It was one of those weeks. The after-glow of vacation, cherished family memories and yes, help from Mr. L and others was over and it was little old me once again, the go-to person in charge of most things kid and home-related. The purge I went through getting ready for our guests for our weekend away only scratched a tiny surface of the disorganized chaos that is my house. One pile is put away and another pops up. It is a constant battle. Late nights had caught up with me and I was tired, beyond tired but exhausted. Early mornings, dragging kids out of bed in the still dark morning corralling them to their buses or driving them to school provided little relief as I looked around wondering where to start. Do I organize? Do I write? Do I go grocery shopping? Do I pay the bills? Do I sleep? It was one of those weeks where everything seems overwhelming and you are feeling underwhelmed to start anywhere. But I got the kids to school. Fed and managed to hold onto my self until mid-week. The kids, either dealing with their own tiredness from trying to get back onto a schedule, a mom whose temper was a little shorter than usual, pressure to ramp up at school as report card time nears or all of the above seemed to break down one by one.
The first morning is was Audrey. Now the last year I have seen a huge improvement in how she deals with her emotions and my message of “talk rather than yell” when feeling frustrated seemed to finally be getting through, until Wednesday. Full-on meltdown because she didn’t like the pants she had picked out and wanted her point back for getting ready in the morning although she had already lost it due to her dithering upstairs. It continued through a forced breakfast and resulted in my having to haul her off the floor, our voices raising in unison, her screaming about her pants and me yelling that the bus was driving down the road. With a deep breath I got her out the door, onto the bus and went to deal with round two of kids.
Jacob was next. Having been to his preschool rather erratically over the holidays because of days off for vacation it was his first full week back. We started walking into the coat room when the tears started. “I want to say with Mommy!!!!” Kissing him goodbye, I handed him over to his teacher for hugs and bolted out the door trying not to let the mom guilt settle in too long. After all, I had a full day of writing planned to catch-up on editing some scenes.
Back home, messages were flying, texts beeping as I tried to first answer my ignored emails. The snack program I am coordinating needed attention, no one had the schedule. Had I made the schedule? Yes, thankfully one late night I had popped names into the calendar and emailed it off. After all of that, I had three hours left to write, prep dinner and take the dog for a walk. I could feel the frustration building.
A few uneventful days provided relief until Friday. Friday, the day Jacob decided to have a full-on hitting tantrum like no three-year old because I would not let him watch television when he wanted. Thinking he was tired, I decided to forgo lunch and get him into bed. Tantrum continued until I was roaring like a she-lion and he was roaring right back as I tried to restrain him from biting, kicking and hitting me. Being on the petite side, a little boy’s kicks and slaps hurt!
I hovered above watching myself wondering what was going on? How did a generally sweet three-year old and his mom get to this point? After I pulled out scary mom voice to shock him into stopping, I knew it was enough. Taking a breath, he was gulping back sobs and I was on the verge of tears, I managed to pull myself together and talk in a softer but firm voice about how he needed to stop. He blubbered, “No, you stop!” followed by a weaker attempt to hit me. My soft voice turned to a soft growl in warning, “Do not hit Mommy.” I had visions of Jacob entering kindergarten September 2014 unable to control his actions, flailing when he didn’t get his way and my stomach twisted. This was new territory, the preschool boy tantrum. My middle child certainly had her share of breakdowns between 2.5 yrs and nearly 4 yrs old (and still does at almost 6 yrs old) but I always knew the worst of them were saved for us at home. I wasn’t as confident with Jacob.
I tried again, firmly grabbing his little arms, looking him in the eyes in a firm voice, “Do NOT hit. It hurts.” His little body tensed up but then just as quickly and violently it came, the fight went out of him and he threw his arms around my neck. “Okay.” We held each other for a few minutes as I regained my composure and tried to turn this into a positive parenting moment. Then, the talk where he apologized, I apologized for using scary mommy voice and he looked contrite as I went over, again, why we use our words and do not hit, kick, bite or scream and also when mommy says no, it is no. I had him repeat it to me back and then put the tired guy into bed so we both could have a bit of “calm down time.” Kissing his tear-stained face, I gently closed the door and promptly went down to the kitchen to cry. Tears of frustration, shame and guilt flew into my eyes as I took deep breaths. Another mommy fail-moment.
Mr. L happened to be home listening to this whole encounter, asking me just once if I wanted him to take over to which I had waved him away. He came over and placed his hand on my arm, “You okay?”
Shaking my head no, I looked out the window at the cold winter day. “Another bad Mom moment…”
He shook his head at me, “I heard the whole thing, you are not a bad mom.”
Although his words helped a little, the feeling deep down when you know you stepped a little over the line between the mom you want to be and the bad mom you are scared you really are did not diminish but was buried with the other notches of guilt parents pull around inside of them. It was covered with warm feelings as my kids tackled me one night all wanting a hug at once and the little guy in his three-year old way tried to smooth over the bumps not leaving my side all night but showering me with hugs and kisses. As I read stories to my girls and patiently watched yet another “show” from my natural comedian guy before kissing him goodnight, I tried to hold firm those memories and let the not so great ones fade a little.
After all, each day brings a whole new set of parenting challenges, and as a mom of three or more, that typically means parenting challenges times three.