confessions from a parent who throws things

by rebecca on November 16, 2015

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“There’s jelly on my toast!” screams my neighbor’s daughter.
“I thought you liked jelly,” says dad, and it’s true, she did like jelly, with a particular preference for raspberry.
“I hate jelly!” the toast is now airborne.
“I forgot to tell him to put peanut butter on the toast,” says my friend to her daughter as she puts a new slice of bread in the toaster. Then, rolling her eyes at dad, “She switched to peanut butter, in case you didn’t get the memo.” To me she says, “Lie to me and tell me you have moments like this at your house.”

I don’t have to lie. My children drove me crazy with their fickle nature and hungry demands. One day I was so enraged I threw a roller-skate across the room.

My kids were 5 and 2 the day of the airborne jelly toast. I was alone with them. We’d just moved to a new town. My husband was in school 80,000 hours a week. I worked remotely from home so we could save on childcare, but the downside was I got 30 minutes of sleep a night.

My patience got paper thin, and one day, when my kids wouldn’t put their toys away the 30th time I asked, I lost it. I threw a rollerskate across the room. Horrid mom moment.

I put myself in timeout in the bathroom, and began running water so the kids wouldn’t hear me losing it more. “Mommy?!” I considered giving myself a swirly, but took the compassion route instead. I dunked my head under the faucet to gain clarity. Then I emerged and scooped my kids toward me, “I’m sorry.” I told my kids I was temporarily a crazy person and that I should never have acted like that.

My kids forgave me. Quickly. They make fun of me now and that heals the embarrassment.

I don’t recommend throwing roller skates, but I think it opened a window of intimacy. This is because I truly lost it and I truly apologized. I was utterly in the wrong, and I absolutely came clean. A clean apology actually makes room for deeper intimacy.

Another time, when my first born was about 11 months old, and there had been no sleeping in our home for 80 days (very little sleep when my kids were young), I was up traversing the halls.

I was reciting Dr. Suess’ Alphabet book, Big A, Little A, what begins with A? Aunt Annie’s alligator, A, A, A. It was not a friendly recitation. The vigorous bounce in my step and tension in my voice as I paced was not mellowing her mood.

I have never shaken my baby, but that night, I grew compassion for parents who do. I felt so shaky inside from exhaustion, and the exhaustion was welling up inside me such that it was falling out every step and every word I uttered.

Here’s why. I chose to raise my children using a family bed. I believe babies and children belong with their parents until they ask to sleep on their own. It’s an intense way to raise a family, but I think it offers great intimacy. However, I also believe there are tons of other ways to nighttime parent. So I had all those VOICES in my head, “You’re doing it the wrong way.” “The reason she’s crying is because you don’t know the right way to be a parent.” I questioned myself in the dark of the night when I was exhausted.

What good parent has not questioned the way they are raising their children when they are at their wits end? “It’s not working! It must be my fault!” But the reality of the deal is simply that parenting is a tough gig. The toughest one I’ve found.

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Finally, as I come clean about my motherhood moments, there’s a story about toilet paper. I was doing dishes and I noticed it was pretty quiet. Silence in a house with a toddler is a bad thing, so I went into the bathroom and found my daughter spinning the toilet paper round and round and round.

Huge streams of it were wafting upwards, making arcs in the air. I giggled. I saw the fascination. I could have said, “We don’t do that.” Instead I got out a basket and we dispensed our toilet paper differently until the fascination with spinning wore off. It may seem like a small victory, but I’m deeply proud of that moment as a mother. I saw the world through my toddler’s eyes. I said Yes instead of No.

I have many friends who have young children right now. Please be kind to yourself when you have your roller skate moment. Every parent I know has at least 1 confessional story to tell. When you are walking the halls with a zillion VOICES in your head, please listen to YOUR parent heart. Your child chose YOU. Parent according to your values, not the experts.

And, finally, when you find the toilet paper banners in your life, please write and tell me about them so I can celebrate the brilliant job you are doing. Supporting each other during this challenging and wonderful time is the best way to make family memories.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sue Ann Gleason November 16, 2015 at 6:54 pm

I love this post, Rebecca, especially this line: “My children drove me crazy with their fickle nature and hungry demands.” Oh my, I’m not a mama but I can so relate. Ha, ha, turns out I’m married to a very big ‘kid.’

Your mama wisdom always warms my heart. Even with the flying roller-skate. xxoo

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rebecca November 23, 2015 at 5:54 am

And still, we love them more than anything!

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Allison November 16, 2015 at 7:42 pm

I’m a parent who can throw withering scorn. Oh! I will never forget the day my THREE year old (yes, 3) said to me, “I don’t like it when you talk to me that way.” That honesty was like a splash of cold water on my face. Like you, I apologized sincerely on the spot, and, like your kids, he forgave me on the spot. We share our humanity in those exchanges, don’t we, and that makes way for intimacy, as you say. Thank you so much for sharing your vulnerability, and implicitly giving me permission to share mine. It creates sisterhood. xoxo

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rebecca November 23, 2015 at 5:55 am

I’m so glad you feel a sisterhood with this, Allison. Thanks for joining me so completely.

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