Tonight was one of those nights where I wanted to quit motherhood. Like seriously, quit and walk away. Quit because it is so hard and clearly, whatever I am doing is not working.
I still feel like a broken mother. And earlier, giving up seemed like the better, wiser option because I can’t do this. I am not good at this.
I wanted a permanent timeout. For my kid, yes, but mostly for myself.
The breakdown was well-earned. Only five minutes into an evening walk, something that is becoming something of a ritual for us, my oldest decided he wanted to go a different direction than I did. When I explained this was not on the agenda, he escalated into what became the biggest, loudest, nastiest tantrum I have ever seen.
I turned the baby and the stroller around to head home because no child of mine was going to enjoy themselves if they behaved this way. But the walk home only got worse.
I would tell you all the graphic moments and how I was so painfully wronged, but I am learning that my child is not a possession but a separate human so it’s really not fair for me to share his bad behavior with you. At least not all the gory details. Even if he tells you about mine, like he has at church more than once. Sigh. But I digress.
When we got home, he had lost all his privileges for the evening. I managed myself fine while we were out walking. I couldn’t very well freak out in public. But when he kept up his tantrum-ing at home, my cool and collected self straight up evaporated. I lost it: a showdown of who could yell the loudest.
I wanted an ally so I told Josh about how our son had lost his mind and what needed to happen for him to find it. I sort of wanted revenge.
But then, I’d lost my mind too. I had to own that.
My son and I have a lot in common, aside from our strong personalities and our love of adventure and people. We freak out when we feel powerless, when we feel we are fighting a losing battle. We get scared, and we lose our cool. We both do it, and I’ll bet he learned it from me, not his dad.
It makes me sad because I’m afraid if I keep this up, I will lose more than my patient demeanor, the thing that makes me look good in front of other people. If I don’t watch it, I could lose my son too.
I feel powerful in many area of my life. I know how to talk to clients or co-workers, how to get people to share my ideas or jump on board with my plans.
But I never feel so powerless as I do with my children. I think those moments when we reach the end are the tests, and I usually fail them.
Two years ago, I wrote about my anger problem, how I yelled too much. But I don’t have an anger problem. I have a power problem. I don’t feel powerful when my kids act up so I react by acting powerless. I yell or freak out or overreact, letting the moment or their behavior tell me what to do, rather than guiding them forward and upward with my calm presence.
I know better. They don’t. But in the heat, I’m as lost as they are.
So who’s the parent? Sometimes I don’t know.
Don’t worry. I’m not really going to quit. I know that blaming myself for being a “bad mother” is just a pity party, a crappy excuse to stop doing hard things. I can’t quit. I mean, it’s not even legal. But if it was, it’s lame.
I can’t walk away when I’m bad at something, even if it’s one of those annoying (yet hopelessly necessary) virtues like patience or self-control.
Apparently, God thinks I need parenting, need this particular child, for my personal growth. And he needs me.
We need each other. (Sorry, son.)
Before he went to bed tonight, my son and I apologized to each other. We talked about our anger problem and what we can do next time to keep from letting it get there.
Mostly, I need a plan for myself. I am 33. He is 4. One of us can be expected to have another tantrum. The other needs to manage it, be a good example, for crying out loud.
If you’ve got loads of patience and self-control, pray for me. I need what you have. But if you can relate, help me remember – and I’ll remind you too – that we aren’t here to parent our children perfectly. Nor are we here to make perfect humans of them. But we are here to make each other better, with each interaction, to bring the other closer to God.
Our children can do it for us. Let’s try to do that for them too. You with me?