The Meanest Mommy is not Strong by Annita Woz

“I think it is wrong for the strong to test the weak, though it is natural for the weak to test the strong.” – from the novel Ahab’s Wife

hulahoopfallenfeetI am a parent. It is the year when I have two children at home, neither in school yet.  I am alone in my home shedding my visions of perfection, dropping it behind me like a stage curtain closing the show, shutting down the theatre. I have read all the books, am supposed to have all the answers. But I don’t. I am faking it.

One daughter has the strength of a small wild animal, a face full of anger that looks strangely like the one I am mirroring to her when I follow through on my promise to put her in her room if she cannot talk instead of this screaming.  I have lost sight of what has made her so explosive. I am caught between displaying good parenting by enacting the consequence and trying not to get angry that she has again refused to respect my authority.

She does not remember if it was my refusal to allow her the toy that started this tantrum or if it is her shock that I have not given in to her plea of, “I need it right now!”  She is crushed to have lost control and is snorting and stomping her foot and starting to repeat, “I want it now!  I want it right now!”  She is confused about what will make mom happy and is unable to stop spitting the words in my face, “you are the meanest mommy.”

This post was also published in John Rosemond’s Traditional Parenting Newsletter in December 2009.

She is my daughter.  She must be like me I think, just like when I was a girl. I have heard stories of my ability to bounce out of my crib and race my mom to the door in refusal to go to bed, not once, but twelve, thirteen, fourteen times in a row until my mom managed to make it out before I caught her.  Then I would get to the closed door, lie down on my side and peek out under it to look for the shadow of my mother’s feet, imploring to be allowed to come out, resorting to using my tiny heels to kick the door with frustrated rhythm and effectively dishing out the best guilt trip a four year old can give.

My girl knows all my buttons to push, has perhaps been genetically pre-wired with this knowledge of what I was like as a child and spews right back at me the worst of what I must have done as a child.  Perhaps like in nature, she is using this truth in an effort to wake me up to what she is feeling and connect with me even in her anger,  unconsciously seeking to show me familiar behavior and invoke my compassion.

This mommy has known since bringing home her firstborn from the hospital, that the job is more of a challenge than books can ever prepare us to believe.  Wise family members, their children already grown, have nodded their heads in the face of my enthusiasm, knowing inherently that new moms and dads will only learn by trial and error and understand just how much we will learn about ourselves from our own children.  Indeed, from those first few weeks with a newborn, behind all the questions, the choices, the doubt,  I have known in the back of my brain that my character would be tested and many times had asked myself,  “Am I the weak or the strong?” I have been needled by the truth that it is a child’s job to test the strong and today, I am clearly accepting that I am not strong.

My heart is beating in my chest. My throat hurts. I have yelled. My loudest and scariest voice has boomed out of me and has been a wasted effort.  My daughter is no closer to ending her tantrum. I have succeeded only in making her more agitated.  I am the parent, yet I am wondering why I am the parent.

My daughter, is throwing herself on her bed, kicking her legs, beating her pillow, her long hair whipping around her ears is wet from her own tears.  She shakes her head in confusion, not knowing why she is in this room or why she is feeling so alone and wondering what she is supposed to do to end this.

And I am breathing. I am trying to calm myself, to gentle my hands, to think instead of reacting. I am sick to see my older daughter watching from down the hallway, her lips set together, being very still.  She will not meet my eyes. My stomach  churns when I hear her say, “I love you mommy” over and over, words she has said when things are sunshiny and happy now an innocent attempt to ignore this mistake of the moment.  I am so weak.

How can I teach my strong girl how to control her anger and use her words, when I seem to have forgotten to practice my own skills?  I did not count to ten. I did not use my nice words. I did not control my own anger.

Nature has worked her magic. I manage to see a little girl. She is not a lesson that needs to be taught something.   I see she does not want to be the boss of me. She does not want to be confused or angry. As much as I want to close the door, to save her little growing personality from the affects of my poor skills, I push back my shame at losing my calm and go to her.

The meanest mommy hugs her with the same arms that waved like a lunatic earlier, arms that are aching with regret, find the strength to circle around her little body and pull her into my lap.  My girl resists, does not want to be near me, does not believe I am now a loving, calm mom, so opposite of what she saw in me earlier.

She shifts her self, lifts her tummy to ceiling, arches her back, twists her torso to try and escape my sorry mommy arms.  I tell her I need a time out. I whisper that I love her in her ear. I tell her I will hold her and hold her and give her the safety of my arms and say I’m sorry and I promise her that I love her no matter what.

She curls herself into my lap, rests her tired head on my shoulder, scoops her little self into my arms, returns somehow back into the size of an infant.  I rock her like this until her breathing slows,  those exhausted little gasps disappear, and the sad sounds slow to a pace that tells me I am starting to make sense to her.  My daughter’s world is back to what we define as normal at our house. The mom is not the meanest mommy anymore.

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3 Responses

  1. Anita, thanks so much for sharing this with me, i invited a whole bunch of my peeps =) jewel

  2. Annita. . . oh my goodness, Girlfriend. You are quite a writer!

  3. Thank you both.

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