Sunday, March 18, 2007

tripping the balance

Some days I wonder what lessons I am really teaching M. The days where I lose my patience, am snappish instead of patient, when things I thought I'd never say slip out of my throat and off my tongue. If you don't get in your carseat right now, we won't go to the zoo. Even as I say it, I feel the ick sliding up my neck and an involuntary shiver ripples through my veins.

I am occasionally the mother I said I would never be.

I am away from M and I miss her entirely. My whole body propells the car towards home, inching over the speed limit, eyes lifted northbound. Home to M. Home.

And then I walk inside the door, and the mess and the whining and the crying and the No Ways!!! commence and I feel confused, turned around....wondering.

And some days are wilder still. The zoo looks promising, with the sun riding high in the sky and then we arrive, and it's a battle from start to finish. My quiet yet stern appeals have no influence, and I refuse, I simply refuse, both for M and for myself to turn shrewlike, haggardly, punative. I hear those things from other mother lips sometimes and I steadfastly refuse to join the choir so instead M runs roughshod, her steamrolling highness.

It's the balance, it's the intent.

But I don't always have either, and so I slip, slip from reasoning and explaining to games of take away, of counting, of time out.

I am trying, baby. I am really trying. I want to be an extraordinary mother, I want your life to feel safe and full and full of joy. I want the axis to come unhinged by your endless laughter every single day. I want mine to join yours, holding hands while discovering our new world.

I do.


metro mama said...

I can relate to this Jen. I'm ashamed how much I am looking forward to having Cakes in nursery school a few days a week next year.

slouching mom said...

Oh, I know, I know. I am dismayed at how often my ideal self and my actual self diverge.

And, like metro mama, I am waiting, but I have to wait only until tomorrow, when the boys return to school from spring break.

But that's not how I want to be: waiting for a better time, which turns out many times to have been not even worth the wait.

I want to be in the moment with my kids. And it's tough sometimes.

Blog Antagonist said...

Oh god...we all do. But I've learned to forgive myself. I've learned that tomorrow is a new day. Every day.

This was a beautiful and insightful post; one that every Mom can relate to. Thanks.

Joker The Lurcher said...

this was the hardest lesson for me to learn. i had to be tough in order for my son to learn some boundaries. i wanted him to like me so much but when i was the firm parent he hated the fact i had to tell him no sometimes. but in the end this is the right thing. it is just tough on us.

Bob said...

I think that in moments of stress we revert from the parents we taught ourselves to be to the parents we were taught to be - by our parents and by those we observed around us growing up. All we can do is to learn from our slip-ups, try to recognize the triggers of that behaviour and teach ourselves new behaviours for those triggers. And to allow ourselves to be human, and know that we will occasionally fail. You know that you are trying, so give yourself credit for it.

I know you are being the best mom you can be, and are always trying to be better. Own that for ourself.

Z said...

My granddaughter's latest amusement is to put her hand down my or her mother's cleavage. My d-i-l said she did it in the supermarket. "Stop it!" she hissed, at the third attempt "or I'll smack you!" Heads swivelled and stared at her. She was mortified. "I'm not that sort of mother really" she wanted to say.

cinnamon gurl said...

You are an extraordinary mother, just for who you are... losing patience or feeling at your wit's end doesn't change that.

I've just started reading Ourselves as Mothers by Sheila Kitzinger, and she starts the book with a long chapter about how our society places enormous pressure and expectations on mothers without adequate cultural resources. The result is that we feel incompetent and overwhelmed and impatient sometimes.

I just try to remind myself that I will not be a perfect mother. That is impossible. I will make mistakes... when I make then I try to be ok with them.

Uh, just rest bob's comment... right on!

Emily said...

This was beautiful writing...axis unhinged...amazing.

Jenny said...

I so feel this post. I'm learning to appreciate the moment.

Why is it so difficult?

Denguy said...

