I feel trapped. But I’m not allowed to complain, am I? I should be happy to be travelling the world with my family for a year.
I wanted to get out and experience the world, but the children won’t let me.
They take forever to get up. So I sit with a cup of tea, my phone and whatever view I have waiting for them to wake and their squabbles to begin. Knowing that suggestions for the day will be met with disproportionate and angry griping. ‘Walk into the Old City?’ we suggest. ‘Can we get a taxi?’ they ask. It’s only 2.5km along a quiet road next to the Bay of Kotor. ‘But why do we have to walk? I HATE walking. Why do we always have to do what you want to do?’ they complain. That’s only a sample and that’s only the beginning.
At 10am, and after 45mins of cajoling, they’re ready to leave the apartment. And I’ve been up since 6.30am, waiting to be out in the world.
I’d love to climb the steps to the top of the hill behind Kotor Old Town before the heat of the day kicks in. The suggestion is met with ‘Why do we have to walk to the top? I HATE walking! What’s the point? Why do we always have to do what you want to do?’
So I acquiesce, quite happily, and spend 5 hours watching them muck about on the water. The dinghy, water guns and tiny fish keep them amused, just like kids should be. Fraser is bored and suggests going to the Old Town. It’s met with ‘Why do we ALWAYS have to do what you want to do? You’re so SELFISH!!’ An argument ensues. I send Fraser off alone, knowing that dragging the kids from their water play will make everyone miserable.
Balancing everyone’s ideal activities
I feel for Fraser. I understand every point he’s made about balancing everyone’s ideal activities. But the kids were desperately trying to save ‘their’ time. I phone him, knowing it’s the only way to have a conversation without the kids butting in. We agree that somehow we need to encourage them to be more considerate. Seriously. Anyone got any ideas on how to do that? Seems fucking impossible.
Fraser and me are both horribly frustrated at the restrictions these kids create. We are doing our best between accommodating their wishes, understanding their limits, encouraging them to do it anyway, and just dragging them along.
What is wrong with our parenting?
Why are these boys not bouncing from one discovery (however small) to the next?
I’d love to go out for an evening stroll along the bay to watch the lights across the water and the sky change colour. But the kids had a shower after their water play and refused to get dressed. I can’t face the rigmarole of getting them ready. I can’t muster the energy to encourage them into going for a walk, again.
I go to bed early instead. A quote looms large in my head and makes me feel small. Useless. Heartbroken. ‘Live each day like it’s your last.’
I wish I could. I tried to make it happen. Really I did. But these kids won’t let me.
The following morning, on looking at a cloudy sky, we decided to climb the steep fortress steps above the Old Town of Kotor. Robert was not happy again and had yet another meltdown.
Shouting at him, cajoling him, enticing him with promises, distraction, rationale, even man-handling him, discipline and confiscation, does nothing to stop the frequency or duration of the tantrums. I truly cannot fathom how they’re triggered.
Today, he shut himself in the wardrobe
I sat by the door, just so he knew I was there. Every word I say is chosen with the utmost care, or he cranks it up another level. My approach is to say as little as possible so there’s less for him to argue with. He ‘hated himself’ and ‘hates being happy’. I responded with anguish, ‘I just want to go out’, I cried, ‘I just want to walk up a hill. Please, Robert, please.’
Eventually, he left the wardrobe. When he had one shoe on, I dared to think we were getting somewhere. When he asked me for paper and a pen, I got them. See what he wrote, below.
It’s not the first time he’s talked about suicide
The last time, we were walking in Budapest (after another meltdown) when he asked me (and Fraser) about suicide. Why? How? When? I did my best not to overreact. Stayed calm. Gave information. I shared with him how two of my girlfriends felt alone when her dad and her mum committed suicide. ‘I don’t want you to leave us,’ I simply said.
I told him I loved him, no matter what he does or who he is.
He got the other shoe on. We got a taxi. We climbed the hill. It was hot. He moaned. But we did it. We saw goats, pomegranates growing on the trees and the bay stretched before us.
On getting home, he crossed out his note from earlier and wrote ‘not true LIE’.
This evening we managed the walk along the bay. Robert held my hand. Thomas did too. I won two teddies on a grabber machine. Thomas chatted about school. Robert kissed me. We may be bobbing back to the top (again) after scraping rock bottom (again). I love these kids beyond beyondness and back, no matter the heartache they cause.