Whoever said that patience is a virtue had to have been a mother. By far, the most difficult thing about parenting, for me, is managing to keep myself from snapping, screaming, and yelling at my children on a daily basis. I tend to do a decent job of it during the day. For example, when my son throws a fit because I used the orange crayon to draw a Power Ranger mask instead of the red crayon, I somehow manage to refrain from screaming at the top of my lungs what I am thinking, which is, Who f***ing cares what color the G*d**m mask is, this is the five thousandth one I’ve drawn this week. Or, when my daughter refuses to get in the car because she can’t find her favorite sunglasses, even though we’re twenty minutes late for where we’re supposed to be, and even though I have brought along two other pairs of sunglasses for her to choose from, I don’t snap at her to get in the car before I take your sunglasses and smash them into a million little pieces. Instead, I calmly tell her that I will help her find her glasses later and that if she doesn’t get in the car now, I will have no choice but to leave her at home. And then I close my eyes, and I exhale deeply.
But I must be part Werewolf or something, because by nightfall, all signs of the zen, calm, exhaling mommy have vanished, and in her place is a crazed, screaming, lunatic mommy who flies off the handle at the first sign of a bedtime stall tactic. Davis doesn’t like the sippy cup I put his water in and wants me to get him a different one? I. DON’T. CARE. Harper’s upset because I won’t read another chapter of her book? I. HAVE. HAD. ENOUGH.
I don’t intend to lose it, of course. Most days, in fact, I wake up promising myself that today, I am not going to lose it. After all, they’re little, and I’m their mommy, and I don’t want them to feel that I’m unpredictable, or that bedtime is stressful for them. But by the end of the day, after twelve hours of whining and tantrums, when I’m this close to having an hour or two to myself, well…I just lose it. It’s kind of like being on a diet, I think. You start off in the morning resolved to be good; no carbs, lots of protein and fresh veggies, nothing junky. And from the time you wake up until around dinner, you stick to it. But then bedtime rolls around, and you’re starving, and the next thing you know, you’re in the kitchen, scarfing down an entire bag of goldfish crackers and three bowls of cereal, and suddenly, you’ve got a major case of the guilties.
Of course, I’m not talking about child-abuse level yelling. I don’t say mean things to my kids, and I don’t yell so loud that they’re afraid of me or anything like that. I just get a little testy, and my tone gets a little snappy, and my voice raises just enough for them to know that I am feeling frustrated and that no, I am not going to come back in for another hug and kiss. Relatively speaking, it’s not so bad. But then they cry, and they tell me to talk to them in a sweet voice, and I tell them that I would, if they would just listen to me and go to bed, and then they still don’t listen, and so I snap at them again, and by the time I actually get them to bed, I am so weighted down with guilt that I can barely even stand. Most nights, I end up sitting in their rooms after they’ve fallen asleep, stroking their hair and crying because I feel so bad for having yelled at them.
Sometimes, I question myself. Am I a horrible mother? Am I ruining my children? Because in the ever-perfect world of television, books, movies, and, magazines, the “good” mothers are always calm and even-keeled and they never raise their voices, not even a little, while the “bad” mothers are snappy and testy and impatient. Like me. But then I remind myself that in the real world, no mother is perfect, and no mother can be patient all the time. After all, if patience were so easy to come by, it wouldn’t be considered a virtue. So if you’re a Werewolf mom, like I am, take comfort in knowing that, come bedtime, you’re not the only one out there howling at the moon.