I’ve had a horrible few days where every time I think about Tuesday, a couple of days ago, I feel nauseous. I thought it would pass and that I’d be over it by now, but though I have been telling everyone that I’m OK, was being silly, was tired, exhausted and it was just a momentary lapse of stability, really that’s because I feel that this is what everyone else will see as the correct and normal response, and therefore I think that would be the ‘right’ way to feel. I don’t feel that way, however. I feel like I am at a bottom of a pit with people walking by, and though a few have looked down and asked if I am OK, I have said ‘yeah, I’m OK, I just fell down here because I lost my footing… I’ll be right back up in a minute, don’t worry about me!’. I’m still sitting at the bottom of that pit. Actually, I’m sitting on the kitchen floor, but really I am here alone. My little guy is playing with his train set and making the same song play on his piggy coin bank so that he can dance, it’s beautifully happy just a few feet from me. We’ve had so many cuddles, but I’m struggling to stop myself crying each time.
On Tuesday we went to Play Group as is normal for that day of the week. There was a school photographer taking pictures of each of the girls and boys in the younger school classes as well as teachers and play group attendees. First ‘school’ photo. Very exciting. If I’d have known I’d have probably put him in something other than his top for a 9-12 month old that, though cute, has sleeves too short and I put on him in case we got to do some messy painting, but oh well.
The children sat cute and grinning for their pictures. Those that didn’t quite smile sat quietly and still. Then it was my little boy’s turn. He was OK for the first few minutes whilst the photographer set up, then he got a bit fidgety until his bottom lip jutted out and he started crying. I tried to soothe him but then he struggled away and got very upset.
As I lifted him up to say we’d try again later the photographer did explain that there’s ‘always one’ and that at least I would know what to expect from him in the future as some kids will always be that way and I will never get a decent photo of him. I nervous laughed. I think. I don’t even know. I felt overwhelmed and so turned and started to walk towards our pushchair. I guess it was something of mine. A safe space in a place that was not my own? I don’t know. I was trying to keep it together, but really the world was just whirring around and I was tunnelling towards the buggy. Then I heard the familiar and kindly voice of my friend ask if I was OK. I think I said yes. She said no, I wasn’t. She was right, I really wasn’t. I was crying, and now my struggle to hold it together had just collapsed.
It’s a stupid thing. I know that. And I know it’s not true. I have many beautiful photographs of my boy, but that’s not the problem. It’s that there’s ‘always one’ and that one is my boy. The glances from a couple of the other parents because my boy was ‘playing up’ just compounded things. I feel horrible.
I cried many times that day, and my evening was just more quiet time for that weight in my chest to squeeze my anxiety further. There’s always one. There is always one crap parent. That this is my fault and that I am actively doing something wrong to damage my child. His chances, his behaviour and his personality. If they are ‘wrong’ it will all be my fault. And he’ll always take an ugly picture. Because of me. Maybe it is my own social anxieties that are causing it. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t want to sit still during song time, or to stand in the circle and dance with the other kids. Because of me. And I’ve battled to take him to pay group every week despite it being literally the last thing I ever want to do because I am scared, and it’s so, so difficult for me, but I do it for him because I love him more than my life and because I’m doing my absolute blinking best, and I’m still rubbish at it.
I’ve spent the last few days loathing everything about myself.
A long while ago a health visitor told me not to display my anxieties in front of my child because I will pass term onto him, and I have fought and fought it so very much. I never used to be able to go into a supermarket, but now I do almost every day. We go to playgroup, swimming, walks, not because I want to but because I don’t want him to be as rubbish in his life as I have been.
My mother’s ex-husband once told me that I’d never have children as I ‘wasn’t the type’. I think about that all the time. Maybe I am not. I love my boy so, so much, but maybe that is not enough. Maybe you need to be a better person than me. I try every day of my life to do right by people, but maybe I am just not good enough at it. I love him far too much to ever feel any regret at becoming a parent, but sometimes I hate myself because he deserves a better mum than me.
I wanted to add a picture to prove that, actually, the photographer was wrong in the first place, but my brain is full of thoughts and panic, and I just can’t. And of course I’m crying, because as some hateful person once said to me ‘that’s all I do’.