Total Failure

I am a horrible mother.

It happens every time…just when I begin feeling like an honest-to-goodness and compassionate mommy I slip up again. This morning, I flopped into a chair in the family room, still reeling from Kate’s contribution to Barf Fest 2010. Not once in my single-girl days did I anticipate I would one day willingly hold a puking toddler for five straight hours. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fun, but I happily held my sick little (stinky) Katie until she was done and sleeping peacefully on my (equally stinky) chest.

As a result of yesterday’s illness, exhaustion overrode my “filter” this morning. If I recall correctly, my filter malfunctioned at the precise moment that Gwen demanded to be carried from the couch to the kitchen so she could eat breakfast. I’ll admit it, I snapped. “That’s enough! You guys are adults now,” I yelled, “so act like one! Get up and walk into the kitchen by yourself!” As soon as I finished saying one of the most idiotic things I’ve said in my career as a mother, I turned to Dave, “Did I just tell them that they’re adults now?” Joe and Gwen sat quietly blinking at each other in surprise. Gwen looked bewildered. Dave laughed. Joe’s face brightened and I recognized the sheer joy coursing through his little brain courtesy of my idiotic declaration. His eyes widened and took on a dreamy far-off glaze. He was drinking in the realization that I had just provided him with carte blanche access to Grown Up Land. Dave said, “Joe, since you’re an adult now, go grab the car keys and head over to Starbucks. I’ll take a black coffee with a shot of espresso and Mom will have a venti latte.” He wasn’t done. “Kate, you have about six more months to shape up, we’ve had just about enough of this baby crap.” Kate gnawed on her bottle and slapped Stella across the face. I went back to bed in an attempt to recover my ‘good Mommy’ persona.

I’ll fess up and admit that there are times when I say the completely wrong thing to my children. Like the time Joe came home from preschool and dished, “[boy name] wore a princess costume and pink nail polish to school today.” He stood there looking positively freaked out, waiting for my response. Having really enjoyed several sociology classes in college involving gender studies, my reaction was an unexpected and disappointing, “Jesus. That’s weird.”

[boy name] is, of course, a boy and he was five-years-old at the time. So what if the kid regularly wore princess gowns to pre-school. It didn’t matter that he threw tantrums when he realized he wouldn’t get a girl goodie bag at birthday parties, right? This is how I should have reacted, so I immediately reigned myself in and smoothed over my verbal faux pas by saying, “I mean, it’s weird because Halloween was over like three weeks ago…I guess he just really liked being a princess.” Dave and I made eye contact and winced a little. I was a bit disappointed in myself for that lapse in judgment. After all, at four and five years old a lot of children engage in gender-neutral play. It’s normal.

A few years ago, my niece was describing the odd relationship of a friend and her mother to my sister and me. As she described how stifled her friend felt, my sister appropriately nodded her head and pasted a sympathetic expression on her face. One that said, I’m listening to your story but I don’t judge someone else’s parenting style in front of my child. What was my reaction? Well, my mouth said, “Holy shit! Aren’t you glad you don’t live in that house?” and then I stuffed a cheese doodle into it. My sister choked on her coffee and quickly explained that perhaps that wasn’t the best and/or appropriate response. I saw her point. On the other hand, I knew that my niece thought something was odd too, so I went with it.

As long as I’m confessing my lapses in effective parenting and lack of a filter, I might as well talk about last summer’s mortifying incident involving the sales person from Invisible Fence. We had an appointment for 9:30 in the morning. With the well-meaning intention of maintaining our summer schedule, I requested an early appointment so we wouldn’t miss a beach day. I wrote the appointment on the calendar and….well, entirely forgot about it.

The morning of the scheduled appointment was atypically insane (meaning…far more insane than usual). Kate and I were returning to the kitchen following an especially traumatic diaper change and found Gwen attempting to fit a gallon of milk into a juice glass. Joe was standing next to the wide open patio door, staring at Scooby Doo in a zombie-like trance while Stella was clearly off wandering in the wild. Perhaps it was sleep deprivation or maybe I was just having an ‘off’ day . Whatever the reason, I lost it. I yelled really loudly at Joe, “Now you can go outside and find the dog while I clean up the milk!” I’m not sure what he was thinking in that moment, but Joe defiantly looked at me and said, “No.” I stood there dumbfounded and frozen. Joe looked oddly triumphant, but also like he might pee his pants in fear. Our stand-off ended when I lunged toward him and his six-year-old body responded with lightening speed. I’ll give him credit, his reflexes have improved and he has shaved a few seconds off of his top speed. He was out the patio door in a flash.

One of my finer moments of maternal tenderness captured on film

Right around the time that we were rounding the swing set and I was grabbing the back of Joe’s shirt to tackle him to the ground, the (forgotten) Invisible Fence lady pleasantly called, “Helllloooo?” She rounded the corner into our back yard as I stood and pulled Joe up with me. While I ordered him to his room, I spotted Kate, clad only in her diaper, running across the lawn with Stella in hot pursuit. Gwen was on the kitchen table mopping up milk with a solitary sopping napkin and noshing on a piece of bacon. The Invisible Fence lady stood staring, mouth agape before finally saying, “Ummmm…I just saw a baby running down the driveway.”

I smoothed my grass stained pajamas, pretended that my hair wasn’t exactly as I left it when I crawled out of bed and introduced myself to the woman who had witnessed my mothering skills at their worst. At least she hadn’t seen me sprinting barefoot across the lawn, trying to stiff-arm Joe….right? I was sure that she had seen and heard the WHOLE thing. As I shook her hand and invited her inside for coffee, Kate and Stella were finishing their lap around the house. I scooped Kate into my arms and called Stella, who thankfully came to me straight away. Ms. Invisible Fence stood planted to her spot on the lawn and said, “Wow. You could REALLY use an Invisible Fence.”

You think?

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