The conversations I can’t bear

Here I am, losing the will to live.

It’s no secret that parenting toddlers is hard work. There’s a reason it’s called the ‘terrible twos’: emotions are running high, communication is still developing and toddlers are basically totally irrational almost all of the time. Increasingly, however, I’ve felt that the hardest part of raising children is the constant repetition of the daily monotony. This realisation hit hard this morning as the three of us engaged in the same conversation we’ve had every morning for about a week now. The discussion was whether they would be eating cereal or porridge.

Me: Theo, do you want cereal or porridge for breakfast?

Theo: Ah, porridge.

Me: Okay, Eli, do you want cereal or porridge?

Eli: Porridge.

I proceed to begin preparing requested porridge.

Eli: Cereal, Mama!

Me: Okay, do you want cereal?

Eli: Yes.

Theo: Porridge!

Me: Okay, Theo, you want porridge. Eli, you want cereal.

Eli: Nooooo, porridge! Sobs. Porridge, Mama!

Repeat forever.

Similar debates were had over whether they wanted a pear or an apple and the vessel in which water should be served. We have also watched the baking episode of the scintillating CBeebies programme ‘My First’ an average of about four times per day for the past several days. (Each episode is only ten minutes long, so I promise I’m not planting them in front of the television for endless hours, tempting as that is sometimes.) I have tried to convince them to watch a different episode, but just when I think we’ve all agreed to try the one about the picnic or the horse ride, someone shouts ‘No picnic’ or ‘No horse’ and it’s back to the bloody cakes again.

Tantrums are hard, but this is sort of ‘death by a thousand cuts’ parenting. By the time the boys are in bed at the end of the day I’m just grateful for silence. I never anticipated how frustrating and exhausting it would be to engage in a hundred nonsensical debates every day. Tantrums can go on and on, but they eventually finish with a gentle dabbing of tears and a quiet cuddle. Discussions about their desires never end. As soon as one decision is made the next topic arises and we’re back in the loop again. This is the reality of parenting: it is a thousand tiny frustrations that build until you’re hanging on by a thread and it’s all you can do not to turn around and shout ‘Make your own damn breakfast then!’

So, Tonight I will go into my boys’ room and pull their blankets over them, kiss their soft cheeks, smooth their hair and make sure the necessary comforters are close at hand. I will vow to do better tomorrow, to not lose my temper over the little things and to model the calm, patient behaviour I want them to learn.

And then I will realise that I’ve forgotten to buy porridge.