I watch baby Eve try to roll from tummy to back. Her body contorts with effort. She groans. She cries – she needs me to pick her up. She can’t do it – not quite.

Change is painful. Growth is painful.

I look at Elka’s arms – so long and thin. She is destined to be long and thin. So long and thin. She has tall parents, who both had long thin arms as children. This week, she is taller than last. But she has grown in other ways.

She was in the car today, and insisted the Nick Cave album was left on. Don’t you want Play School? Daddy asked. No, she said. Leave it on. I like it. She listened to the lyrics, mouthing them. He sounds a bit scary, she said. But Leave it on.

Destined to be tall
Destined to be tall

She swings from charming and delightful, to out of control. The first time, we were in the car. She wouldn’t stop screaming. It was so unlike her. Stop! we said. You need to stop now. Eventually she did. Every time since, we say it. Stop. You have to stop.

It’s new to us. We have always been very relaxed parents – she can sit on the table, get up during dinner, read one more book – OK, another one. If it’s not life or death, we let it go. We insist that she holds our hand crossing the road and insist she brushes her teeth, but generally, we don’t mind too much.

The screaming, we mind. We mind too much. It’s not OK – it’s horrific. She turns red, she is in so much pain.

We had to negotiate our response. As every new plateau of the parenting landscape is reached, we pause, collect our thoughts and get our bearings. We need to be consistent, we decide. We need clear boundaries – this is OK, and this is not OK. And if the screaming continues until she gets what she wants, then we have to stand our ground. Gentle, kind ground. But we have to stand it.

This evening, I sat patiently, waiting out the storm. I’m here, when you are ready to brush your teeth, I said. Eve was on my lap. She was patient too. Not a squeak. What must she be thinking.

I love you, I said, but it’s not OK to scream. You need to stop, and you need to brush your teeth before your jutie*. I wanted her to know I was there for her, but I had to stand my ground.

My inconsistency has been my failing in the past. She wants jutie, I say she can have it after X, she screams, I give her jutie before X – obviously, she learns that screaming is how to get jutie, and if she screams loud enough, jutie will be had. I am a push over, I know it. But it’s possible to be gentle and consistent. It’s possible, and it’s better for all of us.

Recently, I wrote for Raising Humans’ website about how I felt frustrated and angry when Elka goes into a tail spin. I kept my feelings under wraps, but they were there, burning my insides; punching me from within, trying to get out. I didn’t let them.

I don’t want to be that angry mother. I don’t want anger to seep down a generation, into the hearts of my little ones.

I want peace, so I have to practice peace.

As it always does, writing down the words released my inner anger. The last few days, even when a scream is so loud and irrational it makes you want to knock your head against a wall, I have felt peace. I have felt compassion – genuine compassion for Elka. I have pained for her – waiting for the pain to end, for both of us.

She didn’t brush her teeth, but she didn’t get jutie. She passed out from crying, face first, on the couch.

There have been loads of changes in her life recently. She became a big sister, she had to share her mummy and daddy with someone else, her Dutch grandma stayed for a month, she turned 3, she got taller – she started listening to Nick Cave.

Her limbs aren’t the only part of her which are stretching at the moment, and it is painful.

I feel for her, I really do.

My beautiful, beautiful girl
My beautiful, beautiful girl

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{linking with Jess at Essentially Jess, because it’s Tuesday}

*Jutie: bottle of milk. Also called dew tea.

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