Thursday 17 January 2019

Tired of playing the psychologist

WE'RE back in that bleak land of no effin' sleep. That place where you drag yourself through the day like a corpse, and keep zoning out and doing stupid things, like putting the butter in the oven and sending the children out in the wrong clothes.

You try to steal a little kip when you can, but if I try to stretch out on the couch during a lull in the chaos, the two boys take this as an invitation to jump on me. Plus, they've got these foam rubber swords they're fond of, except all the foam rubber has been beaten or chewed off, leaving this hard plastic rod which is so much more effective for inflicting pain. Basically, it's just like Guantanamo but without the balmy climate.


Because my wife is feeding the baby herself, she has moved downstairs with the little one and takes care of the night shift on her own, while I stay upstairs with the other three. This looked like a great deal. Could it be that I would skip all the night-time horrors of a new baby -- that cry at 2.30am which goes through the head like an angle grinder? But, of course, the other three have upped their game.

Conor used to love going to bed. Since the new baby arrived, I have to sit with him until he's asleep. Plus, he wakes in the dead of night and insists on getting up. Lego is great, but at 3.30am? Meanwhile, Mike, who's five, is now waking all the time with complaints ranging from a sore leg to an itchy liver. And now, too, I'm constantly in the car, going back and forth between swimming, camogie and basket weaving. Swimming's a curse. There's nothing more miserable than standing ankle deep in a poorly heated kiddie pool after two hours' sleep the night before.

But there's no chance of avoiding the pool, because we're straining every nerve to reassure the other three that things haven't changed. The new kid isn't going to have any negative impact on their busy little lives. Once upon a time, everyone had half a dozen kids and no one batted an eye. You fed them, gave them a place to sleep and, as my dad says, the job was oxo. These days, it is all about their mental health.


We're constantly doing things to reassure them they're loved every bit as much as before. We're all bloody psychologists now. Any bit of bad behaviour isn't bad behaviour any more. Conor flings juice at Annie, not because he's a little effer, but because of latent feelings of hostility brought on by displacement and perceived rejection.

When my wife was in hospital, we overheard a family on the other side of the curtain. The woman was having her second kid, and the first -- aged three -- was bouncing around delighted with his little sister and wanting to give her the bottle.

But the parents hadn't seemed to read any parenting books. They were chasing him away and roaring at him to be careful of her. They told him he wasn't the baby any more, that he was a big boy now and had to behave like a big boy. We were wringing our hands and throwing our eyes up to heaven, thinking the poor little lad, he'll be scarred for life. But, sure, he'll probably be fine.

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