I can breathe again.
You see, we've just got over the week's biggest hurdle - not a temper tantrum, or another doctor's appointment. Not even the dog vomiting for the umpteenth time.
Oh no, this torture is purely self-inflicted. The biggest drama we face every week? Liv's baby art class.
I should also add that I'm paying for the privilege of this weekly stress.
One of the most ill-advised decisions I've ever made (and I once peroxided my hair blonde in Russia of all places), the baby art class sounded good, in theory.
Liv loves doing whatever her sister does, and whenever the crayons, paints and glue come out at home (which happens often; Diana loves anything and everything artsy), Liv wants to join in.
Since I feel slightly guilty that 'entertainment' for the first year of Liv's life, being a second child, consisted of her watching me potty train her sister and lying her on the couch, propped up by the bulldog so she could at least get a view of something other than the television, I am trying to do something 'productive' with the one full day we have alone together when Diana is at pre-school.
Which is ridiculous, of course. But I am ridiculous, and my parenting life so far has been doing the ridiculous until I realise it's a waste of time/money/both, stopping and feeling contented until I tackle the next hurdle that is guaranteed to stress me out in some way.
When D was Liv's age - approaching 18 months (where does the time go!) - baby classes were our thing. The reason? They were relaxing. Sure, they weren't strictly necessary, and they were pretty overpriced, but she loved them, whether it was scaling ladders in Tumble Tots or memorising every song in Monkey Music.
Most importantly, they gave me something priceless: a semblance of sanity, in 45-minute slots. Which, when you're juggling work, baby, belligerent bulldog (and occasionally belligerent husband) and general life chaos, is the best thing of all.
Of course, Liv is a different creature entirely, which brings me to our current art class fiasco. We arrive, the other kids calmly sit in high chairs, let their parents/carers place smocks on them and start having a ball with paint, glue, sparkles and more. We have a wrestling match, I relent, and I let her roam while everyone's eyes bore into me and I feel the full failures of my parenting on display. Even the other toddlers and 18-month-olds also (somehow) stare judgily at us.
There are toys in the venue, which I think is our downfall, because each session, Liv makes a beeline for the toy motorbike and just sits on it, refusing to move and then throwing a tearful, screaming, kicking tantrum when one of the teachers attempts to coax her off of it.
I'm trying out this new parenting technique of staying calm and not freaking out about every little setback, so I often let her sit on the motorbike, asking her if she'd like to join in every few minutes and then turning to quietly paint stripes and stick mosaic bits onto the plant pot she's meant to be decorating as she continues to refuse me. Doing the actual artwork is quite therapeutic if I manage to ignore my surroundings and the frolicking child I'm responsible for.
When I do eventually get Liv into the chair (always a success story, if only achieved for five minutes), she makes the biggest mess imaginable, all over her smockless self (the whole point of the art class is to indulge your little Picasso without turning your home into a sticky, paint-splattered, sparkle-covered mess; we never manage to leave without requiring a change of clothes).
I don't want to give up on the class, not because I think we'll actually see any signs of improvement, but because I can't bear to think of the wasted cash. And, as we persevere, things do seem to get slightly better. Today, Liv thoroughly enjoyed upending vials of glitter all over herself, the table and me and using a wet wipe to clean off the butterfly wings I'd attempted to paint for her.
I'm starting to realise that my life is chaotic enough without this organised 'fun' - and that when things seem relatively calm and relaxed - girls happy, bulldog not projectile vomiting, husband only mildly complaining - I should never trust the false sense of security it lulls me into.
It's a guarantee I'll have a disastrous parenting moment, like dropping D off at school only to find I'd left her adorable and furry elder canine brother panting at the gate (he was tied up, unfazed and it was only five minutes, but still!).
Which was only a few days after the police rang our doorbell at 8:30am, asking if a child lived at the residence, having responded to a call with a baby manically screaming "Da-Da" down the line.
Turns out Liv has a new trick and knows how to use a phone successfully. I'm screwed.
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