At some point today, I was sitting in the pram next to the supermarket-play-car-thingy negotiating with a toddler.

You see, the thing is, Sweet, there are two people in this relationship – you and me. You have needs. I have needs. You have wants. I have wants. I am usually prepared to compromise. You need to be able to as well. We are a team, you and me. And when Mummy has to pee, you have to let Mummy pee. It’s a basic right. OK? Do you see why Mummy feels a bit sad?

Thirty seconds earlier, I wasn’t quite so reasonable. Rather, I was one of those cranky-faced mums, swinging her pram in agitation, failing to acknowledge the kind lady who pointed out a fallen toy. I was the cranky-faced mum saying:

So, is this what it’s come to? You say what you want…you get it. I just do everything you say…OK, great. This is crap. 

It was a crappy day. But intermittently, I reminded myself that my husband was spending his Sunday dealing with very hairy situations involving people in great risk with very problematic behaviours. I was going to the markets and spending the day with a slightly precocious my precious toddler.

Several times today, Elka burst into tears when I needed to drain my forsaken bladder (may I remind you that I am six months pregnant). It didn’t follow her agenda. But then I was crap, reluctantly sitting beside the sandpit, wishing I could be washing dishes rather than making sandcastles. She needed to read. I needed to have a shower. She needed to play with her toys. I needed to go to the market. I mistakenly put her marshmallow in her baby-cino. She needed it out, and cleaned of all residue of chocolate, thank you very much! I needed to sit in the sun and have a coffee – a little upper. She needed to play on the supermarket-play-car-thingy. I needed to pee. All day, our needs and our wants conflicted.

In the end, I say yes to most things. Even sitting on the supermarket-play-car-thingy instead of going to the toilet. I bargain with myself that five minutes doing this won’t kill me. Hell, it may even make me my bladder  stronger. But I don’t believe it’s the best thing for either me or her. Because I usually say yes, when I have to say no, it goes down like a lead balloon. Landing on my toes.

I have a few consistent no’s – like no Playschool in the morning or in the evening. No marshmallows instead of real food. No ice cream unless we’ve had lunch. No being coaxed to sit in her play area while we are eating breakfast as a family. No jumping on the big bed without Mummy or Daddy. No muddy boots in the house. Generally, she’ll ask if it’s OK to do one of these things, and I’ll say no with some form of an explanation, and it’s all good.

Now that we have reached the age when Elka has very definite ideas about what she wants, I find my assertive side challenged. She needs to have her face painted as a tiger. I say yes. She needs a butterfly balloon. I say yes. She needs a little plastic toy car from the op-shop. I say yes. She needs sausages. I say yes. As long as it’s a fairly reasonable request, I say yes. Now I have a predicament on my hands. Outings have become very expensive, and saying no is not a popular option.

I’m not sure where to take it from here. I felt like a failed mother today. I wasn’t quite able to get it right. But maybe I should accept that like everything else, things will change. I need to practice being more assertive, and hopefully Elka will be into exercising  her sweet-natured obliging and extremely reasonable side tomorrow. Maybe I should just take it for what it was. A not overly great day. But nothing, compared to my husband’s.

All was redeemed this evening at the playground in Lennox Head. The afternoon sun was smiling down on us. We ate ice cream as a family. Elka played with all the little children, and made one special little friend. She and her friend ran from the cubby house under the playground, offering us leaves, flowers, bark and seeds. They laughed and laughed together, falling over each other, laughing some more. They were so utterly gorgeous, glowing in the afternoon light; their spirits so joyous and so generous. Elka has suddenly reached an age where she no longer hangs back with her parents at the playground, watching the other children with a serious expression. She is right in the mix, playing, creating and making friends. Like I said, all was redeemed.