Monday, January 23, 2012

Parenting Qualification #3: Surviving Witching Hour.

Witching hour is the biggest myth about parenting out there. Parenting books will have us believe that our children are mildly unsettled for an hour or so right about the time that we are attempting to serve three versions of the same wholesome, delicious meal, catering to each child's particular tastes, whilst supervising bath time. Here is the truth. Witching hour begins when your child wakes from their afternoon nap, and continues right up until bed time. Which, lets face it, is probably going to be an hour after you planned it to be.

Witching hour actually goes for Four. Freaking. Hours.

I'm not too sure where the term 'witching hour' originated from but I suspect it involves fleeting visions of burning the little darlings at the stake. Or perhaps it has more to do with the otherwordly shriek that mothers use to communicate during the last few hours of wakeful parenting each day.

I dread witching hour. In my house, it's the time of day most likely to see me hiding on the toilet with the laptop, while The Husband is left to wrangle the spawn through dinner and into bed. I have tried establishing a routine to make things run a bit more smoothly, but the sad, sorry truth is that my children often climb into bed unshowered, in various states of undress and, more often than not, with that evening's dinner still clinging to their hair.

Last night, witching hour began before The Husband arrived home from work. The kids' god-awful Fairies DVD had been on a constant loop and let me tell you those songs are bad enough when performed by whiny, underpaid university students being whored for the junior masses, let alone when re-enacted by two slightly off-key fairy wannabes. Through gritted teeth, I informed the three- and- four year olds that it was quiet time now and the TV was going off. The TV went off..... and so did the fairy wannabes. (I always managed to convince myself that my kids didn't watch too much TV..... until the three-year-old's birthday party invitation wishlist resembled ABC for Kids' afternoon line-up. I'm sorry, honey, I really don't think Angelina Ballerina will be able to make it to your party. Once you're inside that TV, it's damn hard to get out again.) 

I resisted the temptation to join in the wailing, and herded them off to the bedroom to tidy up before dinner, while I attempted to rummage up something halfway nutritional, colourful and appealing to everybody in the family. Jamie Oliver promised it would be easy and my family would love it. The kids came to me screaming something about pulled hair. I sent them away to 'work it out'. They came back arguing over who has to put the knickers away. I poured myself a glass of wine. The four year old worked out that closing her sister's fingers in the door could be classed as an accident but still guarantees a very satisfying reaction. I told Jamie Oliver where to shove it and stuck some two minute noodles in the microwave.

The Husband walks in and I mumble something vague about it being his turn now and take off into the bedroom for some space. I spend ten minutes cooing at the youngest who I am very afraid will grow up being hated by his big sisters because he never gets yelled at. I reassure them from time to time that I spoke nicely to them as well when they were babies and I'm sure he'll get his fair share of being screeched at when he learns to talk.

I eventually surface from my voluntary exile just in time to see the three year old try noodles out as a new hairstyle, as the four year old knocks her drink onto the floor during a particularly exuberant ballet twirl. I send them off to get their pyjamas and they walk a trail of noodles into the carpet, get to their bedroom, forget why they were there and come back emptyhanded.

I speak. very. slowly. They move. very. slowly.

The three year old finally comes out dressed for bed in yesterday's t-shirt. I sigh and check it for obvious food deposits. The four year old announces she is going to bed naked, which is more about her laziness than the weather. They argue over the three year old's toothbrush, they argue over which book to read for bedtime story, the Boy chooses now to screech for a bottle.

We finally get them into bed and shut the door on their procrastination. I spend two minutes in the passageway outside their room silently shouting all the swear words I had bitten back during the evening, then get dressed to go for a walk. As I leave the house, both girls are standing on the windowsill doing their best impersonation of naked starfish. I check that none of the neighbours are observing, use sign language to demonstrate that they will be in Big Trouble if they are still awake when I get home, and I Get The Hell Out Of There.

I'm halfway around the block when I realise... bugger. They went to bed unshowered - again.

I did a Google image search for 'witching hour' and this is what I ended up with. Seriously, Google, that's the best you've got?? I don't think Mr Google has kids.

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