No, don’t panic, I haven’t gone on one of those dodgy retreats run by bearded-wonders where you all lie together in incense-infused bamboo shacks chanting positive mantras. Nor have I started visiting a floral-print-wearing ‘alternative therapist’ to discover my inner child. No, I went down a far simpler and far more honest route – I had a baby.
I’ve never been one to self-analyse. As Gloria Gaynor says “I am what I am” and I’ve bumbled along being me for thirty-odd years perfectly happily. But it seems I’ve been living with a massive character flaw that I’d never noticed before. I am a control freak. There, I said it. The scary thing is though, I genuinely didn’t have an inkling of this until I had a child. Suddenly I was barking out orders to Mr Working Mum about when feeding time was, how nappies should be changed, which outfits went together and so forth. Babysitters were (and still are) left with a full A4 side of instructions, timings, contact numbers, alternative contact numbers, and suggestions of what they themselves should have for supper. Two and a half years on and I’m still offering Mr Working Mum ‘advice’ on the bedtime routine which he has probably only done two hundred times. And yet, despite all of this, it took an incident with my own child for me to finally put two and two together and realise what everyone else probably already knew.
Last weekend I decided to do some baking with Toddler-Not-So-Tiny-Temper. She’s watched me make things before and dipped her finger in here and there but I thought it about time that she pulled her own weight and started mucking in. It’s all so lovely in theory – mummy cooking with daughter, bonding over home-made gingerbread -but I swear it nearly caused a break down. Now, I like to weigh out all the ingredients before carefully mixing them together in a certain order. Toddler-Not-So-Tiny-Temper had other ideas. She showed little regard for the scales, used the same spoon to alternate between each of the three spices, the scales and her mouth, and then started casually flinging bits of all the ingredients together. Worse was still to come.
Dough made and chilled, we got ready to roll and cut out our gingerbread men. Having already become a little distressed and tense over the haphazard creation of the dough, I decided to section off a piece and give Toddler-Not-So-Tiny-Temper her own rolling pin so she could get creative. But even that wasn’t enough to stop me interfering. When cut, her gingerbread men looked like extras from Casualty. I told myself that it didn’t matter and that they would all taste the same, but the sight of them was driving me mad. I sent her off to wash her hands whilst I quickly re-rolled and re-cut them. Perfect men now made, the afternoon’s bonding session limped towards the decoration stage. But could I focus on my own men and calmly ignore the chaos next to me? What do you think? Three raisin eyes, not level, and 8 silver ball buttons scattered carelessly over their bodies was enough to tip me over the edge. On complimenting her on her work and letting her into the garden to play, I then had to dig the decorations off the poor squashed bodies and reform each and every one of them. It was around this stage that I realised I may have just a touch of the control freak about me.
Now that I’ve discovered this, I’m staggered that I’ve never spotted it before. Or maybe I never had it before I became a mother. It’s a mystery and something I’m sure I shall learn to live with. But one thing’s for sure, baking is strictly a Daddy and daughter activity from now on.