I feel like I’ve been flapping ever since. For the past 2 years, 4 months and 7 days, my entire being has focussed on only one thing: keeping that baby happy no matter what. “Happy” in the broadest sense of the term: fed, watered, at the right temperature, entertained, soothed, stimulated, content, reassured. Whatever bar you could think of I, as a parent, set it as high as I possibly could and pursued it with a sweaty brow and a mild but unwavering sense of panic. I’m a flapping parent.
I’m the kind of parent who hovers over her sleeping baby, removing, then replacing, then removing, then half-replacing the blanket as a compromise in the quest to achieve a “safe” temperature (if, of course, the baby is still asleep at that point and there is anything left to achieve). Who detests the over-marketing of baby gear but still stands rooted to the spot in the pharmacy for half an hour, trying to decide on the fluorescent dummy as opposed to the “normal” one. Who jumps at every tear, every request for more water or crackers, and feels intensely guilty when anything has to be enforced. And yet still frets that she’s being too lax. I’m the kind of parent who will chase their child round the playground, figuratively and literally flapping with the sunhat.
I drive myself nuts, doing all this. But then, yesterday: a revelation. The Bean refused to get dressed in the morning, and I didn’t flap. He ate only half of his breakfast, and I didn’t fret. He wanted to take his push cart out with him, and I didn’t mentally pre-apologise to all the other pedestrians who’d have their ankles bashed. I realised 20 minutes into our walk that I’d left his dummy at home, and I didn’t rush back for it nor bought another one. We had to wait for Daddy for half an hour, and I didn’t immediately conclude all hell would break loose. He fell asleep way, way later than he’s “supposed to” in the afternoon, but I remained a picture of icy calm. He watched an hour of TV, and I didn’t see the gates of failed parenting hell open before my very eyes. The bedtime routine became a no-tine for the nth night running but I did. not. flap.