Taming the Mommy-Monster

I don’t know how to write about motherhood. I don’t know how to write about my own motherhood. How to write about the fear I feel whenever I’m angry, or how embarrassed I am when I yell at my kids.

I’ve started turning those yells into jokes, making a mommy-monster, and getting giggles. And the looks of fear that are so terrible have started to go away. We’ve worked through it. But I still have had those moments where I try to scare my kids so that they’ll listen. So that they’ll know who’s in charge. Who’s in control.

But when I remember, I realize I’m not fooling anyone. No one is in control in those moments. And certainly not me.

So we giggle and I say, “but really, I need you to do this for me…” Which sounds a lot better than counting. And usually it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but it does defuse the situation, and sometimes that’s really what we needed.

I do not think I’m a bad mother.

I am a bad housekeeper. And I am not a great cook, but most of the time I’m a pretty decent mom. I teach my kids how to respect other people, to respect their boundaries and their desires. I teach them how to live their own lives so that they will be happy without making other people unhappy. Which I believe is how we should all live. If everyone lived the life you live, could we all get along? Works for a whole mess of things: littering, smoking in crowded public areas, screaming at the top of our lungs when other people have asked us to be quiet, etc. And I show them love every day. I touch them in loving ways. I accept being hugged and kissed, even when it’s the last thing I want. I give them things but not everything.

But sometimes I just get so angry and I yell. Sometimes I get so annoyed with having to be touched All The Time, when I don’t want to be touched all the time. … and that’s okay. We’ll fix the yelling and I’ll get them to do something other than touch me.

But at least I’m not an alcoholic. At least my kids haven’t learned to look out for which mom I might be today, to listen to the way my footsteps sound, or the slurring of my voice, or the fear in the people around me. They don’t see broken doors and broken cabinets. They haven’t been surprised by a new car every few months because the last one has been crashed. Their lives are a little more secure. And they’ll never know any different. They’ll never know how envious I am of that. And how much I hate my envy. How guilty it makes me feel.

And maybe that’s okay. Maybe I’m allowed a bit of guilt. Maybe I can allow the 5 year old me to stomp her feet and pout a bit. For not leaving the house late at night. For choosing a real daddy. For choosing a real mommy who isn’t angry all the time.

Is my kid suffering from anxiety?

I’m having a hard time with my son. My awful neighbor has asked “what’s wrong with him” and now I really just need to accept the fact that his reactions are a bit outside of the norm. He cries a lot. He flips out. He’s a bit of a firecracker. He’s just … sensitive. Seriously I really just need to do something.

But of course it’s my fault. Because it is, right, always the mother’s fault. And maybe it is, because I am ACOA and don’t know how to do this. I don’t know what normal parenting looks like. And I need to figure that out.

It’s a vicious cycle. I know he’s worse when he doesn’t get enough attention from me, but when he’s like this I really don’t want to be around him. Which is unfair, since I’m the adult. But I need space. And the thing with having kids is that you never get space again. So in working with him I really need to work with me: force myself to do the things I don’t want to do. Like play with a kid who has been screaming at me and telling me how much he hates me and throwing rocks at cars and telling me he’s “fine!” I need to accept that it’s just what needs to happen.

So I’m reading this book, Freeing Your Child from Anxiety: Powerful, Practical Solutions to Overcome Your Child’s Fears, Worries, and Phobias, and hoping it will help. Anyone have any other ideas? I could seriously use something other than my nosey neighbor telling me to make my seven year old nap.

Maybe I should just keep my mouth shut.

I stood up for my son today. It was hard, and embarrassing, but I still did it. And in the end it felt good and right and proper. It was the school’s open house night. And we saw in his classroom that there was a “calm down castle” which is just plain awesome. It’s a cardboard box that reminds me basically of the solitary confinement in The Bridge over the River Kwai or The Great Escape or something like that. But, it really was great, it had things to touch and focus on. And we’ll probably make it for ourselves.

So Levi was having a difficult time later on in the evening, it was well past bedtime and it was a long day with swim class and no real downtime. And a dad from his class turned to his son and said “looks like that boy over there needs a calm down castle.” Yes, okay, that’s right. The boy looked up and said, “who Levi?” “Yeah, Levi.”

And this was totally unfair. Yes, my son needed some way to calm down. But he has a difficult time sometimes in his class. He is an emotional kid. And we all work on it. We use meditation and talk about saying “yes” to “no.” And no one tries harder than Lev.

And the last thing he needed was some dad reinforcing the idea to his son that there’s something wrong with him. And so I told him. I told him it had been a long day and we just moved, and the last thing he needed was someone to point out that he needed a calm down castle to one of his classmates.

And he apologized, which I thought was pretty big of him.

I am all for pointing out the actions of others as teachable moments, ACTIONS. Not feelings, or dress, or appearance or anything else but actions. And only with strangers, unless it’s a class or something, and in such a way that no one hears that’s involved with the person. I overstepped this the last time I did it, thinking they group had passed us by, which was embarrassing, but … it was still an action, a kid not sharing. And I did it to point out, “when you are not taking turns all the time, this is what it feels like to be on the other side of that.” I got called out, but seriously, I wasn’t trying to be loud enough to overheard.

And when the kids notice someone having a difficult time I do my best to tell them we all have tough times. And I want everyone to cut my kids some slack. At least when it comes to being able to controlling emotions.

Am I wrong? I would love to “fix” my kid to make it easier on him, but I love him just the way he is. Being emotional is so hard. And it will only get worse as life goes on. He didn’t hear what the dad said, but what if that boy went into class tomorrow and told Levi what his dad said? What if he passed it on to his little friends?

I know it’s just that it reminds me of all my friends talking when I was little and no longer being able to come to my house because my dad drank too much at my party. And it may have been fair for them not to be allowed at my house, but their parents talked so much about my family in front of them. There were so many secrets, so many whispers, and so much talking about things that kids just don’t understand the true meaning of. And none of it was necessary. You do not ever need to gossip in front of your kids.

… I totally made it so they’ll gossip about what a blowhard I am, didn’t I? Made it even worse?

Can I just take my two little loves and live in the woods and never take them around people again?

Boring through the rings of the universe

ImageI am watching my five-year old snap legos together. I have been allowed to help, to find the needed pieces. He has told me I need to stop kissing him; “It makes me all sweaty.” These hands so adeptly maneuver between spires: I never expected to call these chubby fingers “nimble.” He does a double take and sees one piece is just slightly out of position. This boy. Where did he come from?

I still remember teeny fingers grabbing at mine, missing. Waving a rattle around to hit the broad side of the laundry basket. Missing.

That smile is still slow to come. Those eyes still stare for a million years before he answers with a grin, or a word. There’s still the occasional drool, reminding us that he’s got some something with a weird name. Motor planning, deficiency. Nothing you’d notice.

Memories flood back with every smell, every movement, every time he looks at me. Is this what it is to be a mother, to continually hold four or five, or ten, memories for every second? I relate this day to a day he was a baby, to a day he was a toddler, to when I was a child, to the moment he was born. Blink of an eye and I have traversed decades, back and forth across the last few years most of all.

I rub his back. I keep from kissing him, though it’s a struggle. I want to convince myself that this day is now; separate it from the others I can see with the same clarity. Give it prominence, allow it to be the focus, knowing it will come again, the connection to this day, years from now, when he shows me his next marvelous, miraculous creation and I barely remember the miracle in front of me.