My son was crying this morning for his favorite cup, which was dirty in the dishwasher. In my defense, I was very frazzled, trying to get him ready for daycare and I can’t be late for work…but I told him if he didn’t stop crying, I was going to break his cup and then he’d never be able to use it again.
Now I’m sitting here at my desk feeling like a terrible mother and worrying that I have damaged him for life. Have I? How can I be more patient with my children and less mean?
You haven’t damaged him for life. Let’s just get that out of the way. I mean, he’s probably huddled in the corner at daycare banging his head against the wall and wailing, “My cup! My cup!,” but that should only last for a day or two.
Every mother loses her patience on occasion. One time I told my kid, when he was three, that if he didn’t stop whining to watch a movie I was going to throw away all of his movies and he would NEVER be able to watch a movie EVER AGAIN. Not a huge deal, right? Well, when you’re three, you take that shit seriously when your mom says it…suffice it to say, I made things much, much worse than they would have been had I acted a little more maturely.
I have a friend who’s a great mom, an amazing teacher, and a generally sweet gal all around. One time she told me something that I think of every time I want to leave my screaming horde of children, get in my minivan, drive to Vegas, and play penny slots and drink watered-down vodka until I can’t remember my name. She said, “The times it’s hardest to love them are the times they need it the most.”
I find this to be generally true. When I’m frazzled and trying to blow-dry my hair and pack a lunch and look for a missing Croc (Where the hell do those Crocs go? Do they scoot around the house at night just to mess with us?) and digging through the laundry pile to find the Superman shirt even though it’s dirty because listening to him scream about the damn shirt is more psychically painful than sending my child to school in a dirty top, I really want it to be someone’s fault. Clearly, nothing is ever my fault. I let my emotions get the better of me and I blame the kid and then BOOM. Mean mommy. But if I remind myself that he’s old enough to wash out the cup on his own, or that he’s not going to die of the ebola virus if he drinks out of a dirty cup one time, or that I can ignore his screaming and he won’t perish of dehydration on the way to daycare, or I just give him a hug and say, “We’re having a tough morning, let’s try to calm down and see if we can all get out of here in one piece,” it eases the tension.
He’s fine. He’s going to be fine. And I see nothing wrong at all with picking him up today and saying, “I’m sorry I told you I was going to break your cup. I would never do that. I was frustrated and lost my temper. Let’s make sure that cup is clean tonight before you go to bed so you can use it in the morning.”