Being a mother is hard but there may be help at handby Kate Kellaway / August 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
Earlier this year I went through a rocky patch with my five-year-old son. After the birth of his twin brothers, he reacted badly. He was gentle with the babies, furious with me. I tried everything: I was calm, angry, concerned, breezy-floundering. It was like being in a bad marriage. Not all the time, but enough of the time to make me feel that we both needed help. I did not want my son’s behaviour analysed. I felt I understood it well enough. Trying to cope with it was another matter. One evening, we were having an infernal tussle before bed. I was trying to insert my son’s legs into his pyjamas; he was resisting wildly-flailing and shouting-and managing to create the impression of having eight legs rather than two. After we had achieved the pyjama bottoms, he looked at me and observed lightly: “This is not the life.” I laughed, so did he. But it was true. This was not the life, not for either of us.
On my bookshelf stood half a dozen child care books, like surrogate parents. Before I even had a baby, I had a book: Dr Gordon Bourne, a conservative consultant, ushered me through nine months like a man respectfully opening a door to a pregnant woman (Pregnancy); Penelope Leach instructed me like a policeman, while being at times insufferably dewy-eyed about babies (Baby & Child); Dr Christopher Green, a bluff Australian, went the other way, suggesting that children were cartoon reprobates (Toddler Taming). These books had their uses. But it seemed that there was no book to bale us out now.
A parent at the primary school my son attends had just signed up for a parenting course. She suggested I join her. Every Monday morning, for ten weeks, we went to a bashed-up little room just off Old Street in London. The course was run by a tense, pale Greek called Tina Grammaticas who, I gathered, taught at something called the New Learning Centre. I was immediately put off by Tina’s “think positive” approach and a smile that did not always seem attached to a reason for smiling. I could not guess that by the end of the ten weeks I would have reasons to smile back at her.
There were about a dozen of us-variously demoralised mothers-with children aged between two and 22. We ranged from a dramatic blonde with two…