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I'm not a big fan of Mother's Day. Call me an ungrateful curmudgeon, but the last thing I want is breakfast in bed. Between the ever hungry four-legged kids and the super-proud human ones, something inevitably gets spilled... And, that just means more laundry for me.
I am no June Cleaver and, even though I've done my share of roaring, I am no Amy Chau. Instead, I like to think of myself as the best-mom-I-can-be, which happens to be better some days more than others.
Part of my avoidance with the Mother's Day stems from a dirty little secret that I've carried for years. You see, while I love my kids dearly, I've lived through days when I wished I wasn't a mom.
Regular stories appear in the paper about mother's who abandon their children. Dads up and leave families all the time, but when a mother does it, society cries, "FOUL!" and harsh judgment ensues.
Nebraska officials never foresaw the level of desperation some parents feel. In 2008, the state passed a safe-haven law allowing parents to abandon their children, with immunity, at a fire station or hospital. In some cases, parents from as far away as Florida drove more than 1,000 miles to unload their kid.
Unless you've lived with a high intensity child and little local support, you may not fully understand the mixed bag of emotions mothering brings.
Consider the day that starts way too early. You're operating off of three hours of nightly sleep for a week running. No one naps. Everyone's hungry. Nothing tastes good. The cat gets sick all over the pile of clean laundry that's been waiting two days to be folded. Whining turns into bickering which turns into yelling. And, that darn kitchen fairy never shows up to help with the dishes.
Add in a "healthy" dose of PMSing hormones and bad cramps and you might understand that feeling of just wanting to disappear.
I knew I wasn't totally alone in my frustration when I spoke with my former mother-in-law one day. As a woman who birthed five children within a six-year period, she agreed that some days the thought of keeping the smelly garbage in the kitchen and putting the kids out on the curb for pick-up was quite appealing.
Somewhere along the line, a friend recommended that I read Raising Your Spirited Child . She knew I suffered from serious sleep deprivation, but she insisted I find the time to read the book.
I found myself overwhelmed with relief when I read Kurcinka's section on the names we privately call our children. Explosive, whiny, stubborn, and a few more colorful selections confirmed that I was not the only parent to think I didn't have a perfect child.
Rather than castigate us for admitting our very-human feelings, the author encourages parents to step back and rethink those labels.
Demanding child? As an executive in the business world, we would see that trait as "holding high standards"
Inflexible? Maybe you're raising a "traditionalist" who will become the next Glenn Beck.
Unpredictable? Think of it more as "creative problem solving."
I decided to reframe my thinking and begin to think of my kids as "committed to their goals." As adults, this characteristic would serve them well in pursuing careers, achieving dreams, and, um, sticking around those tough parenting moments. In the meanwhile, I guess I could get through the short-term goals of wearing shorts in the winter.
Once I began to change the way I looked at my children, a funny thing happened.
No, I didn't magically get more sleep. But, one night before I got into bed, I found a tiny hand-scrawled note lying on my pillow. It read: You're the best Mamma.
Our day had not been particularly good. Bedtime took especially long, as we both needed to snuggle and lay the sadness of the day to rest. My son's last words to me were, "I'm sorry." My last words to him that night were, "Me, too."
I'm glad I chose to ignore the pitter patter of little feet later that night, because that must have been when he snuck into my room to leave his love note.
What made finding that scrap of paper so special is that it was written by my 6-year old who was "committed" to not picking up a pencil to write - ever. The act of writing literally reduced him to tears. Yet, somehow he managed to print out the words just for me. I saw it as a sincere act of love.
I suppose in the back of my mind, I knew there was no doubt I would stick around in my mothering role for the long run. I was lucky enough to have friends to call and talk me through the harriest of times.
I still have my Best Mom "award" stuck to my refrigerator door, all curled and faded. I keep it to remind myself that even on the worst of parenting days, if we can calm ourselves, sometimes a tender shoot of hope arises from the day's ashes.
January 18, 2020