Last week I contracted some kind of debilitating virus combined with a head cold. Add to that sleep deprivation and no hot water and I’m not the best company. I was literally running on empty. Woe is bloody me.

I’m just outlining the facts so my parenting failures have at least some kind of background justification. Although you and I both know, when the guilt sets in, there are seemingly no legitimate excuses for behaving like a thoughtless idiot.

On Wednesday James picked Mabel up from nursery, apparently she had only been for a wee once, which is unlike her – she drinks a lot and was fully potty trained within 3 days (we didn’t implement some magic method, it’s more a reflection on how quickly Mabel picks things up in general). So it was particularly odd. She also seemed more subdued than normal.

Fearing the beginning of some kind of urinary tract infection (for me a lack of shut eye always results in the over dramatisation of any situation) I asked if she wanted to go to the toilet, to which she replied quite forcefully that she did not. I reminded her that she had only been once that day and that Mummy would really like her to try and have a wee. She refused again and promptly stamped her feet in protest (this often makes me laugh but due to the circumstances simply made me exasperated).

Next I tried bargaining, “Mabel if you at least try to have a wee then you can have an ice lolly afterwards”. Mabel then decided that actually she would like an ice lolly now Right Now! and proceeded to toddle off into the kitchen towards the freezer. At this point I lost it. I pulled her by the arm (it makes me wince just typing the words) spun her around and shouted at her that she couldn’t have an ice lolly and that she was very naughty….for essentially what? not doing exactly as I asked?

Mabel burst into tears. The hysterical heartbreaking kind where they try and talk but can’t quite get the words out through the weeping and frustration. I could make out something about a sore bottom and that she hadn’t been naughty, she just didn’t want a wee and really wanted an ice lolly because she was hungry.

I asked her to let me take a look and sure enough, she hadn’t been cleaned properly, her backside was red raw and I promptly removed her trousers and underwear. So there was my daughter, starving (I’m assuming her discomfort also put her off her lunch) and extraordinarily upset that I’ve made out she had somehow misbehaved. And I’m there kneeling on the floor, soiled bunny print knickers in one hand, head in the other, wondering what exactly I am supposed to do to turn the situation around. My puzzled and defeated expression only fuelled her distress. Fuck, fuck……fuck.

I cleaned her up. She had a wee. I let her have two mini milks, a bowl of raspberries and a chocolate tea cake.

We were friends again.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t still feel like absolute crap over the whole ordeal. And like the merry-go round that is motherhood, I couldn’t sleep because of my apparent failings.

Why wasn’t I more understanding? Why wasn’t I more patient? Why didn’t I automatically know what the problem was? How could I offer something I know she wants as a bribe then in a heartbeat take it away again?

I’m almost over it now. Almost.

Parenting isn’t like a box of chocolates, or a curated instagram grid. Sometimes it’s confusing and shitty (literally). Three years in and I’m still learning.

For a thoroughly more pleasant feature, I’m sharing my kitchen makeover plans over on Rock My Style today.

Header image by Anna at We Are // The Clarkes