Grudgey-Wudgey Was A Mom


I knew it would be a horrid day.20140429-075634.jpg

You’re probably making the Debbie Downer “whamp whaaaah” noise in your head and rolling your eyes at me right now, but you’ve never had to deal with Jack the week after school vacation, as he transitions back to school and all of its many joys–  early rising, turning off the TV to go to the bus stop, holding it together behavior-wise for six hours, and homework.

He came home happy enough, and I was pleasantly surprised.  I made a big bowl of fruit salad for his after-school snack, and we chatted about Sponge Bob and belt testing at karate tonight.  For about a half hour, I treasured the lovely illusion that I was totally “bringing it” as a mom.

Things were cool and upbeat. . .  until spelling homework.

My first grader is already spelling at a third grade level.  So, the work is not hard for him.  Honestly, I think the challenge of racing all day on the academic treadmill just wears the poor guy down.  Really.  And homework in first grade?  What happened to kids running around outside and exploring the world in their free time?  Now they get to sit for another hour as they fight their brains to do juuuusssst a bit more work.

Eff you homework.  I effing hate you.  I hate you even more than Jack does.  And you don’t care one bit that we have karate tonight and are already rushing around and that my kid hates to be rushed, that it triggers his anxiety and mine.  You could give a flying hoo-hah, couldn’t you, homework?

The meltdown started because his hand wouldn’t “stop laughing”.  He said it was numb, as he gripped the pencil like a caveman and scribbled his words about as neatly as a doctor writing me a prescription for the ativan of which I was dreaming.

“Hold the pencil right, Jack,” I said.  My heart rate sped up as we inched up the rails towards the peak of the tantrum coaster.  And then we were over the edge, screaming all the way down the steep plunge.  I effing hate roller coasters.

Jack started screaming, calling me stupid, calling his teacher stupid and threatening to write her a note telling her how awful she is and how she should be fired for giving him homework.  I managed not to take the bait and mention that he would have to hold his pencil correctly to write such a note.

We struggled for about 45 minutes.  Time out has never worked with Jack, but I tried it anyway.  I picked him up and put him in his room.  He immediately popped out to swing at me, throw his pencil, tip over a chair, and throw himself screaming and crying on the floor.

We are not spankers, but oh man, oh man, it sometimes takes every ounce of self control.  I’ve always fancied myself a pretty peaceful hippie chick.  I never had a violent urge or aggressive bone in my body. . .  until having children.  Something about my child blatantly disrespecting and aggressing upon me makes me feel helpless and scared.  And feeling helpless and scared makes me angry.  And while I logically know matching his aggression with my own will not help, I still have to sit on my hands a little bit in my mind.

Fast forward an hour.  The ride was over.  I stepped off the roller coaster, but my pulse still raced, my adrenaline still surged, my legs still shook, and my stomach still lurched.  

He finished his homework and moved on.  His consequence for disrupting the peace was “community service.”  He had to do my least favorite chore and swiffer the kitchen floor.

Life moved on. 

He fixed himself a cheese and guacamole “burrito” and sat happily drumming away on the table and humming as he ate it, but I was still pissed.

Why was I such a crappy mom that I couldn’t shepherd my kid through an afternoon without a tantrum?  What life lesson had I missed?  What the eff was wrong with me that I was still so enraged with the little punk who was changing into his karate uniform?  Aren’t moms supposed to love unconditionally?  What kind of terrible mother wants to smack her kid and then sits down to blog about it?

After I finished berating my character, morality, and parenting skills, I put my face in my hands and cried.

My husband came home and there was no dinner because I had been at the theme park of spelling homework disaster with my six and a half year old.  So, that made me a crappy home maker too.

My husband took Jack to karate so I could cool off and go for a walk with Emily, who seemed just as chipper as a stuffed Hello Kitty and who giggled when I squeezed her.    So, I can’t be doing everything wrong if she is happy, right?

As we walked, I thought about how much growth we’ve seen in Jack this past year.  A year ago we really struggled with the rigors of kindergarten, which was such a huge transitional year for Jack.  This year he  started reading like gangbusters, and writes a stories in a journal just for fun.  He is interested in Reiki and craves cuddling while he watches Nijja Turtles.  He practices his karate forms on the playground, or in the middle of aisles when we are out shopping. 

He’s a cool kid.

He’s a complex and sensitive little human I grew from scratch in my tummy.

During a tantrum, I completely lose sight of these things.  It is so hard to stay present, to feel love and connection through the rage and anxiety–  both his and mine.

Part of being a parent is being a good role model.  I want to model rolling with the punches (uh literally) for Jack, and that when life knocks us down we get back up and start fresh.  I also want to model empathy, compassion, forgiveness, and unconditional love.

I don’t want to hold a grudge with my six year old. 

But sometimes it is really hard. 

Being a parent evokes the most insanely intense feelings I’ve ever felt.  Most of the time love and pride fill me to the point of bursting at the seams, but other times the feelings are dark and despairing– confusion, guilt, terror. 

Even after the tantrum, when I look at his blotchy face, it’s hard to remember he is so small, so young, and that the feelings in his little body must be just awful.  When he comes up to me with his arms open, wanting to hug me and cover my face in kisses, it is hard not to recoil.  Kids move on pretty quickly.  It is an adult thing to hold on to that kind of anger and frustration.  It is hard not to take it personally because it feels like a personal affront to my parenting.  There is nothing I want so much as to be a good parent.

Good parents do not hold grudges. 

I suppose part of “bringing it” as a good parent is learning how to be present and grounded during the tough times, not just when you’re sitting around eating fruit.

