bit of encouragement, she launched into a blow-by-blow account of some rather interesting story that I should’ve heard the night before when we had oodles of time and nobody had the energy to speak to me because ‘nothing had happened at school and it was all very boring that day’. As I regained my balance as the boot zip finally closed at the top of my calf, my eye caught the clock. Oh no! We WERE going to be late after all my ‘crying wolf’ to get the kids ready!

I shuffled them (little girl used the word ‘pushed’, but that’s up for debate depending on which side of the shuffling or pushing you were on) out of the door, slammed it shut and then frantically checked my jacket pockets to make sure I had the house key (which is a little too late when it is a self-locking door).

By this stage, the kids were both throwing all kinds of trivia and juicy news my way without pausing for breath, while I was clutching onto the last threads of sanity that were melting like candy floss. I unlocked the car, flung the boot open (narrowly missing the tip of my nose and almost hitting my forehead as I threw my handbag in the boot along with their school bags). As I slammed it shut, I expected to see two heads sitting obediently in the back seat, waiting for me to perform a cross-check on the seatbelts. But no – there little girl was talking to the fairies somewhere in the hedge, while little man was stubbing the ice with the front of his boot. “Come on, we’re late!” I exclaimed in exasperation.

As little girl skipped in slow motion towards the car door – the other one on the other side of the car, not the one I opened for her like a chauffeur, forcing me to run across to the ‘wrong’ side, skittling along the ice – little man thought it would be a great idea to demonstrate how effective his ice-breaking method was and how far he could kick shards of ice across the driveway right up to our elderly neighbour’s garden gate, giving running commentary as he did so.

Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore, my levels of irritation hit an all-time high, and I let out a yowl through gritted teeth that started like a humming wasp and ended in pure banshee pitch, “JUST GET INTO THE CAR!”.

When we got to school I looked into the eyes of at least 10 other mothers who seemed to have endured the same experience as me, all a little pale in the face but with red spots on our cheeks (the kind that you can only achieve through pure frustration), slightly pink and watery eyes, and husky, hoarse voices that betrayed the volume levels we’d achieved that morning.

And the fathers, you ask? Well, weren’t those just the people walking hand-in-hand with the deceptively obedient children who were skipping along, plotting their next move to make mom crazy tomorrow.

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The Best Laid Plans…

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”

is one of my favourite quotes by John Lennon and I often find myself muttering it like a mantra, clutching to the last few strands of sanity as I try to release my obsessive-compulsive tendencies and accept that things happen that I just cannot control. No matter how many times I revisit the sequence of events in my mind, I cannot change the course of events through sheer willpower or desperate need to have things go MY way.

Now, while this quote has quite a universal appeal, I am convinced that parents (of children or pet children) know its true meaning better than most, so allow me some poetic licence when I say that KIDS are what happen while you’re busy making other plans. No, I’m not talking about the level of surprise associated with their conception (that’s another topic entirely), but rather how well they manage to scupper your best laid plans once you’ve taken on the reigns of parenthood.

Ask me to put a date (usually a very keen social one or – in my previous life as an office-bound mom – a rather crucial, this-could-bring-me-a-promotion kind of meeting) in my calendar more than a few days in advance and you’ll see the look of doubt that flashes across my face. Don’t mistake it for hesitance directed at spending time with you. Oh no, it’s all about me jinxing it by actually putting it in the diary instead of immediately booking a visit to the paediatrician.

Gone are the days of looking forward to that shopping trip to the City, followed by a hearty lunch (usually a salad for the figure-conscious friend who accompanies me) and a glass of wine, followed by a slice of cake because “we’ve earned it” (the said friend by going to the gym, me because I actually made it there which calls for celebration). Oh no, every minute spent counting down to the big day of possible parole from parental duties has me fraught.

Vitamin dispensing, temperature checking, skin-erasing hand-washing and looking for the signs of a snotty nose fill my days as the date draws near. The night before my big day out, and I start to exhale… slowly. During the night, my ears are alert to the sound of any possible cough, but the only sound is the buzzing of my ears as my excitement grows about ‘Mom’s Day Out!’. By the morning, I’m cock-a-hoop, punching the air in victory, silently high-fiving myself for being so darn good at staving off any chance of my child picking up some nasty virus and I start to visualise the layout of my day…

Just then, little Sheila shuffles into my bedroom, clutching her throat and looking like a little mini-vampire with her suddenly pale skin, dark rings under the eyes and red fever-cracked mouth. That much-longed-for taste of a creamy, strawberry laden scone evaporates on my tongue and becomes rancid as reality thwacks me on the back of my head.

By the time we’re on our way to the doctor, the adult within has taken charge again and my concern is focused on the mini-vampire in the backseat of the car. The truth is that I’ll always rather be there in the car with her, making sure that she’s soon back to normal so she can make me laugh with her alternative opinions that I never thought a child was capable of.

Soon – but not before racking up a sizeable paediatric bill and substantially supporting the local pharmacy, we’re back home lazing on the couch, spending invaluable time together – sharing a day we wouldn’t normally have been able to. There will always be more trips to the City with my pals (even though it doesn’t feel like it!), but she’ll never be as little as she is today and her unique world view is as untainted as it ever will be.

Sometimes the best thing is to let go of those plans like helium-filled balloons, admiring them as they begin to disappear above the clouds, and then turn your attention to the very best things that are right in front of you.