Is there nothing that can make you feel smaller, more worthless or plain miserable than being a parent? I felt it acutely today, and have secretly shed some tears over my mismanagement of this whole parenting gig.
I can handle the anger the girls can throw at me when I won't let them eat lollies for breakfast. I can handle their resentment when I make them go to bed at night instead of stay up practising somersaults on our bed. I can handle (most of the time) the screams for "Dadddeeeeee" when I am the one disciplining them. But what I can't handle is disappointing them through nothing more than my own ineptitude.
Every week it seems, there is an invitation in the Elfling's kindy pocket for a new birthday party. Being as weekends are busy and we try as much as possible to spend them quietly as a family, we mostly decline (or in many cases, simply don't notice the invitation until 2 weeks after the party *blush*). 2 weeks ago though there was a princess invitation from one of the little girls that we know actually is a special friend of the Elfling. I dutifully wrote the date down in my diary and sent off an RSVP well before the requested date indicating that my little princess (we're having a big princess stage atm) would be thrilled to attend.
For the last week we've been using it as a form of bribery (look I'm already admitting I'm a terrible parent) and the Elfling has been superlatively good. The type of good that brings tears of pride to your eyes good.
You can see where this is going can't you? But it gets worse...
Today we rushed around trying to get stuff done and also get the Elfling ready for the party (her first one to ever be held at an indoor playground place). Her favourite swirly bright pink dress was washed especially; in a rush, amongst threats of not attending at all, her long ringlets were brushed without mercy for the yelps of pain and the front hair twisted into a "princess crown" followed by me distractedly snapping at her to find her sandals as we were late.
Snatching up my handbag and the invitation to check I had the address right, with the Elfling buoyant and radiant in her glorious dress golden curls bouncing beside me, I happened to glance at the date. 02/08/08. Yesterday. 1pm.
I just stood there mutely wishing the ground could swallow me whole. The Elfling started pulling at my sleeve asking to go, her whole face lit up in that way that only a four year old can. Her pale skin luminous, her eyes sparkling green as she clasped the glittery bag with the present encased jubilant and happy. And I looked at her and knew it was going to be bad. Biting my lip hard I got down to her level and tried to explain that we couldn't go.
She didn't understand and assumed she was being punished (after all we'd been threatening all week that she would not be able to go)... "But Mummy I have behaved myself. But Mummy I have been a very good little girl..." She kept asking to go. And when comprehension dawned that I was serious she burst into tears. Sobbing wracking tears while I picked her up so that they soaked my shoulder and wanted to howl along with her. Helplessly we searched for any possible way to make this not bad, but all she wanted was to see her friends in her party dress and eat cake as she told me between sniffles.
Well that was enough to have me leaking as well. At that precise moment the Monkey, not wanting to be left out of the action started crying from overtiredness (she was overdue for a nap) and LH and I looked on helplessly trying to think of any way to make it better.
In a haze of guilt and desperation to make it up to her I gifted the Elfling the birthday girl's present (a Crayola Princess magic colouring in set) which soon stopped the tears, but not the crushing disappointment. LH topping my guilt later took her out with him to do the grocery shopping and bought her not only a lollipop but a Playstation game which she is currently mastering. The guilt is very strong with us.
But worst of all is the way she keeps turning around, her beautiful cheerful face knotted up in concentration from the game saying "this is fun Mummy, but I would really like to go to the party".