Parenting is tough.
It is relentless. It is exhausting.
There are challenging moments. Hours. Days.
With surprising frequency, I can rise to the occasion, and dig deep into a well of patience that I didn’t know I had before becoming a mother.
Then, there are moments when my best self does not shine through.
Today, I had one of those moments.
I didn’t sleep last night.
Someone was kicking me in the stomach all night. Someone woke me at 5:00 am yelling, “Get me a wet rag for my eyes!”
Someone slammed her fingers in the front door while fighting with her brother over whose turn it was to close it (I have a total phobia about fingers and doors – for a good reason).
Someone fell every 3 seconds when we tried to take a rainy walk in the woods to escape the confines of the house for a bit.
Someone is two.
My daughter is beautiful, amazing, cheerful, and loving. She also pushes buttons I didn’t know I had before she was born. She challenges me. We challenge each other, I suppose. (Past blog post: “SO.”)
I never wanted to be the kind of parent who yelled. A parent who belittled. And 99% of the time, I’m not.
We were walking hand in hand, up to the house – after our failed attempt to walk in the woods together because the ground was too uneven for my daughter to effectively walk on – she looked up and said, “Mommy, I want to watch Into The Woods . . . but I don’t like the part where Jack’s mommy hits him on the head. She’s mean. You’re a nice mommy.” Cue heart swell, right?
I got my daughter settled in with lunch – a cheese quesadilla and apple slices – on a TV tray table, as a special treat so she could watch her show while she ate.
30 second didn’t go by, but her clumsy little two-year old feet knocked the whole table over, spilling greasy, cheesy quesadilla slices and apples all over the floor.
And I lost it.
I yelled. I belittled her for her clumsiness. (Exact words: “GodDAMNit, Emory, why can’t you be more careful?!”)
She is two.
It only lasted a second. I walked out of the room and tossed the ruined lunch in the sink. Then I looked back at my daughter, sitting on the couch, tears welling in her eyes and spilling over her chubby cheeks.
And I felt like a big, fat, loser jerk.
I went over and grabbed her into a big hug and we both cried together. I looked up and said, “Honey, I am so sorry. I promise I will try better next time.” We hugged and cried some more.
A few minutes later, she and her brother were happily watching Into the Woods (the part where Meryl Streep’s evil witch character enters the scene), and I heard her brother explaining, “See, Emmer, there are good witches and bad witches . . . ”
And I instinctively called out, “And sometimes there are good witches who just have a bad day.” I made myself laugh a little bit at that.
I’m sure there is not a parent out there who can’t relate to this story. We’ve all had our “moments.” But when it’s you, and your kid, it feels like it’s happening for the first time in the history of parenting.
The great thing about kids – they are super forgiving. I am sure my daughter that will not hold my angry words, the image of me yelling, in her mind forever. Not like I will. (She’s already dancing and singing along to Into the Woods.)
This is the magic – I know for a fact that I will get another shot (most likely, by day’s end) to have a do-over and show patience and kindness instead of getting upset.
I’m sure I’ll have a bajillion opportunities, over the course of my parenting career.