It’s the ‘Witching Hour’ again. That dinner – bath – bed period from around 5pm onwards when your beautiful little treasures, who’ve been perfectly angelic all day, suddenly grow cloven hooves and little pointy horns, and unleash hell on tired parents.
Traditionally associated with newborns and infants, but also extending to toddlers and beyond, the witching hour is a well documented nightmare. Almost every SAH parent gets to experience it at some point. And it can bring even the most even-tempered parent to their knees.
Frankly, I don’t think that the term witching hour is a fair description. Firstly, this period always lasts a lot longer than one hour. Whoever came up with the term ‘witching hour’ was bloody lucky if they could get away with only one hour of unpleasantness. Also, I don’t think witching and witches are scary enough in this modern age to accurately depict how horrible this time of day actually is. And that’s why, at the risk of finding my blog on some sort of Federal Police watch list, I’ve renamed the witching hour to ‘Twilight Terrorism’.
Of course I was aware of Twilight Terrorism before becoming a SAHD. As a working dad, I regularly used to arrive home from work and walk right in the middle of a full blown shit storm. Within seconds of me walking in the door, the tears, screaming and full blown tantrums would start. And that was just me. The kids would also lose their shit. Seemingly the instant I arrived home a massive meltdown would commence. Usually it was over broccoli, refusal to wear pyjamas, or whose turn it was to watch the iPad, but pretty much anything could set it off.
It was unpleasant, and there were times when I would deliberately dawdle home from work in the hope that the worst of it would be over by the time I got home. Not my proudest husbanding or dadding moment.
Now of course, the boot is on the other foot and I’m the one at home, watching the clock and waiting for Mrs D-E-D to walk in the door and help me to weather the storm.
This new perspective has taught me a thing or two about this time of day that I hadn’t fully appreciated previously. Mainly that Twilight Terrorism is completely f*cked, but there’s some more subtle nuances too, and here’s a few of them.
- Those beautiful little people that make our hearts sing during the day have packed up and gone. Left in their places are the whining, crying, fighting little terrors that parenting nightmares are made of. We see the absolute worst of our children during this period. This is one instance where SAH parents get an advantage over the working parent. They get to see all of the best of their kids through the course of the day, as well as the worst in the evening. For the working parent who leaves first thing in the morning and arrives home in the middle of the Twilight Terrors, this is all that he / she sees of their children some days. It’s no wonder that the working parents aren’t busting their hump to get home from work and spend time with their family, when this is the reception that greets them on arrival every evening.
- Twilight Terrorism feels like Groundhog Day. The exact same routines. Every. Single. Day. The same arguments with the terrorists over refusal to eat spinach. The same floating turd in the bath. The same dispute over which pyjamas to wear. It is mind numbing to the extreme.
- Unlike Groundhog Day however, I seem to have almost no ability to change the events that are about to occur, even though I know what’s coming. Like a storm out in the ocean, I can see it rolling in from miles away. Although I know I’m helpless to avoid it, I think that I’m prepared to weather it. Yet its ferocity and sheer horror always catches me by surprise when it actually hits.
- You will stand on lego during the Twilight Terror period. Guaranteed. They are the IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) of the toddler world – strategically placed by the terrorists to destabilise and maim. Even if your kids don’t own any lego, somehow it will magically appear underfoot just as you’re starting to think that you might survive another twilight tour of duty. Then bang. You find yourself on the floor with searing pain shooting through the sole of your foot. I used to love lego as a kid. Not any more. F*ck you lego.
These points aside, my biggest realisation about Twilight Terrorism is how important it is to have some help from your significant other during this period. I never used to understand how important this is to the SAH parent, and couldn’t understand why Mrs D-E-D was always so anxious to have me home as early as possible in the evenings. After all, the parenting tasks during this time are not that hard. Now I understand. It’s not about needing physical help. It’s about solidarity and emotional support during this monotonous and draining period. It’s about presenting a united front to these little Twilight Terrorists, standing defiant, and saying “Not today. You can spread as much lego as you like. You can throw your dinner on the floor. You can poo in the bath, but you’re just not breaking us today.”
Obviously, for some families getting your significant other to come home at a reasonable hour simply isn’t a reliable option. In these instances I always try to obey rule number one in any terrorist encounter, which is, don’t negotiate with the terrorists. Ever. I also try to start the dinner / bath / bed routine a bit earlier and catch the terrorists by surprise. Usually by the time they’ve gathered their senses and rallied the troops they’re already fed, bathed and good to go to bed.
Failing that, I like to turn Twilight Terrorism into Twilight Tanqueray and simply drink gin & tonics until everything else seems far less relevant and I can no longer feel the lego stabbing into my foot.
Now if you’ll excuse me, Groundhog Day is here again and I can see the storm clouds rolling in……