The twitch on my top right eyelid is the only outer sign of how I really feel. Well maybe a little lip chewing too. I’m sure you’d notice one or the other. At 8:38 am this morning, I was an epic failure at parenting a toddler. I had yelled “Stop” like five times by this point. Dressing her had been an all out fighting tantrum from which I’d narrowly escaped getting my front teeth whacked and deadened by her skull. Cussing at anything else that had gone wrong had brought no relief. And the rest of the day hung in my mind like a cloud of impending doom.
The mental health facility that houses my “talking doctor” is adopting a new catch phrase. “It’s OK to be not OK. “ While it feels slightly better to have permission to be ‘not OK’, the yucky feeling of humanity lingers. It must also be OK to have post traumatic stress disorder because even the eye doctor explained the cause for my toddler eye twitch is stress. Duh.
Mothering is like an extreme sport that you’d rather be sitting in a chalet watching and enjoying from afar. While I crave Happy Happy all the Time Time Time and everything under control, instead I get sudden eruptions of chaos. She’s being really cute and suddenly she’s having a really really bad day and dragging me down with her. Negativity is a constant modus operandi. I felt despondent yesterday after her tantrum over a)putting on the coat, or b)clipping her toenails, or c) anything else her brain snapped over. I intended to enter a selfie challenge on Instagram and I thought a picture of this moment would be far more real than the happy grinning one I ended up with. I’m human therefore I feel and am real. I resent the expectations I have of myself otherwise.
By 10 am, I could only hold my mental breath and resolve to keep it together until I finally get a break tomorrow. Sure I intend to create more of those breaks this week and month. Knowing that daycare is around the corner is a prize I have my eye on. But everyone then has to make it to that point without losing their stuff. I almost started crying yesterday because there is nothing in the world that makes you feel like a bigger loser than knowing you’ve failed to be the most calm patient considerate prepared Mommy in town, any town, at that specific moment.
An additional motherhood requirement is for me to consider my luckiness as compared to others’ unluckiest. I better be grateful every moment because she is alive. I discovered recently that someone I’d known for 30 years had lost their first-born baby daughter many years ago. They’d created a foundation for their daughter and now their eldest living daughter is turning 14. I was speechless. An unimaginable grief. And yet I am still really disliking my daughter today. It’s my apples to their oranges. There’s automatic disparity between one parent’s experience and another’s feelings. My entitlement to feeling any and all of this allows me to move through it. I can only live my life, however ungratefully, just once.
So do I really think I suck as a parent? No. Do I make lousy choices? Yes. Will my children grow up knowing that parents are fallible human beings? Yes. And hopefully that I’m a mostly nice person. Teaching them these acts of self-tolerance so they become human beings, plus keeping them alive is my job. And then letting them go out to make their own fallible human lives and choices in the places they settle with the people they’ll come to love. Soon this will all be just a distant memory. Right?
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