When you have had enough of the day and more than enough of the repetition that motherhood seems to require and you finally blow your top and scream at a dancing someone to go to the bathroom like you already told him twice because the absolute last thing you need right now in addition to, like, EVERYTHING ELSE is to clean up an accident, making both him and his innocent twin brother cry, what do you do next?
You finish putting the trash out in the garage. You hug and kiss them and apologize for scaring them. You try to calm them down while trying to calm yourself down. You realize that screaming is not a constructive outlet for your frustration that has built up after a stressful day of working, going to the grocery store (the one you don’t like but go to because it’s close and sometimes you don’t have the luxury of time) TWICE to find allergen-friendly birthday treats for school tomorrow, single-parenting because your spouse is out of town even though you’re not truly a single parent and probably don’t even know the half of it, cooking for and cleaning up after the thankless Mini-Yous, and generally trying to remain sane.
You tell them you were frustrated and angry and let yourself lose control for a second.
You admit out loud to them and to yourself that you screamed in part because when you were growing up, you were screamed at in moments just like these, and we learn parenting from our parents. You tell them that you understand they are learning how to behave from your own behavior, and you tell them these things get watered down through the generations, which they may not understand yet.
You remember vividly (you’ll never be able to forget) but don’t tell them about how you were spanked as the worst punishment and how awful and scary it was, and you know your parents probably suffered worse yet when they misbehaved or when their parents were overly stressed and didn’t know how to better handle it.
You take the time to talk to them individually and reassure them that you love them even when you’re angry and feel like no one is listening. Even when your to-do list of chores and party planning and gift preparing and other deadlines loom ever nearer, you take the time to talk to them and listen to them, because they’re more important than any of it and you want them to know that, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
You stand firm on the rules and gently say, “No.” when they ask for extra video-game time because as much as you want to give them the world to make up for your outburst, you know they need to mind you and know they are not in charge. Moreover, they need playtime and imagination exercise more than extra time staring at a screen. After all, that’s probably why you’re so grouchy after the workday too and why your eyesight seems to be getting worse and worse as time marches on and your fine lines become more pronounced.
Naturally, you tell yourself you won’t lose your cool again. You tell yourself their tears and scrunched-up, sad eyes aren’t worth it. You tell yourself you don’t want to be the big, bad mommy monster. You know somewhere in the back of your mind that you will lose your temper again, and you pray to whatever religious figure you may or may not believe in that you will be able to control yourself more and take a breath or 10 before speaking.
And maybe you pour yourself a glass of wine and write down (okay, type) all of these pearls of wisdom so that other mommies might recognize the pain, send some virtual support, feel better about their guilt over their own outbursts, and know that they’re not the only ones. And then you get back to the sinkful of dinner dishes.