Perhaps we all find it challenging at times because we weren't raised to raise kids. Society seems to show us there are "better" things to do in life than raise children. Raising our children should be natural and nature seems to have left our society.

A working mother once made a simple declaration to me:
"We all just do the best we can with what we've got."

That is how I go on, I do the best I can.

KC said...

I wish I had an endless supply of patience when it comes to J. But I don't. I think that's okay. We can only give so much until we don't have the stores to give.

You just pray that that's enough.

And discover new ways of refueling ourselves to make the most of those moments. It's a constant negotiation.

You, love, are an incredible mother.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to motherhood and it's endless, relentless battles and compromises. So you get tired sometimes and snap. What you're not human? Sometimes you get tired of listening to whining, see above question.
Have some compassion for yourself. It's the toughest job being a mom. And yes, we get tired, we get cranky, we have PMS, we get hungry and all of those things make it very difficult to be patient all the time. But part of being a kid is also learning how far you can push it before there are consequences. She learning and she's learning from you how to treat other people. It's okay.

NotSoSage said...

Jen, I'm with you...if I was less tired I might have more to add, but for now, I'm with you. And we're all good parents, despite it all.

Mrs. Chicky said...

I know these feelings. Sometimes it's not pretty. Scratch that. It's never pretty.

kgirl said...

bob said pretty much what i want to say, and pretty much what i feel when the same thing happens. give yourself a huge break for the awareness that you most certainly have, and the love that is so so evident.

Deezee said...

We all go there and groan when we do. You're in excellent company.

The best advice my pediatrician ever gave me was to read the book "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk." I turn to its advice often. and it has helped me through the most frustrating of situations.

mamatulip said...

Jen, this post hit me. Hard. I can relate so much to these, your feelings...I've had them, and similar ones, and I've been feeling that confused, turned around feeling lately in regards to myself as a mother. I was starting to come down on myself rather hard, and I realized that at the end of the day, my kids are loved, and they know it. They know that things aren't always perfect and that I'm not always perfect, but they know they are loved.

Really, really great post, girl. :)

Kyla said...

We all can identify with this. The important thing is to keep trying. And we do.

Mad Hatter said...

And Jen, M will forgive you. She will.

The thing is, our girls are toddlers. Limits ust be pushed for limits to be set. In the end, she won't even remember this day at the zoo. Ah the blessings of infant amnesia.

scribbit said...

When evening comes I tend to review my day mentally and then usually beat myself up for whatever things I did wrong as a mom. THere's always something to feel guilty about but I'm doing the best I can you know? I hope the kids remember that as they get older and become parents.

karrie said...

I hate to admit that I've been the shrew more often than not lately.

It's hard, especially when we want so much more than that for our kids.

kristen said...

Being a mama is the most rewarding and frustrating experience ever. I have so much baggage that I don't want to fling my girl's way and yet, my shrill impatience grates on me like nails to the chalkboard and I beat myself up for my crap show of being responsible.

Thank you for writing this post. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one that has a hard time with being a mama, it's nice to hear (for me) that there are women I respect and admire facing the same internal battles.

QT said...

I am not a mama, but all my friends are. Everyone is human. Plus, your dear little M is at a terrible stage, where she is testing her boundaries and learning right from wrong

You can't be a best friend in that scenario, but simply a guide. The best friend parts will come much, much later.

Be kind to yourself in the meantime. You are doing the best you can.

Julie Pippert said...

Lovely, heart and gut wrenching, and true.

You want more true?

Now---at these ages with two---I am a shrew, at least once, almost every day.

I hate it.

I hate myself less when other parents sympathize and empathize, and when people say, "You children are a little more challenging than the average bear."

Still, I hate it. I hate not being who I think I should be, and even worse, being who I think I shouldn't.

Lately, I feel so very spiritually tired.

I always think of Anne of Green Gables and remember "tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it...yet."

And I make myself pay attention and remember the good things, too.

Jen, you are a gorgeous person and mother I am sure.

