We were sitting at the table and I was frustrated.
It had been a very long day. I was tired. We had a snow day, on the very first day I was supposed to get two hours and fifteen minutes of blissful quiet time in two very long weeks. They alternated all day between being the best of friends and relentless bickering. I. Just. Wanted. To. Clean. Out. My. Stupid. Over-stuffed. Closet. That was my goal for the two hours and fifteen minutes of quiet time while my youngest was supposed to be at preschool. I wanted to listen to something with adult lyrics and drink coffee and pull out all of those old maternity clothes and too skinny pants that had somehow gotten tucked into the depths of the closet.
That, and I’m not going to lie, there are some hideous shirts I was hoping to sneak out of Dave’s side too.
Instead, I was refereeing. By dinnertime, I was pretty close to my exasperation limit, when Tate declared how much she LOVED her steak taco. She wasn’t just saying how much she loved it, she was telling me that it was the BEST taco ever. You would think, that winning dinner with a three and a half year old would be a good thing. It might have been, but all I could do was stare in disbelief. I wondered if maybe, an alien had taken over her body? That had to be the answer. She couldn’t be my daughter, the one who had thrown an epic, nightmare inducing, tantrum meltdown on New Year’s Eve because, that’s right, we had dared serve her steak.
After dinner, I was skimming Finn’s homework from the night before and asked him do a couple more math problems for practice. Math is one of those things that we struggle with. I say “we” because I’m trying to decipher just where his gaps in learning are from a grade skip, so new concepts don’t completely blindside him, while simultaneously not screwing him up with my ‘old math’ ways. And he? He’s just trying to figure out how fractions relate to measurement. He did the problems, but I wondered if he really grasped it.
“Mom, is being a parent hard? Like, is it a hard job? Because sometimes, it seems like it’s really hard for you,” he asked, sliding over to give me a hug.
Most days, I hope as a mom that I’m doing more right than wrong. Some days, though, I wonder if that is true. That’s difficult for me to say out loud. To admit, I am far from the world’s best mom. There are two sweet faces looking to me for an answer that I don’t always have. There are days I feel like a failure. I am a completely crap ‘new math’ explainer, I am a zombie in the morning, and there are days that I tell him to hustle because we’re late and he’s got four minutes to get to class. I wonder if I’m asking the right questions, wonder if they’re really happy, or if they’re going to think that we somehow screwed up their childhood when they are grown.
See? I assume that my parenting, will probably lead to therapy.
It’s not easy or for the faint of heart, this parenting thing. Well, some days it’s easy and those days feel like a gift. They exist, I’m convinced, to make sure we don’t eat our young, when we’re confronted with, “This is the most boring house ever!” as you glance at the thirty five choices for entertainment in your immediate vicinity.
Almost daily, I wage a fierce debate that chocolate is not considered a ‘healthy’ snack and wonder would if it would be much easier to just feed Tate all the chocolate her belly can handle. Have you ever examined the logic of a three and a half year old? It’s the stuff that torture is made of. I’m also trying not to yell because I don’t want to be that yeller mom whose kids roll their eyes and tune out, but I still swear too much. Some days I have to consciously remind myself that it’s OK to close the door and take a minute to finish cleaning out the closet while they argue about who cut off who’s hand with a fake plastic light saber. Then I wonder, should I be concerned that they are cutting off each other’s hands with plastic light sabers? Isn’t that the first sign of the dark side?
There are days that I’d love to not be the elected vomit cleaner. Or nag about homework. Or break up sibling squabbles. Or days when I’m too freaking tired to try to figure out new math, so I don’t screw up my seven year old. As long as we’re making this list, I also, unquestionably, still mourn the loss of sleeping in on Saturday mornings.
I tell myself regularly, it’s normal to have failure. It’s normal to make mistakes and admit when you’re wrong. It’s normal to have tough days when you just want to give up and start over in the morning. It’s normal to wonder if you’re the ONLY one screwing up your kids.
When your frustration is maxed out. When you’re at a loss for how to handle something. When you are desperately searching for that child rearing manual they MUST have forgotten to give you when you brought this baby home. When your seven year old sees you struggle.
I hugged Finn and considered all of these things before I replied. I am smart enough to know that my days of unprovoked snuggles are numbered. “Probably the hardest and best job I’ve ever had,” I confessed. “I know I screw it up. I probably make mistakes all the time. But, I wouldn’t trade it for any job in the world.”
“Well, I’m never having kids if they’re as bad as Tate,” he replied and packed up his homework.
They will test our limits, are crazy freaking mess tornados, and bicker with each other. They will make us worry, tell white lies, and forget their manners. They will exasperate us, make bad choices, and probably not always be nice. And we still have a job because of it.