Today I had a full on breakdown in a department store today. I had to go get my little one some camis to wear under her clothes- it's cold here now. I had called my husband earlier for some love and support because little one's potty training had suddenly gone awry after a few perfect days. And I yelled at her in the car for not wanting to get in the car seat. LOUD. Think wailing banshee. He didn't pick up but called me back just as I I was searching for the camis and when I heard his voice: total breakdown.
I just lost my composure. Suddenly, I didn't know how to be a mother. I compared myself to my husband's eternally centered and calm demeanor and felt inadequate and very lacking. I thought, "Who am I kidding with this? I can't do this." After I finished on the phone with my husband I sat on the floor and cried for a moment. Then I slowly walked over to line to wait for my turn to pay.
I shop there very often because the prices are great for children's clothing but have never had a mom (or moms) in line behind me. Today, I had two. They began to talk to each other and- being that they were right behind me- I couldn't help but overhear their conversation. They started with small talk that quickly moved into them talking about their children's temperaments. One of them said, "My younger one hits his grandmother and she lets him. So one day he tried that shit on me and I was like 'WHAT?!? uh uh no you didn't' and I slapped the shit out of him." She was very proud of the dominance over her child. Whereas I was very guilt-ridden and not proud at all. The line was progressing very slowly and I had a lot of time to think about me, motherhood, my little one, the mother behind me, my upbringing, my mother, the challenges, the laughs and everything in between. I'll admit I still didn't feel like a very good mother but I was relieved to not be the mother behind me.
The hardest thing about it all now is her defiance. I knew it was coming too because since she was born I've known she was a very strong girl and was more independent than a lot of other babies in many ways. She's a lot like me so I knew we'd butt heads. And so the head-butting has begun and I do fairly well most days but on days like today when I don't know what to do with the constant no's and the smacking my face and the scratching at me, I feel completely defeated and weak. If I do what was done with me as a child, then I just continue the cycle of thoughtlessness and insanity but since that is what I know sometimes I go there by default and it makes me very sad because I don't want to raise my child that way. It's the easiest thing to be thoughtless and react automatically. I'm not looking for it to be easy though. I want to raise a free, well-adjusted, confident, wise, strong, beautiful woman. I know things that are worthwhile take time, effort and a lot of love. And patience too. A lot of it when it comes to children. If one is willing.
In every book I've read about children at the toddler stage it speaks on how their breakdowns and defiance with their parents is a back-handed compliment. The experts say the children feel safe enough with their parents to break down with them, to show their stress, they feel free to be and to feel everything whereas in the outside world and with other people they are more reserved. This all makes sense and I understand it but it does very much feel like a back-handed compliment from my little one when she hits or has tremendous tantrums with me.
When I think about that, I guess it makes sense why family members tend to be so dramatic and hysterical within the safe confines of their family unit and so radically different with others. So, I suppose I should forgive my family for- what I feel are- their offenses. Because we are all still children (at heart and actually, I believe) just asking for love. I'm sure I offend my family too.
There are things, however, that I feel I can't forgive them for. Things that I am holding on to that make it hard to parent on days when I feel weighed down by their nagging in my mind. On those days, I tend to lose my patience and want to just go into my woman cave. But motherhood is a round the clock job that is never turned off so even if I get some alone time to go into my cave, she is there with me. It never turns off. It is forever. Sometimes that makes me fulfilled and happy and sometimes it feels too big for me.
Mothering can be the easiest and the hardest thing you could ever do. I guess it all depends on the approach.