My husband doesn’t lose control with the kids as often as I do. I think it’s because he never has to get our darling daughters out of the house at a fixed time. Getting them out the door for school, dance classes (with intricate buns in their hair, no less!) and everything else on time is the trigger that can make THIS mommy a raving lunatic.
But I try not to lose it. I really try.
My crisis came two years back when I lost it but good. We were racing out the door to school and we were late. My older daughter Patti noted my stern look of dissatisfaction and scrambled quietly into the car. Sweet little cherubic-faced Suzi is more like her mom. She’s a spitfire. And apparently, I pushed her a little too hard that morning.
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My kindergartner turned to me, dug her fists into her hips and sneered, "Don’t you yell at me!"
Whoa. From my perspective I had not yet begun to yell.
"Honey, I’m not yelling. Just get in the car, please," I said.
She did not like my tone. Suzi didn’t budge and repeated, "Don’t you yell at me!"
"Get in the car," I said loudly, trying to sound menacing.
"Don’t you yell at me!" she screamed back.
And then, I lost it. I stood there in the garage and had a shouting match with my 5-year-old. She repeated her line and I yelled back, if you can believe it, "YOU are not the boss! I’M the boss!" while poking my thumb into my chest.
We went back and forth for a while before I looked scary enough to prompt her into the car.
Then I got in. And I felt like a complete idiot.
How ridiculous, getting into a shouting match with a child one-third my size. And what good did it do? Sure she got in the car, but at what cost to our relationship (and my throat)? I vowed that I would never escalate a situation that way again. And I haven’t. I’ve been good. When I can’t be good, I give Mommy a time-out.
But how ashamed should we feel about these moments? I know I’m really not the only one.
I used to hold myself up to an impossible standard: My daughters’ preschool teacher, Mrs. H. Mrs. H. dealt with kids perfectly. She laughed with her students, hugged them, skipped and ran with them. She said things like, "You’re so smart – kiss your brain!" and "You are just awesome!" She had an enthusiasm for kids when they were good and a miraculous ability to de-fuse negativity when they were naughty. She was perfect.
But you can’t always live up to perfection. Sometimes it’s more fun to wallow in dysfunction. I admit I sometimes enjoy seeing other parents lose it. It certainly makes me feel better. One time I heard a mother at the mall screaming at her kids and I smiled to myself. "I’m MUCH better than that!"
When I turned to take a peek at my fellow grumpy mom, I received the gift of a lifetime – it was none other than the perfect Mrs. H!
I guess when it comes to our own kids, no one is perfect. We can only keep trying.