I have a blanket. It’s a very special blanket. Not for the sentimental reasons one might think an object such as blanket would be special for. It wasn’t knitted by a dear old grandma.
I bought it from the local department store. I was buying a blanket for my daughter to go on top of her duvet for extra warmth during the winter. I walked over to a shelf that was home to the most inviting looking blankets in the place. They were almost like a velvet fleece, so soft to the touch. And as it turns out very warm. And best of all they were on sale, not just any sale but hugely reduced. $8.00 each. I must have spent at least ten unashamed minutes running my fingers through a few of them, sighing with blanket pleasure (okay, I’m not sure if that’s an actual thing…blanket pleasure, but damn these were good).
“Oooooh” I thought to myself. I’d have to get one for the other three kids too. Then I had to painstakingly work out who would want which colour. There had to be different colours or this could be the catalyst for a family showdown and onslaught of lectures on ungrateful attitudes and third world country references (Rob and I like to keep it real with the little people!).
After another ten minutes, I made my way to the counter to pay. But holding them…nay…caressing…oh yes caressing, these bundles of tangible awesomeness was too much. I simply had to have one myself. For a few seconds, I did the whole mother guilt thing. You ladies know what I mean. I can spend the money on the kids, I can justify it. But for me? The bundle seemed to sense my hesitation. It whispered in a seductive tone like the L’Oreal ad, but with a potty mouth, “bollocks to the mother guilt”. Obediently, I headed back and picked myself up one too.
Everyone was delighted when I arrived home and experienced the awesomeness for themselves. Even the colour choices were a hit.
Fast forward a few months and you think there would have been some kind of argument or tantrum from one of the kids regarding their blankets. Well, there was a tantrum but it didn’t come from the kids, it came from me!
Now let me explain. I’m one of life’s cold people, you know…the people who are always cold? That’s me. In the middle of night when I used to wake up (as often happens at my age!) I was always warm on the side that Rob was lying next to. But my other side…freezing. Even with the duvet fully covering me. But not since the blanket. I take the blanket and lie it next to me on the non-Rob side. Not only does it feel good but, oh so warm! And when the blanket is not keeping me warm on one side, it sits nicely folded along the bottom of our bed adding to the ambience of the room. Two very good uses with my $8.00 if I do say so myself. Before I continue and so that you can appreciate the level of my tantrum, I sleep naked. The blanket is against my naked body on one side. (I’m not sure if this story is taking me down the route of oversharing?).
To give some more context, I recently watched a comedienne on Netflix who referred to women as tornadoes. They get quietly annoyed with a certain number of things and then boom…one tiny thing unleashes a whole lot of crazy. And whilst I am actually quite good at boundary setting and dealing with matters as they arise, I had a personal boundary tornado brewing.
The house we live in is really small. Which is fine when there are only a couple of us here at a time. But a towards the end of a shitty weather week, with six of us in such a small area, a lack of personal space is somewhat problematic!!
Combine that with an unvoiced boundary that has been broken on a few occasions and it’s a recipe for disaster!! (Niamh and I have a rule. She is not to use my toiletries without first asking. It teaches her about respect for things that belong to other people. If she asks to try some of my perfume, nail-polish or similar, I usually say yes. I had not set this boundary clearly with Rob’s daughter).
Okay, back to the tantrum. I walked into my bedroom one afternoon to find the kids on the bed chatting. Rob’s daughter in the clothes she had been wearing all day at school (and we all know that kids are pretty damn unhygienic) was sprawled along the bottom of the bed on top of my naked blanket, rubbing her SWEATY SOCKS into it. Queue my eye of the storm, as her response to my horrified acknowledgement of what I witnessing was to say that she didn’t mind it was my naked blanket….SHE…didn’t mind???? Well I certainly did.
The eye of the storm destroyed my tolerance levels. All of a sudden it was much more than sweaty socks on my naked blanket. It was a movement. A protest. At a lack of personal space in this “postage stamp size house”. At my toiletries being ransacked (okay not exactly ransacked, that’s tornado speak). At the violation of my naked blanket. The tornado was out of control at this point. Suddenly my inner child began heckling me as I tried to hold on and steady myself.
“THEY ARE IN YOUR BEDROOM, all four of them” screamed my inner child.
“Yes, they are kids, I don’t want to be annoyed with the kids being in my bedroom.”
“Look at them, germs and dirt, all over your bed where you sleep, all over the blanket.”
“I’m taking a deep breath. Maybe I ought to move the blanket, you know, not put it at the end of the bed?”
“WHAT??? Are you crazy? They have their own bedrooms. Why should YOU have to move YOUR blanket from YOUR bed?”
“Am I being unreasonable, I feel annoyed???”
“Jaya uses your toiletries WITHOUT ASKING and the children are ALWAYS in your personal space.”
“Shhh, you are making me feel claustrophobic.”
“You don’t go roll around on their beds do you?”
“Nope, nope you have a point there.”
“THEY have their OWN BEDROOMS. Their OWN SPACE. They yell at the others to get out of their rooms all the time, and others obey. You’re the adult and not one sacred, untouched by children, space in this house. YOU HAVE NO PERSONAL SPACE, except for two plastic boxes under the bed. Fuckers.”
I contemplated this last nugget of information from my inner child.
“Oooooh…you ARE right…THOSE FUCKERS.”
I wanted to go mess up their rooms like a badass ninja. I was jealous of their bedrooms that no-one else can enter. My claustrophobia was making me feel like I couldn’t breathe.
“GET OFF MY NAKED BLANKET” I yelled.
And then I felt bad. What was THAT inner discussion and THAT reaction all about? I guess tornadoes, claustrophobia and inner children don’t mix.
Later, I reflected on my outburst. And there were two important rules I had to remind myself of. The first is that as the adult, it is my responsibility to set my boundaries. Even with things as seemingly trivial as toiletries. There has to be respect when it comes to using another person’s things. Ask.
The second was a harder rule to comply with. Because I had to admit to myself a truth that makes me feel ugly on the inside and ashamed. And that is that I am more tolerant of my own child than I am of Rob’s kids. If Niamh was on my naked blanket, I wouldn’t have overly cared. She is my germ filled dirty child. I don’t like my truth because I am not comfortable being that person. Now some might say that it is perfectly normal to feel like that. That you will always naturally be more tolerant of your own in certain circumstances. But me? I want to change that as much as is possible.
As hard as it was to admit to myself (and even harder to admit to Rob) if I couldn’t, then I’d be lying to myself. How could I possibly change and grow? Sometimes admitting the truth sucks. But here’s the awesome side to being honest with myself. Now I can stop and think. “Would this annoy me as much if it were Niamh doing it?”.
And what is the result of that? Well, I get some perspective. And I quieten the inner child. I get a chance to be the person I want to be. I’m hoping that after practicing this particular ‘stop and think’ method a number of times, I will gain a more tolerant default. Probably never to the same level as it is with Niamh, but certainly a lot better than it was that day!!