This morning I noticed a small pile of feathers outside my youngest daughter’s bedroom door. Curious, I poked my head in her room and horrified saw feathers covering every surface; not a patch of carpet or bed was visible, the air was thick with down and fluff. Cartoon-style, I shut the door, counted to ten and looked in again; no it was exactly the same scenario. I tried patience and calm for a millisecond but anger overtook me as I raced downstairs to confront Little Madam who was calmly eating cornflakes in her (fluff covered) nightie. Seeing my face, she offered the explanation, “my pillow burst.” Any residual patience soon disappeared as it was clear that the pillow had been attacked with a pair of scissors and every single piece of its stuffing had been scattered around the room and there was even a pair of socks stuffed with feathers, they were in the wardrobe, in each drawer and apparently stuck to every item of clothing. I didn’t know where to start, I gave my daughter a bin bag and told her to start filling it with feathers.I withdrew from her every privilege I could think of, feeling so angry but not knowing how I could explain simply to her why what she had done was not a “good thing to do.” A guest on Woman’s Hour then related how when parents get angry, children laugh. I wanted to shout rude words at the radio but little ears meant I muttered them under my breath instead.
The clean-up operation lasted the next three hours and there is still down floating in the air. I thought afterwards,should I have been more patient, shown more understanding, even felt pleased that my daughter showed such curiosity,and independence of spirit that she was going to fond out for herself the contents of her pillow. Perhaps it was just as well I felt anger as a late night meant I needed the expression of energy (and some strong coffee) to handle the rounds of washing, pegging out and vacuuming. Would I have been a better role model for my children if I had been calm and serenely cleaned up the mess? The end result would have been the same and I am the one who is always preaching the power of now and the wisdom of accepting the moment as it is without wishing to change it. But patience deserted me and I instead modelled angry Mummy,or how not to be a good parent, which I think was understandable though I feel a tad shame-faced about it now. Women are not supposed to shout or stomp, we should be “nice,” we should learn to take deep breaths, pretend someone is watching or just laugh at the situation. None of these felt appropriate at the time, I just felt bloody furious, though I am sure in a few years I will look back and smile; perhaps I may have got rid of all the feathers by then!