Yesterday was just one of those days. We were pals all day long. We went grocery shopping, checked out the garden, we painted, and glazed. We cuddled–a lot. We talked about how much we love each other. She told me I would live in her heart forever, and we’d be together for the rest of our lives. She’s dramatic like that. Always acting out some very romantic scene. You could almost hear the music.
And just like that…. in the twinkle of a tiara…the squeak of a rubber duckie…I was embroiled in a battle more intense than a hostage negotiation.
“I don’t want to!” ”No!”
I broke almost every Mom rule. I begged. I pleaded. I yelled. I rationalized, and reasoned. Yes…I cried. So did she. I felt my hair grey. Her face was red with frustrated tears. She was asserting her independence all up in my grill, and I was faltering.
Big G couldn’t get home fast enough. When he did I broke down in tears as I heard him embroil himself in the same battle. Even Daddy couldn’t break through. As he attempted to handle the situation, I retreated into the refuge of the kitchen to get dinner together. I listened to the ordeal from the safety of my mashed potatoes, feeling silently justified that the madness was now being shared by the man who on occasion claims this job is easier than his.
I don’t know the exact moment things changed, but eventually I started to hear giggles emanating from her room. “I can DO it Daddy! Look at me!” I could hear.
He was doing it! He was getting her to cooperate. He was getting her to laugh! Maybe it’s not the best response, but it hit me directly in the lungs. It was a burning, breathless moment that washed over me. Failure. I am a terrible mother.
Maybe I need to put her in daycare. Maybe this stay at home Mother thing isn’t my wheelhouse. Maybe it’s time for me quit my day job, and do something else….
It’s a common thought. We spend our days with our children, trying to educate them, play with them, feed them, raise them. We grow them from these tiny loaves of bread, into these articulate little humans with thoughts, personalities, and the ability to drive us completely insane while possessing an almost impossible depth of love for them. Sometimes they just won’t behave. Suddenly a stranger walks in the room, and “Voila” –perfect angel. I remember trying to teach Little G her colors. She confused them. Switched them. Downright refused to acknowledge them. One day we were on a play date. She was playing alongside a friend, when she picked up a book of colors, and without hesitation leafed through the pages naming each and everyone. I was dumfounded.
So of course, when someone comes in, and makes your struggle look so easy, we are dumbfounded with a “why didn’t I think of that”, or “why didn’t she listen to me, when I said that?”. Like when you’ve been stuck on that one level of Candy Crush for days, and your husband rolls three levels ahead of you on the first try. You questions your abilities.
I flashed back to my fifteen-year old self. I was over tweezing my eyebrows, and parting my hair so far to one side I looked bald. My mom had tried a billion times to convince me how ridiculous I looked, but I didn’t listen. For whatever reason. One day my beloved Titi (aunt) from Florida arrived for a family event–probably one of our infamous 4th of July parties. I adored her. She was the coolest, most fun, sweetest, Titi that I never got to see. I was ambushed by her, and the rest of the local lot of Titis, taken to the side, and thrust in front of a mirror. “I used to tweeze my eyebrows like that, and they didn’t grow back.” She told me. “When you part your hair like that you look like you’ve got a comb-over” She showed me. That’s all it took. A word or two from her, and I changed my ways. Okay maybe I didn’t stop tweezing as much as she was counseling, but that came later.
Did my Mom feel that same level of frustration? Did she feel like a failure because I wouldn’t listen to her advice, and opted for that of her (read: younger, cooler) sister? I suddenly felt awful for not listening to my mom back then.
In the midst of my self-loathing, Big G walked into the kitchen, “Sometimes we just need to break her out of it.”
He said, “we”, as if I’d been in that room with him being so damn awesome. As if I’d even thought of making it into a game. As if he’d been there with me, through the yelling, and the tears, and the “please just do it, Little G”. And then I realized it…he was.
It’s not a race. It’s not a competition. No one is going to evaluate us at the end of the day, and say, “Well Little G’s father did a great job, but that mother of hers…she doesn’t pass.”
Of course not. Why was I acting like we weren’t a team? I may be the front man for the parenting situation, but that doesn’t mean I’m on the only one here. We’re both going to have ideas that work, and those that don’t. Isn’t that the benefit of having two parents? Getting to try out different techniques? Isn’t the goal to to help Little G learn to be a responsible person?
Maybe my Mom did feel frustrated that I valued her sister’s opinion more than hers, but the truth is, my Mother asked her to talk to me. In that moment it wasn’t about her being the all-knowing, all-influencing Mother who could do it all, it was about effecting a change, and it worked.
It was an enlightening evening for me, and in the end I was just so grateful that Big G was there, was helpful, and was teaching us both something new.