A Bad Night — Abby Off the Record

A Bad Night

by Abby on January 11, 2013

Mean ladyI would hate myself if I saw myself that night. A sniping, shushing shrew, hissing at her kids in Subway to Sit down! Be quiet! Stop doing that! We were causing a scene, and I knew it. Two moms, 5 kids, 6pm. The witching hour. I should have known better than to take them out to eat on a weeknight. After a long day at school. After an hour at the gym. But our friends were going, my husband wouldn’t be home for dinner, and frankly, it seemed easier for everyone to just go to Subway.

But it wasn’t. Of course it wasn’t. This one wanted pizza, that one wanted lemonade. OK, but you’re sharing. You never eat your food. I’m not paying for food you don’t eat. Yes, Mom. I know, Mom. Of course after two bites they were begging for chips and chocolate milk. No fair! He got… I wanted… You never let me

The two 3yos were standing on the banquettes, jumping up and down. Stop that! That’s not how we act in a restaurant! The older kids were kicking each other under the table, tipping back in their chairs. If you don’t sit up right now we’re leaving!

I wolfed down my meal, barely tasting it, while simultaneously passing the shared lemonade back and forth. Food falls to the floor. Drinks spill. Hands grab. No fair! He got a bigger sip than me! I am aware of another parent nearby, a dad ordering food with his well-behaved son. I recognize the half-smile, half-smirk. Poor lady. Glad it’s not me. Glad we’re past that age. I avoid his pseudo-sympathetic eye. I’m not in the mood to play that game tonight. Yes, I DO have my hands full, ha ha. You’ve been there, too, huh? Where is Dad when you need him? Ha ha. It takes too much energy.

Mentally I run through a list of potential explanations and personal faults: Were the kids just tired? Hungry? Had they not gotten enough outdoor time? Too much screen time? Was it selfish of me to drag them to the gym instead of letting them play outside? Was I being unreasonable to expect them to sit quietly and eat their food? Should I have made us all go home for a healthy, home-cooked meal instead of fast food, even though they never ever eat what I cook so why do I even bother? Do other parents have more patience than I do? Or are their kids just naturally better behaved? Am I a terrible mom?

Really, it all comes down to that. Most days, I think I’m a pretty good mom. My kids are loved, fed, clothed. Other people tell me they’re (mostly) well-behaved. Smart. Funny. Polite. I read books to them, help them with their homework, take them to swimming lessons and doctors’ appointments, dry their tears, give them hugs.

On other days, I feel like I’m failing at everything. I don’t read enough parenting books; they feel like a chore. I don’t do enough activities with them; I’m too tired. I yell too much; I don’t have the patience. Better kids would be more grateful; better moms would be more selfless. Just another harried mom yelling at her poor kids, I would have thought if I’d seen myself that night. My biggest fear is that my kids will see and remember me that way, too.

VIDEO O’ THE DAY: Interesting TED talk on parenting taboos and happiness, by Babble.com founders and spouses Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman. Thanks for sharing, Angie Mizzell!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Lou Mello January 11, 2013 at 7:52 am

Sometimes us guys are just wackos, doesn’t matter if we’re three, five or fifty. Worry not, move on and cheers to all you do every day.

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Stephanie Mills January 11, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Soooo been there. Likr Lou said, you just have to put it behind you and move on. Just keep trying to do your best & the good days will outweigh the bad.

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Jennifer January 11, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Boy, have I been there.

I have two little boys, too. And sometimes I find myself yelling at them…

….to please hurry up because if we do not leave RIGHT NOW, one of them is going to be late to school.
…to stop bothering each other and eat their dinner already.
…to be quiet for five seconds.
…to leave each other alone. I mean it this time.
…will you please eat your own dinner and stop bugging each other? Did you not hear me the first ten times I told you to cut that out???

You get the picture. I made a New Year’s Non-Resolution to yell less this year. (See: http://www.jenniferlarsonwrites.wordpress.com.) I don’t want them to grow up with a Mom Who Yells. I don’t want that to be their memory of me from their formative years. And most of all, I don’t want to raise kids who are going to become yellers, either.

But it’s hard sometimes. Oh, how it’s hard. I am jealous, sometimes, of those mothers with docile little girls who never seem to do anything that warrants yelling. What is that like? How easy they seem to have it. Anyway, you’re not alone. You have good company. :)

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Angie Mizzell January 12, 2013 at 7:49 am

I’ve asked myself all the same questions but here’s what I know: I really feel like a bad mom when I know I’ve not been present, when I’m distracted and aloof. When I get out of my own head and focus on them, it’s amazing how well they respond. I figure if I try to be present as much as possible (and I’m not talking about those times I am legitimately busy with something else, and they need to wait a freakin’ second!) I can give myself a pass for the all the times they lose their minds and I have to put the smackdown on them. In the end, I hope they’ll grow up and realize I loved them fully, but I didn’t take too much of their crap.

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emc January 12, 2013 at 9:27 am

I totally feel your pain, your thoughts, your guilts and fear of the future. This Mama is all the more tired, weary, impatient and yelling because a certain 2 year old won’t stay in his bed and thinks 5am is a great time to wake up….and wake up the entire family.

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Rebecca Einstein Schorr January 13, 2013 at 10:22 pm

ARGH!!! I wonder when we’ll stop asking ourselves these questions. I mean, will be wondering if I’m a good mom when I’m in my seventies? I am so tired of self-doubting. And there isn’t an exit survey to find out how I did.

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