Just a few weeks ago, I shared a post with strategies for “keeping your cool in a parenting crisis.” Thanks for the laughs, universe. I find these tips to be truly useful, but as a “hot responder,” staying calm isn’t exactly my forte. Today my ineptitude at handling chaos burst forth in all its glory. We had a parent FAIL situation. A rough morning. In other words, I lost my shit.
I woke up feeling refreshed and well-rested for once, but then the realization that I had forgotten to do something important slammed into me. Heart pounding, I raced downstairs to my laptop and hit the power button on my coffeemaker. I managed to get myself dressed and finish my task before my three-year-old had even woken up; my eight-year-old dawdled upstairs, messing with her hair and changing her clothes.
I knew it was a mistake to let my youngest daughter sleep so late, but to be honest, I much prefer going about my morning routine without her company. As soon as her eyes pop open for the day, she unleashes a litany of complaints and protests, and the knowledge that we would soon have to rush out the door was temporarily overshadowed by the pleasant sound of silence.
We were still doing fine for time. I spooned out portions of the overnight oatmeal that my preschooler had been begging me to make for the past five days (I prepared it the previous afternoon, patting myself on the back for remembering). With just thirty minutes until we had to leave to meet the bus, I knew it was time to wake my daughter up for the day.
Yes, there was whining. Clothing battles. Protests over hairbrushing. Refusal to don socks. I put the bowl of oatmeal in front of her, thinking, At least I’ve got this going for me; she’ll be so happy! I’m sure you know what’s coming: “I don’t want this kind! I want Rice Krispies!” she said angrily. “But I made it just for you!” I exploded. “It’s your favorite!”
The rest of the morning was a blur. Doling out teaspoons of homeopathic medicine for the lingering coughs. Realizing the shoes were missing. Frantically locating a backup pair of sneakers and a sweatshirt. Fielding complaints about being cold, and then breathing heavily when the proffered sweatshirt (to remedy said coldness) was declined.
The pressure was mounting. I knew what was coming. And then, dammit! I forgot I needed to start the crockpot for dinner. There was no way we would make the bus. Swearing, I threw Italian sausages, onion, and sauce in the crockpot; somewhere in the recesses of my mind I could hear my oldest whispering to her sister, trying to help her get her shoes on. It was too late. I was already that mommy. “Everybody get in the car,” I barked at my bewildered children.
Balancing a coffee mug, a second mug filled with hot water and lemon for my scratchy throat, my cell phone, and my laptop bag, I headed for the car. “Dammit,” I muttered again. I had forgotten to make my preschooler’s lunch. I was raging now. I quickly tossed a (healthy! organic!) yogurt tube, Ziploc bag of pirate booty, all-natural fruit strip, and squeezable (organic!) applesauce into my daughter’s lunchbox.
“Where’s your sweatshirt?” I yelled in frustration as my three-year-old buckled herself into the carseat. “I just gave it to you!”
I ran back into the house for a third time, slammed the door, and unleashed the “Fuck!” that was burning the back of my throat. I tried to force deep breaths, but I was too far gone. When I got back into the car, throwing the sweatshirt onto a pile of crap behind me, I was crying. “I need more help in the mornings!” I announced with desperation. “Why can’t you guys help me?”
“I did!” my eight-year-old chimed in helplessly, her eyes wide. She had. This was not her fault. “I know you did! This was your sister’s fault!” I responded, taking the high road and blaming a preschooler for my lack of organization. I regretted my words instantly, and a fresh wave of tears descended. And then I did it. I showed my hand. “Do you know how hard this is for me?” I shouted.
This meaning, all of it. Being a working mother with two part-time jobs. Trying to stay on top of things. Meet deadlines. Bring in enough money. Get out of the house on time. Get enough sleep. Keep the family healthy. Make lunches. Remember what to make for dinner. Remember to put the shoes away. Hang the coats up where I can find them. Keep everything together.
And in that moment, I did the one thing I absolutely hate doing as a mother: I burdened my children with my own emotions.
I’m not writing this with any advice, tips, or strategies. I don’t have any answers. I suppose I write it as part penance/part absolution for my transgressions this morning, my emotional untidiness. If you happened to “lose it” this morning, or last night, or last week, you’re not alone. At the very least, perhaps we can help one another to feel less isolated in our imperfection. Maybe we can sit together in our humanness.
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