Are you always able to rise above when your child misbehaves?  How does it make you feel?  Do you ever take it personally?


14 responses »

  1. Been there and done that, just yesterday…homework is tough! My 3rd graders, 1st teacher this year expected 20 mins of reading+5 sentences about what your read, 15 mins of multiplication, and a spelling activity every night plus occasionally a project to finish up at home! Well that teacher didn’t last long then another replaced her and we are now on the 3rd teacher for this year in my 3rd graders classroom! This teacher is pretty good she does expect reading nightly which is normal for us also the multiplication practice and that’s it plus she is really good about no homework on weird weeks or testing weeks. I do tend to take it personally then I have to step back breathe and take a little break to look at the bigger picture. It can be hard to let it go especially after a raging tantrum but we have to show them how to also let it go and move on which is usually my motivation. 🙂

    • Yup. Moving on is hard, but so important. Thanks for stopping by and for leaving such a thoughtful comment. It is great to hear from you and to know that other moms struggle with the same stuff! xox.

  2. Great post and very honest. Kids get over things so easily. They fight like mad with their siblings and a minute later they are cracking up laughing with them. We parents don’t transition nearly as well, do we? And when they’re mad at us and throw all they can muster our way, it is SO hard not to take it personally! I always felt bad about those times but now I would tell you now that those rough moments ALWAYS pass. And the joy you get when everything is right the next time is all the sweeter because of it. BTW I don’t think I ever had homework in first grade but my kids all did, just like Jack!

    • Oh thank you so much for reminding me that the moments do pass eventually. It can be so hard to keep it all in perspective. Your kind words are very much appreciated! xox.

  3. So much to say to this as I just announced to my husband that I am DONE with parenting today. I’m in my chair with a glass of wine. I just returned from the soccer afternoon from hell, and by the time we rolled into our driveway I was just thankful that I made it home without leaving my kids on the side of the road. It was that bad. My 6yo also has anger/sensitivity issues and as I was trying to herd both kids to the car he began melting down and screaming at the top of his lungs that I was the worst mother ever…I’m not a spanker either but it took everything in me not to snatch him up by his ear and deck him during that epic tantrum. I’m good at faking calm but tonight I was seething. Once both kids were buckled in I yelled at both of them — “Shut up!!!! I just can’t take another second of this !!!” — They looked shocked and scared and I felt horrible. So, to answer your questions — no, I’m not always able to rise above it when my kids misbehave; it makes me feel terribly crappy; and yes, I sometimes take it personally (especially when they scream that I’m the worst parent ever.) I’m reminding myself and you that tomorrow is a new day and that I’m doing the best that I can — no time for berating ourselves over past mistakes. Chin up, Mama!!

    • Oh, Mama! Sounds like a horrible afternoon, and one to which I can relate. Thank you so much for stopping by and for your honesty and resonance. It is so important to know we are not alone. . . and that it is okay to not be the TV version of things. I was so nervous after I posted this that people would think I was just awful and didn’t know how to be a mom. . . but I think we ARE all doing the best we can. You definitely are right about that. Thanks again. xox.

  4. I love your honesty, Charlotte. This article is particularly poignant. I think you express in words what so many of us feel. Of course, I am not at this stage of parenting yet. The challenges Evelyn gives me are very rudimentary: no sleep, no personal space, no body autonomy. I appreciate these pieces you write – they give me a glimpse into the future. I hope I’m half as good a mom as you.

    • Those are some seriously kind and thoughtful words. Thank you so much. The demands of parenting definitely change. Although I think sometimes maybe I just take stuff too seriously and everyone else has an easier time/does a much better job. IDK. Thing changed big time when our second child got here. The whole dynamics shifted and its been really difficult to balance everything (if you couldn’t already tell that from my posts). Every day I’m trying anyway.

  5. Thanks – I know this feeling, too. I feel like I’m on the path to learning to keep calm and not take it personally but it’s a long journey. And how awful is set homework in first grade! I feel good about being slack in that department – they need down time after school not more schoolwork…

  6. Ah yes. There are moments that I yell at my child; she bursts into tears; and – knowing I’ve overreacted or handled it wrong – I wonder if I’ve just done permanent damage. Or if I’m teaching her the wrong way to react to situations. I think THAT boatload of responsibility – the fear you aren’t doing it “right”, on top of the “taking care of them” aspect is the parental stressor that – on top of all the other life stresses, sometimes pushes all the buttons at once and, well, suddenly I’m yelling at them, when really, it’s just another day – and they are tired – and I should have used the moment to explain that sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do etc….

    Case in point for parental stress? While I feel for you that you had a bad spell with your son, the main thing I stuck on in the article? He writes at a Grade 3 level. Wow! My 4-year-old’s teacher is sending home long lists of things she can’t yet do which make her behind in junior kindergarten (ie: letter recognition, number association, fine motor) that makes me scared – and feel I’m failing as the parent – and that when she’s in grade 1, what if she’s still struggling with basic printing? Rational me knows she’ll figure it out – and we’ll help her – but my point is all parents have bits they struggle with, and different issues which make them feel they are less than they should be in the parenting game. You will figure out how to rise above it when your child misbehaves. Or at least you’ll learn to minimize how it makes you feel.

    Hope today is better!

  7. Homework CAN be a jerk, you’re right! Kids too! When I have kids, I wonder if I’ll hit them?

    Your blog is providing me useful insights, Charlotte. Though…they’re mostly to do with all the many ways I likely annoyed MY parents. Heh heh.

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