Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fast Forward, Rewind, Play, Pause and Delete Delete Delete

There is a manic quality to motherhood that I do not particularly enjoy. Or maybe there is a manic quality to my motherhood. The highs are just lovely, those moments when I think how lucky I am, when I think not only how much I love being Madeline and Avery’s mom, but also how I excel at it. But the lows really suck. I hate those not-so-great moments when I feel like I am holding on by a thread and when I feel like I am not the mother I want to be and I should have my mothering privileges taken away from me.

Like this morning: I was at a store picking up Nicole’s anniversary present and the girls were incorrigible. Full-on obnoxious toddler mode. They were both screaming and kicking (fighting over a blanket) and causing such a scene that the guard at the store came over to see what the fuss was all about. I tried to calm the girls down, which is always a challenge when there is an audience. There I was, clenched jaw, measured words, unheeded pleas, getting nowhere fast. I failed miserably at getting the girls to relax. In fact, I needed up getting kicked in the jaw by Madeline. So I gritted my teeth, made a hasty selection that I hope Nicole will like, rushed my purchased, declined gift wrap and even a bag, and high-tailed it out of there. Of course, once we were back on the busy street the girls were just fine. And I was livid.

Rewind to earlier that morning. I had an incident with Avery. She refused to get dressed. This is not new for her: This girl loves her jammies and would stay in them all day if we let her. In fact, she will often disappear in her room and take off her clothes and dress herself in jammies randomly during the day. But this morning, I needed her to get dressed. I had a long list of Things to Do: Laundry, gift, post office, food store, cleaning, phone calls, packing, picking up the car, tracking Nicole’s flight (I take this very seriously). And we needed to get started right away, and there was no time to cajole Avery into dressing.

I tried to remove Avery’s jammy pants and she kicked and screamed and flailed like she usually does. I begged, pleaded, bargained, reasoned and in general tried all the sane, Good Mommy methods I know to get her dressed. None worked. And it pushed me over the edge I was already teetering on. I got so angry. I yelled at her, and told her that she would stay here alone while Maddie and I left. I put her in her room, closed the door and concentrated on putting on Maddie’s coat and shoes, trying not to let my anger at Avery spill over to her. Avery became hysterical and cried so hard that she threw up. She wanted to go too, she yelled. She didn’t want to stay home all alone. I told her she couldn’t come because she had jammies on and because she wasn’t listening to Momma. I put her back in her room, closed the door, and continued to talk in a calm way to Madeline, who, by the way, is unfazed by Avery’s meltdowns.

Now I don’t need anyone to tell me the myriad ways this is all just so wrong. I let my anger, frustration and impatience control me. I “punished” her by threatening abandonment. Abandonment! What the f*ck? I didn’t comfort her when she was crying. And I gave her the silent treatment for about 20 seconds. I know. I felt like a monster and ended up on the floor in tears myself, hugging her and apologizing and, yes, letting her go outside with her pajamas on because I just didn’t have it in me to continue the battle. That is NOT the mother I want to be. That is NOT the method of parenting I want to pursue. I don’t want to dip into this territory of mothering ever. Or look at it this way: If I hired a babysitter who did any of this, I would fire her on the spot.

Nicole has much more patience than I do. And while I will say for certain she is, by nature, a much more patient person than I will ever be, she also is not with the girls as much as I am. She calms the girls in the same way she has calmed me when I am upset: Calm voice, hand on chest, instructions to take deep breaths together. And I try this method sometimes with the girls and it usually works. But I am not always in that place, that place that lets me approach a situation in a calm and rationale way. What can I say? I am human and sometimes I am not on my game. And when mothering is a 12-hour breakless day, I have my bad moments. (And yes, I know it is a 24-hour a day/365 days a year kind of thing).

I know yelling begets yelling and anger begets anger and impatience begets impatience. I try to think “Is this the type of mother I want my girls to be to their kids someday?” After all, they will model our behavior, for better or worse, and parent the way that they were parented. So in a way I am parenting them, and their children, and so on and so on. That’s a lot of pressure. Sometimes I take deep breaths and count backwards. Sometimes I walk out of the room/area/situation and take a moment to compose myself, even if only a few seconds. Call a friend. Call Nicole. But these days, that impatient side of me is rearing its ugly head instead.

Rewind to earlier this morning. The girls slept with me last night since Nicole was still away. This morning I woke up early and stealthily slipped into the kitchen to have some coffee and catch up on email/internet/blogs. Twenty minutes into my alone-time, Madeline scampers in, all sleepy and sad and wondering why I wasn’t in bed. So I took her hand and let her lead my back to bed. We curled up together, her little hand curled around my fingers, and I watched her fall back asleep. Avery was next to us, sprawled out in the exact space-hogging way she favored in utero. That was a good moment. I felt calm and peaceful and grateful and happy and needed. And even though the day started so good, it still deteriorated into what I described above. I wish I could rewind and tart over, or fast forward it, or, even better, just delete it.

Nicole is cruising along at 608 miles per hour (yay for tailwind) at 37,000 feet. Less than an hour and a half away. Told you I took tracking seriously. Once upon a time I used to think, an hour and a half away from reunion. Now I think an hour and a half away from relief. Ugh.


albe said...

I just wanted to write in to say, I think we have all been there. Even though you feel terrible about what happened, everybody has their bad moments/days and it is totally normal. You reflected on it, you apologized, you probably modeled good behavior for how to recover from an incident like that. Yeah, it was a bad morning, but it is the sum of all of the other good mornings, days, outings, nights, baths, meals, trips, etc. that make up who you are as a mother, and from what I can read, you are a GREAT mother. You just happen to be human.

