When you become a parent of one, life gets real. When the second one arrives, you adapt or you’re screwed. One skill that I have found quite impressive is the ability to be absolutely livid, meanwhile being able to communicate your ire in utter silence. I’m not bragging here. All parents of two or more do this. For example:
Time for nap. My then one-year-old has just fallen asleep. This after a paltry three hours of rocking, singing, feeding, changing, her crying a lot, me crying a little, her fighting sleep, me fighting the urge to join the French Foreign Legion, the slow awkward ‘laying down’ procedure successfully completed. I am tip-toeing away from the room, barely able to release a breath, when I enter the lounge and my five-year-old quite loudly says “dad do you wanna play go fish?”.
The sound of that little voice, right then and at that exact time, hits me with the percussion of a sonic boom.
My hands gesticulate wildly in the universal signal for “Hold on and stop what you’re doing”. If you don’t know what I mean it’s something like a Queen’s wave, except done with both hands with great haste and urgency. Add hunched shoulders and a wide-eyed expression.
She was obviously taken aback by my strange actions. I say obviously because in the same voice she asked “WHAT’S GOING ON?”. At this, considering I had barely breathed since my little one had closed her eyes, I’m sure my face turned an unusual shade of magenta as I placed my finger over my lips in the SHUSH! signal.
This she understands, and mimes ‘Okay’. She points at the cards and I shake my head, intending to make and eat the quietest sandwich in history. I indicate as such with the belly rubbing “me hungry” and “you want some?” gestures. She replies excitedly in her sweet but excruciatingly loud voice with “YES PLEASE CAN I HAVE PEANUT BUTTER?”.
The things you do when trying to control your emotions, yet convey them, while trying to preserve those well known qualities of church mice…
I’ll never forget the look on her face when this manifested in me half ducking to the ground while flinging my arms in the air. I think that she thought she’d unleashed some superpower that I had to dodge to avoid injury. Again the SHUSH signing followed, along with, and I’m not very proud to say this, some threats upon her life that I hope she didn’t quite grasp.
She understood eventually that Daddy was having an off day and was perhaps a little touched in the head. So she sighed . . .and switched on the telly.
It probably wasn’t that loud but again I was gripped in the throes of terror. The problem now was that I was behind the counter of our open plan kitchen, and her attention was fixed upon the brain-drain box. I did a dance that should’ve made it rain, probably hissing a bit to grab her attention, but to no avail.
I’ll stop here, as I m sure that you have understood my point. Every parent knows that feeling of having to function in complete silence, simply because of our little one’s sleep. Sometimes we do it because we need the break, and other times we need to accomplish things during the day. We adapt our lives and do things that we never thought we were capable of. I’m not talking about a silly example like the one above, but of the time and energy we give to them, and the reward of simply having the the opportunity to do so.
I’m thankful that my eldest never knew just how much I was at her mercy and what she could’ve gotten out of me for her silence.