This evening my eldest son and I had our worst ever fight. Or not even really a fight. A contretemps (me), or “Mummy being mean” (him). It ended with him sending me to my room because I wouldn’t get his cherry tomatoes - a sustitute for the lasagne being described as “poo” - out of the fridge. To be honest, I think he was surprised at how eagerly I accepted my punishment, but there had been worse moments than that and I was rather glad to retreat to my duvet and kindle while he stomped around downstairs throwing alphabet fridge magnets onto the floor.
It was, I would say, a normal row. The kind of thing that happens when two people, one five, one 37, are over-tired following a long, hard day. The evening ended with us back on good terms. I read him his Battle of Hastings book in bed, relieved (mostly) that I’d resisted the urge to flee to the nearest Bed & Breakfast the moment my partner walked through the front door. I still feel rather sad, though. The truth is, there has always been a tiny bit of me that believed my son and I could be better than this.
It’s horribly arrogant, or perhaps just naive, but I’ve always held out hope that my son and I could rise above the usual pointless family frictions. I have no idea why. Sheer bloody mindedness, I guess. It’s similar to the way in which I still half-believe that I am the first ever immortal person (although with that, at least there won’t ever be a point where I’ll know for sure that it’s not true). With my son, it’s not as though I’ve not felt frustrated or angry before. This, however, was the first time when I felt my son wasn’t just being a knob but was actually being quite mean. I don’t hold it against him; I can be quite mean, too. But it makes me sad.
There were plenty of rows when I was growing up, sometimes violent ones, and of course I’ve done that thing where you think “I’ll be so much better than my parents were”. But will I? I know I won’t ever smack my children but still, there are times when I get that creeping feeling of “oh, so that’s why my parents found it so hard”, yet still I try to resist empathising with them (which in itself is terribly uncharitable). I want to empathise with me as a child, on the assumption that this might make me the better parent. All the same, I’ve found myself thinking what almost every parent thinks: “having children has made me understand my own parents more”. And also: “god, I love my children, but they can’t half be total twats at times”.
My son is brilliant, though. I suspect it is healthy for us not to get along every minute of the day. I also suspect it will be healthy for him to hate me in ten years’ time, not least because I blogged about him throwing fridge magnets around (but I could have said worse, future teenage son, remember that!). Even so, I’m finding it a bit of a shock that the two of us aren’t a bit more, well, magic than that. I don’t want us to be creepily close but I was kind of hoping that the tense moments would be less upsetting than this. I wanted to be one of those cool parents who simply shrugs and says “kids, eh?” Instead I’m all “why is he such a meanie? Am I a rubbish parent? Was the lasagne poo?” (I’d assumed it was probably horse, but I guess anything’s possible these days.) I take it all a bit too seriously, and that in itself is probably bad for your kids. Hence I’m sucked into that endless cycle of self-indulgent, overly reflective parental crapness.
Well, anyhow, tomorrow’s another day. And I probably did the right thing not giving in on the cherry tomatoes, but the trouble is, you never know.