There are moments as a parent that I feel like I’ve got it mostly figured out. Times when I feel like I’m succeeding as a mom, giving the love and attention my kids need, and all around, on top of my parenting game.
There are also a lot of times when I feel like I’m drowning in parenting. Times when I question every decision I make. Times when I am extremely self critical for slipping up as a mom. Times when my stress oozes out and I take it out on my kids, and then the mom guilt sets in.
I remember one of those times. My daughter had been being extremely disrespectful, lying, and simply not following directions leading up to this point. Every attempt to talk with her was met with a snappy attitude, and I was beaten down. My patience was all but gone.
We got into an argument over a document that needed to be taken to school so that the school could start her Dyslexia testing. Despite me asking that morning if the paper was in her bag, and that afternoon if she had given it to her teacher, the paper didn’t make it to school. She had lied to me each time I asked. As I went to her room to get her stuff ready to go to her dad’s, I found the crumpled-up form thrown in the corner of her closet, and I lost it.
I asked her why she lied. Why she didn’t do what was expected of her, and she snapped back with yelling, crying, and telling me she wanted to live with her dad. That I was too mean. Instead of walking away I let my feelings get in the way and told her I would prefer her go live with her dad if the nasty attitude was going to continue.
As I drove the kids to their dad’s I replayed the argument over and over. When We got to my ex’s house she jumped out of the car without a hug, a kiss or an I love you. It killed me.
I drove home in tears. She has always been “mommy’s girl” but it seemed she now hated me. I was devastated. I spent the weekend reflecting, trying to come up with a game plan to make things better. I knew I had to show up for her even though my feelings were hurt too.
As Sunday evening drew closer my anxiety started to rear it’s ugly head. When she got home she was still mad at me. She still didn’t say hi or give me a hug. So I asked my oldest to hangout with the baby so I could go talk with her.
I pulled her aside and hugged her. Then sat her down and told her how sorry I was for telling her she could live elsewhere with her poor attitude. I tried not to cry, but I couldn’t help it. I had let her down. I apologized for letting her down and letting my feelings get the best of me. I told her that I knew it was my job to be her mommy and to be more level headed. But I also let her know that what she said really hurt my feelings. I let her know how special she was to me, and how broken my heart would be without her next to me. She started to cry too, and apologized for her actions.
We talked about what each of us could do better, and we agreed to both try our hardest to do better going forward. I apologized once more and told her I wouldn’t always be perfect, but that I would always love her with all of my heart, even in the bad moments.
She left me with this:
A: Mom, you want to know who the only perfect person in the whole world is?
A: George Washington.
And with that I knew that we were on the same page, that she understood and that things were going to be ok.
It’s a hard line to walk as a parent. You want to teach them boundaries, appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, how to be respectful and responsible, but I also think it’s important to show our kids that we are human too. I think it’s important to let them see that adults make mistakes too. I think it’s important to open up and show your emotions, whether you’re happy, mad, sad. I think it’s important to let them know when they’ve hurt you, and I think it’s important to talk about all of these things with them.
They will learn how to manage their feelings and emotions from us. How can they do that if we’re constantly hiding our tears or frustrations from them?
Hug your babies, especially when you fight. And say sorry. Always say sorry when you are wrong.
Kathleen Nelson is a mom blogger focusing on her journey as a single mama of four. She shares the ups and downs of parenthood, divorce and mental health while holding it all together with a bit of coffee, dry shampoo, and a sprinkle of sarcasm. You can follow her experiences on her blog: www.sweatpantsandtopknots.com