The walk of shame…
Now I know what you’re thinking. It’s not THAT ‘walk of shame’ (I’m much too old and boring for any of that!) but a new – exclusively parent-related – walk of shame known as the ‘hysterical meltdown walk’ or HMW as it will be known from here on in.
Like many parents, I am a veteran of such walks having spent many an hour relentlessly trying to make it home with a recalcitrant, uncooperative toddler like a salmon fighting the ceaseless flow of the river. On one memorable occasion, a friend mentioned that she had passed me on her way home, but hadn’t beeped as I had appeared preoccupied with a toddler under one arm, an unwieldy push-a-long bike under the other and a look of fierce determination etched on my face.
And so it was with a feeling of resigned familiarity that I greeted the return of the epic public tantrum and HMW last week when – after a hectic start to the new term, a change in routine and an extension to her ‘working day’ – Faith’s composure final cracked and the hounds of hell were unleashed on an unsuspecting public.
At first, I thought I had the situation under control when a potentially fiery disagreement with my youngest daughter ignited briefly (with her refusal to walk a step farther in my company), but then blew out as quickly as it had begun: a quick retreat back to the home of her slightly puzzled childminder providing enough distance for her to rest, recoup and return to the fold.
I was, however, mistaken. Those burning coals of irritation – once ignited – had not been extinguished at all, but were now smouldering in the core, ready to break through a fissure in the smooth surface of Faith’s apparently calm exterior.
In fact, it took only moments for the cracks to open when – whilst casually discussing the week’s events – I made the schoolboy error of mentioning Faith’s minor misdemeanour from the day before. The reminder of an event she would have rather forgotten sent Faith over the edge; her temper flared, her face reddened and I felt the full force of her wrath. Never would she walk with me again! Never would she return to school. In fact, there were so many things she had no intention of ever doing again, that I began to wonder if even activities she loved and cherished would start to be sucked into the vortex of NEVER.
In the face of this onslaught, I did what any parent bent on self-preservation and rather lax about the other stuff would do: I ran.
Of course, by ‘ran’, I merely mean – continued walking at a snail’s pace, but fast enough to move progressively further from my daughter who remained prone in the street with her coat over her head sobbing loudly and screeching expletives (or the seven year old equivalent ‘I HATE YOU!’) to any passer-by who would listen.
Unfortunately, passers-by did listen and as I inched away from the carnage and continued down the road, it was clear that those newly arriving at the scene were unsure quite who this screeching, hooded dervish in the street belonged to. Yes, there was an older, calmer child nearby in a similarly patterned coat and yes, further down the street there was a downtrodden woman with a look of pained humiliation on her face who may well have belonged to one or more of the aforementioned children, but it was not immediately apparent that anyone was openly ‘claiming’ this distraught little girl.
Despite the nagging voice in my head telling me to cut my losses and run whilst I had the chance, I slowly realised – when the second passer-by (a cyclist, this time) interrupted their journey to see what was wrong – that I would have to compromise my principles, swallow my pride, retrace my steps and admit defeat.
And so once again, parenting has pulled the rug from under me and shown me who’s boss. I may try to pretend it’s me who makes the rules, but with the HMW in her arsenal ready to cut me down at any given moment, it’s clearly Faith who holds all the cards.
And as for me? I’ll keep practising that walk of shame. I’ve a feeling I’ll be repeating if for a while yet!
Author: Helena Clarke