You may be familiar with this scenario:
Everything is fine, the children are mostly getting along, playing and having fun, everyone is having a great day out.
Then there is a subtle but distinct shift.
Things start to deteriorate, typically starting with some heavy sighs, then a little whining, then BOOM. Attitude. Once the attitude pops up, my friend, the fun is over. A meltdown is coming. You’ve stayed too long. Mom is done.
Yup. Mom. Sometimes dad, but for the purposes of this post, let’s go with mom.
There’s a real art to catching the very moment that you should leave a place. I find it’s about 10 minutes after you’re having a really great time and you notice that it’s getting late. But that’s not what I intended to start writing about.
Today I witnessed the moment just after mom reached her saturation point.
A perfectly normal family (mother, father, a 3-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy) sat near us at the pool today. Everyone seemed to be having a fine time.
After only a few hours, I noticed mom was packing up to go. Dad returns with the kids, who each have sno-cones. Dad disappears again.
Little girl spills her sno-cone.Mom: You spilled! You made a huge mess!
(Little girl looks as though didn’t even realize she had spilled something, which she probably didn’t.)
Mom: It’s all over you! It’s on your shoes. Great. Just great. Now everything is sticky. You’re all sticky now. You’re gross and sticky. Give that to me.
(Mom takes the treat, puts it on the table and sets about doing something. Little girl takes her treat off the table and continues to eat. Dad returns)
Mom: (looking at him like “Where in the hell have you been?”) Misbehaving again.
Mom: (too mad to speak, barks) DAUGHTER.
Dad: What did she do?
Mom: I told her not to eat that sno-cone and she is eating it again. She’s sticky and now everyone is going to need a bath. I’m throwing the sno-cones away!
Wisely, dad chooses not to speak as they get ready to go silently.
As they are leaving with both the kids still eating their treats. The boy is straggling behind.
Dad turns back: Come on.
The boy snaps at him: Don’t rush me!
…and like that, they are gone.
For a full sixty seconds I reveled in the “That mom is way worse than me” moment. You know the one, where you see someone else doing something and you think, “YES! There is at least one person who is worse at parenting than me.”
Then I had a horrific thought.
How many times do I sound exactly like that mom? How many times have I just had it and sound like a complete bitch to the people I love the most? Not only in public, but at home too.
Hundreds? Thousands? I’ve been a parent for 2,536 days (math) and I’ve had plenty of opportunities.
And I thought, I don’t ever want to sound like that woman. Again. I should probably say, I don’t ever want to sound like that woman again, because I know I have.
Kids spill stuff. They get sticky. They annoy us. They pull on us and tug on us and whine to us. They are too slow. They run when they should walk. They play with things they shouldn’t. They demand your attention when you’re just. Trying. To finish. One. Thing.
They can exhaust you, even on a “relaxing” day at the pool.
Moms are human and we have a breaking point.
But they are just kids. Sometimes we (and I include myself in this group) hit that breaking point a little too easily. How do we expect our children to learn how to control themselves when this is the example we give them? Even worse, it seems we feel perfectly justified when we’re being completely irrational.
What would we say, if we were able to witness how we act in some of our not-so-self-controlled moments? Would we have a “that mom is worse than me” moment?
So, I’m thankful for the perspective this mom gave me today (and I hope she’s in a better mood tomorrow). I have no doubt she’s had many glorious parenting moments. But today she taught me a lesson, too. It was a reminder of something to work on, and I’m open to suggestions.