Towering over my six-year-old, I thundered at her. Years, months and weeks of pent-up frustration at trying to get her understand something basic bubbled over in an incoherent mass of words tumbling over. Fear, anxiety, worry and powerlessness were at the root of my outburst. The moment I was done, I wished I could disappear. I felt small walking away. Tears streamed from her face. I walked away feeling terrible. Taking a time out to get a grip over myself, I came to find her seated on the sofa, giggling at something her baby sister had done. All evening, waves of shame washed over me. Putting her to bed, I apologized, hugged her tight and went over the evening again. Calmer, much in control of the message I wanted to convey, we talked. We held hands and agreed I would not scream again and she would listen to the smart voice in her head that told her the right things.
This evening marked a not-so-fine parenting moment. One that had me questioning what was it I was doing. For all my posturing on walking the walk and talking the talk, I failed at something basic. “Use your words” I admonish her each time she throws a tantrum. Why did those words fail me? Reflecting on my not fine parenting moments, I realize parenting is hard. Dealing with demands from the time I wake up till I go to bed is hard. Dealing with six-year olds’ potty regression is hard. Dealing with three kids by myself is hard. Raising children without resorting to TV time, iPads or other distractions is hard.
The magical moments that I wax eloquent most days about are studded in between the hard moments. By focusing on the happy, picture perfect moments, I shove the reality of raising children under the rug. The scrapbook of memories that I have been carefully curating are missing the angry moments, the shameful ones, the embarrassing ones, the sad ones. The ones that make the happy ones matter.
As I tuck the kids into bed and walk down to the empty study, the silence is resounding. The regrets in my head clamor for attention. I promise myself that I will take pause and stop before I give in to anger and frustration. I also promise myself I will remember that mothering is not all bubbles and swing sets. It is also the midnight waking, the throw ups, the soiled clothes, the tantrums and the having to shout to be heard.
To all those who mother, by biology or otherwise, take a moment to acknowledge the hard work that goes into raising kids and cut yourself some slack.
“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
― L.M. Montgomery
Happy Mother’s Day!