You hit the first of the big transtions, though. You went from beautiful, gorgeous, pure joy baby (albeit demanding, babies are also so much of what we make them, too, and so much...I don't know how to explain it, but for me, it was a time when it was easier to have pure joy, less complicated times) to a real little toddler person.

I find little toddler persons to be rife with conflict (a state in which I will engage, but try to avoid...not possible with toddlers). This is exhausting, infuriating, angering..and interferes with the pure joy of simply enjoying. Like we did when they were babies.

(HUGS) to you for where you are, how you feel, and for sharing it so honestly and eloquently.

P.S. After this weekend? Oh how I needed to read something like this. Thank you.

Em said...

It ain't easy... that's for sure... but after three I've learnt that boundaries need to be set - for me as much as for them.

Beck said...

I'm not so focused anymore on making sure that my kids enjoy every moment with me - they need to know how to behave, what the limits are and sometimes that DOES get in the way of us having a good time together.
But the funny thing is that the more those limits are in place, the more I enjoy being with them. Your daughter will remember being very greatly loved more than anything else, I am certain.

Rachel Briggs said...

Don't be so tough on yourself!!

I am 100% sure you are a wonderful, LOVING and perceptive mother, but you're not a doormat.

I sometimes wonder how I can ever get mad with my son, when I love him so entirely. Then Monday morning comes, and I hear myself saying "you're seven years old, and you're seriously going to start the week crying because you can't find your football cards. Now pull yourself together and get in the car for school..." I drop him at school, then drive to work in tears at how irritated I got. But, actually, his behavoiur WAS silly - he knows I'll help him find the cards later, and all will be well. I guess we are allowed to get frustrated sometimes. I guess our kids need those reminders that "mummy is a person too". When ever it overwhelms me, my mantra is always "I tried my best". If I didn't - and my heart always tells me that - then is the time to re-think. I bet you get it right loads more times than not.

Oh, The Joys said...

Jen -

I swear I could have written this word for word myself.

I so get it.

(I have no ANSWERS, but I so get it.)


The Atavist said...

There are good days and bad days with our kids. I sometimes think that the bad days are to pay me back for being such a little sh** sometimes with my own parents. It's an interesting but frustrating trip sometimes.

Tabba said...

I have noticed a rather nasty, impatient tone to my voice when dealing with "issues" regarding the kids.
I try to catch myself, talk to myself and yet it seems as if there is no control. I just let fly.
I can't totally blame the kids. Though in the words of the great Rav: "When did I miss the coronation of Queen Grace?" They do have a little something to do with it.
And the worst is when I can actually hear my mother.
I feel ya. I do. It must be a conference the kids attend while we're all sleeping!

meno said...

You are teaching her that you are human and that other people have needs and feelings too. That she cannot rule the world. And you are modeling how to apologize in a sincere way.

Nancy said...

I never appreciated just how difficult motherhood would be before I had my girls. Now I see how absolutely impossible it is to be the perfect mom (or anywthing approximating that) 24/7. It's so, so hard. But we're all doing the best that we can, and that's an important thing.

carrie said...

Believe me, we all have days like this.

"It's the balance".

That's why it's so damn hard sometimes, but I believe the payoff will be all worth it!!


flutter said...

Oh this made me cry like a crazy woman.

crazymumma said...

You are an extraordinary mother. just by writing this. the awareness of self puts you into the place of extraordinary.

she needs to know that we are all exrahuman in our ordinary.

Anonymous said...

Oh, the "ick."

I'm in a funny spot - seems like there's not a moment in parenthood that doesn't fit that designation - where Lorenzo isn't quite in the terrible twos and Fiona is maturing to the point where children have a genuine capacity for empathy, but I'm still dragging my feet through the accumulated "ick."

You are and will be an extraordinary mother. It helps a lot to have your own strong center and that incredible sense of balance that helps you find your way back to the center when the intensity of toddler gravity gives you the wobbles.

Anonymous said...

"the ick" Boyo have I felt that. Great post.