Autumn of 2013. My eldest was nine years old, middle almost eight, youngest just turned six. All three were in primary school. We were allegedly smack-bang in the golden parenting stages. If there ever was such a thing. Which there is not.
We’d had nits before, don’t get me wrong. Condition, comb, condition, comb, condition, comb. This time was different. This time, all three kids had the critters at the same time. And this time, I had the critters too.
I dealt with it, as any woman would, with calm, stoic servitude:
It took me all of autumn and most of winter to be rid of the horrible things. Every single night, condition, comb, comb, comb, comb, comb. I was combing in my sleep. My poor kids were scratching in their sleep. It was horrendous. I mean, have you seen my family’s hair!?
To this day, every time someone mentions that their kid has nits, I have a visceral reaction. I swear I have a touch of PTSD. We haven’t had nits through our house in more than five years, but every time one of the kids so much as touches their head, I’m in there with a torch. Catch the buggers early, is my key piece of advice.
Which brings me to all the parenting stages that we really never truly get over. There are a frightening number of them, but here are my top picks.
1. Obviously the nits
I don’t think high school has nits. At least, not in my experience. I think if head lice ever came to my kids’ high school, I would swiftly move them to a new school. Sorry kids, show’s over.
2. Newborn baby
Is there anything quite as adrenaline-inducing as your newborn baby’s cry in the night? That ice-cold gasp of being cried awake is not something I will ever forget. Nor the constant angst. Nor the sleep deprivation. Nor the horror of realising you have no idea what you’re doing, but you are in charge here so do something you must.
3. The tearaway years
So exciting when they learn to walk. So terrifying when they learn to run. If you had a breakaway-kid like I did, you’ll understand why leashes on kids are a blessing. Heart-stopping moments involving screeching cars and blaring horns tend to change your mind about such things.
4. Potty training
The only thing to rival the newborn adrenaline is the bolt of energy that surges when your kid calls from the back of the car, “I’m doing a poo!” Godspeed, potty training mums everywhere. Godspeed.
5. First day at school
The heart bleeds on your kid’s first day at school. All life is in that moment. The torturous separation as they get towed away by a sixth grader. The gut-wrenching knowledge that you have not done enough. The tears as you realise that they will be coming back, tireder than ever, in a mere six hours time.
6. Hospital visit
When you suddenly realise that whatever is going on with your child, you can’t help them. We complain endlessly (and should) that we have to do all the things. But nothing is worse than not being able to do all the things.
7. Bloody high school
If first day at big school nearly killed you, then day one at really-big school will finish you off. Your kid will barely even wave goodbye as they head into the great unknown. Every awful moment you endured yourself at high school comes rushing back in a wave of nausea. You are convinced your kid is bashed and broken behind E Block by 9.23am.
This should help: 21+ things to know about starting high school
It’s bad enough that we’ve had our own period for X number of decades (did I really need to point that out? The decades thing?). Now we have to go through it all over again once, maybe twice, thrice or more, with our daughters. Just no. That plus having our baby boy grow toe hair and a man voice seemingly overnight. What fresh hell?
9. Sex wars
When your kid tries valiantly to bash the locked door down in the middle of the night and you’re behind it frantically trying to find your pants. It changes a person.
10. The best is yet to come
While the best-best of raising our cherubs is yet to come, so is the best-worst. The first time we’re negotiating room arrangements for their own sexy sleepovers is surely going to be up there with the nits. Oh dear god, hold me.
This article is written with deepest respect to parents going through far worse than these silly-awful stages of parenting.
What’s been your least favourite parenting stage (so far)?