Stacy said...

I could have written your post myself! Some days are great and others...not so much. Then I think, there's no way I would act this way toward my students. Why do I have more patience with other people's toddlers? *sigh*

This SAHM gig is harder than I thought it would be. :)

Calliope said...

I struggle with the fluctuation of Motherhood daily. And when W is having a bad day I have a bad day. And then I feel SOOOOO much guilt because omg I wanted this baby so much I should just shut the eff up and enjoy every single moment even the ones where he is flinging himself and his shitty ass off of the diaper pad and screaming...sigh

afc said...

we've ALL been there and you are not a horrible mother. a horrible mother wouldn't question herself the way you do & wouldn't think twice about what had happened this morning!

with regards to the jammies --- i know you didn't ask for any advice, but why not just let her wear them out? seriously, would it be that big of a deal? i know that i'd look at toddler in pj bottoms in an "awww..remember those days" look!


Jeannine said...

My friend and I were taking a well needed break without our kids yesterday afternoon (she has two year old trips, one with CP) and we had a similar discussion. We both felt awful for yelling and losing our tempers, and guilty for not enjoying these days more, but when you are home alone with multiple toddlers day in and out, it is just overwhelming - especially when the naps have gone to pot and you are on duty 12+ hours with no break . And the way you reacted today was not as horrible as you think. You are human, (and from what I read here a loving, wonderful mother) and it is good for your children to learn that no one is perfect and not to expect you always to be the ideal model of motherhood. Otherwise they will grow up unable to let it out when they are angry and frustrated and that can do more damage than hearing their mom raise her voice occasionally. Take a breath, and know you are not alone.

Hope said...

I'm not a parent, but.... 35 years ago I was that kid, and I'm sure my mother had the same reaction & I survived/was not scared for life/am not a serial killer.

We all know someone who seems to parent in a prozac like haze, nothing fazes them, nothing upsets them, and they never argue with their children- because they give in on everything, and generally think that the sun shines from their child's butt!!!!

Like overindulged puppies, those kids are never housebroken. They don't play well with others, first in the sandbox, and then all through out their lives.

Occasionally the Momma Bear needs to roar, in order to make the cubs listen. You needs to establish, and re-enforce the pecking order. It's part of socializing the little people- so they can exist in the real world.

And in all reality, Avery probably will have no specific memory of this morning, but might have some sort of inkling that when Momma says "get dressed" that she needs to get dressed!

Malea said...

I asked a nanny friend about this type of scenario... a toddler who won't cooperate with getting dressed in the am. i asked how do you get them to and she said" YOU dress them,period.It's not about whether they want to are not.My charge is 2yr not 22years.You don't negotiate with a child."

giggleblue said...

i wonder how i am going to negotiate these situations when GP gets older. already, so many time, i give up. does she really need her hair styled??

so i give into her fights. DP says that she's going to take advantage of this in years to come. i feel myself getting too angry and frustrated to make her do this or that - and she's only 1. she's not even talking yet!!

and then dealing with the pressure of being a good mom for the sake that "good moms make good moms..." and so forth. i'm only here to say i am listening and understand. it's not easy, but you are doing your very best.

Anonymous said...

I yell. When things go badly, or they create a huge mess I know will take time and energy to clean up, I yell. And I hate myself for it. But, I've been trying to step back afterward and think through how I want to handle that situation in the future. Parenting is never going to be perfect, and I do think there are times when it's good to show anger. People aren't calm and happy all the time. But, I think at least we're reflecting on these moments and we know we want to do things differently.

Beyond that, pick your battles. I'd let her go in her jammies. It's just not worth it.

Susanica said...

I love the way you write in such a brutally honest way Jennifer. Your last two sentences summed it up perfectly.

No advice for you here. We all navigate this motherhood journey the way we must. And we learn every day and start anew. Happy Easter. -Monica

Shelli said...

we've ALL been there, my dear, only you have the balls to tell the internet! :)

"1, 2, 3 Magic" seems to work in our house.

Most of the time anyway.

And I still lose my shit at Malka. Because she's ...

K J and the kids said...

umm....I still do this. Only I've been doing it for a while so my kids call my bluff. It's terrible.
Spencer will now say, "bye Cam. bye. we're leaving"

I have felt rotten. Not at that moment. It's always later when I'm going out in to the garage for something and they FREAK OUT because I'm going to leave them. I have to reassure them...I'm not going to leave you. I won't ever leave you. Oh, yeah, right, I TELL you I'm going to leave you. hmm ?

You are such a great mom.
I've read the books. There's no right answer.
Time. give them time to come around. Which is all hard to do when you are trying to get out the door in 2 minutes.
I suppose it's about planning. Getting her dressed earlier so that you have the time to work with her.

God bless you girl. I'm so glad Nicole is only moments away.
Oh shit. wait. I've been without internet for days. She's already home. YAY !

jenn p. said...

that is quite daring to put it all out there!

i was a nanny for twin toddler girls for a year. i was never able to lose my cool with them, because like you said, i'd have been fired on the spot. some days were really hard and others made me so proud to know and be loved by them.

i did find a book that made me know that sanity was around the corner. i recommend checking it out and seeing if it meshes with you and your style and most importantly, your girls. to sum it up i'd say it's about how to break your cycles of reaction in order to break their cycles of bad behavior.

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