Attempting to educate my daughter to be a polite, civilised individual is at times like trying to teach a monkey to play chess without it shoving the Queen up its ass! Its a thankless task that puts a tremendous strain on my partner and myself, not just as parents but as a couple too. Maintaining civility and discipline when confronted by a 3ft hell spawn, conceived in the cavernous depths of Satan’s rectum is probably the toughest psychological challenge we as parents have faced. The issues surrounding any child’s argumentative behaviour differs significantly depending on various contributing conditions. More often than not though a lack of sleep is the offending source of dissent. During the day, particularly in the morning is when my daughter is at her most placid. She’s exuberant yet receptive to instructions, adhering to our requests to cooperate with eating her breakfast, getting changed and not concealing her Peppa Pig toys in my shoes. But as the day progresses, she regresses. She becomes irritable, unreasonable but mostly unbearable.
There’s a subtle yet critical distinction between mischievous and disobedient. To the casual observer she might be considered a scamp. Hoping down a supermarket aisle, boldly ignoring our persistent instructions not to run off. Seemingly inviting punishment on herself as if its some kind of game that we as parents participate in, but inevitably always lose. The trouble being is that this kind of deliberate defiance isn’t limited to an occasional behavioural singularity, but is in fact a customery routine. Bedtime is especially disruptive, becoming synonymous in our household as “purgatory”. Her vitriolic reliance on the word “No” has become an exasperating response to every single thing we ask her to do. Getting her pyjamas on. Brushing her teeth. Even reading her a story, an essential bedtime activity, is rendered laborious by my daughters resolute temper. Yet her natural resistance to sleep is merely the start of our journey to sleep deprivation.
Like most children in their formative years my daughter is afraid of the dark. So to combat this mandatory state of blanketed twilight we have illumated her room with several night lights. Yet despite her bedroom being lite up like a Vegas casino, she still insists that it’s too dark, which usually means she will wake up sometime in the night, bellowing our names, pleading to come into our bed. Due to my partner and my own conflicting teaching methods, I’m usually tasked with consoling her during her midnight mewls because I have bigger hands, which means I can strangle her much more effectively (sometimes I wish I could!). And as much as we try to accommodate and appease her anxieties it does invariably afflict our own sleeping patterns, which is only further propagated by our need to work during the day. We regularly endure sleep patterns so chaotic that it could have been formed by a spirograph. But this is probably nothing new to other parents.
There is a fine line between facilitating her needs and trying to allay her fears, and sometimes its difficult to interpret a genuine fear from my daughter merely exploiting the chance to sleep alongside mummy. Because Daddy has to then sleep on the sofa. But despite the intermittent sleep, the pervasive fatigue and the insufferable irritation of my 6ft frame draped over 5ft sofa, stained in whatever food substance she’s careless smeared on there, I can’t imagine my life without her. No seriously I can’t mentally visualise that. I really wish I could sometimes. I really do.