Thursday, September 06, 2007

How Low Can You Go

A friend once told me that I sound different on this blog than I do in real life. Not alter-ego different, just a little more chipper. I guess it's better than sounding more crazed or more angry. I like to think that I sound the same, but truth be told, I am sure things come out sounding a little neater, a little more mentally stable after I've had the time to get through the actual situation and be past it far enough to post about it. For me, it's the main luxury of blogging.

Tonight there will be no self-editing because, by some miracle, I find myself here at the keyboard at a very low parenting moment. The past few days have been rough for various reasons, most of them small, but when piled on top of each other, they make a nice mound of crap. Tonight was the cherry on that mound, and it just so happens that it all played out in front of the school principal, the teachers, and most of the parents of Older Girl's classmates.

Rob is still away, so I took all of the kids to Meet the Teacher Night at school. This meeting is supposed to be a chance to have a quick sit-down with your child's teacher; the teacher explains their teaching philosophy, what is expected of the children during the year, what kinds of fun things they will be learning. It's not the time for an in depth parent/teacher conference, and the evening is strictly optional.

I knew the children were tired, I knew I was tired, I knew I wasn't at the top of my parenting game, but I wanted to meet the third grade teacher and get the gouge on the year ahead. You can go ahead and say that the whole evening is my fault, and you would be right, but I'll ask you not to say it just the same. I already know the whole debacle can be laid on my doorstep.

The ride there was full of chatter and promises of good behavior, so I was feeling like maybe I wouldn't end up looking like the crazy hag who has more children than she can handle and OMG is she pregnant again?! What gives?! I should have known better.

Of course we were late, but only by a few minutes, and I wasn't the only one hurrying in. The meeting was in the cafeteria, which is basically the fixed up basement of the school. Older Girl spotted some classmates as soon as we got in the door, and she asked to sit on the steps with them while I went in to listen to the principal. I got The Boy set up with a magnet game, and the baby was in the stroller, looking at me with eyes that were begging for sleep.

While the principal was giving the overview of school procedures, The Boy was getting progressively louder with his toy. I asked him to whisper, but it's really no use - he doesn't know what whispering actually entails. I know his modulation problems are part of his SPD, and in a loud environment his only response is to get louder. I know he is not aware that he is doing anything disruptive, and he is often incapable of changing his response. But all of that knowledge could not stop the fire from creeping into my cheeks when I saw the other parents staring at him.

Instead of being grace-full and patient, I became terse and hard with him. His response was to start wailing, a low mournful wail, punctuated with things like "Mom, why are you mad?" I shushed him relentlessly, mercilessly. I hate myself.

About this time, Older Girl came in from the hallway and, while the principal was still speaking, proceeded to ask me if she could go outside with her classmates. In full voice. With no pretense of whispering. I told her no, for a variety of reasons, all of which relate to safety. She then moved from asking me to begging me. Whining like a baby. In full voice. Did I mention the principal is still speaking? Again the parents were staring. I took her by the arm, in a not so very gentle way, and lead her out to the hallway where I contemplated just shaking the living daylights out of her. In a moment of weakness and desperation, and against my better judgement, I let her go outside with the other kids just to stop the whining.

I listened to the principal finish her remarks, although I doubt that I could tell you one word of what she said, and I stood up to find the table with Older Girl's teacher. Meanwhile, I was still regretting my decision to let her go outside. It was fully dusk by now, and while we were in a "safe" neighborhood, it was still an unfamiliar one. Plus, I was all the way down in the basement cafeteria. I wasn't getting a good feeling, so I left The Boy and Baby Girl with my friend for a minute while I went upstairs and called Older Girl.

I should have just left her outside. She was mad, and when she gets mad, she is like me: pissy. I led her to the table where I was sitting with the other kids, and she turned to me, while her teacher was speaking, and told me how it's not fair! and this is boring! and I never get to do anything! and I! want! to! go! outside! Again I grabbed her arm, not caring that I was in a room full of witnesses, and between clenched teeth I hissed at her to get herself into the bathroom and get her behavior under control. My cheeks were so hot by this time that I was sure they had burned right off my face.

I turned back to see the teacher still speaking, but looking straight at me, and I wanted to die. Right there. Just swallowed up whole by some cataclysmic turn of events. I should have just packed up the old kit bag and left, but I'm stubborn. I had made it this far and I sure wasn't going to leave now, not before hearing every last word this woman had to say. Meanwhile, my eight year old daughter was standing in the door way of the bathroom, audibly crying and bemoaning her fate of getting the meanest mother in the world. I shot her my dagger eyes, but she was too busy being fresh-mouthed to notice.

It turned out that there weren't too many more words to be said. Third grade seems very straight-forward, and although the teacher stayed for questions, I could not get out of there fast enough. I ran up the stairs, carrying the baby inside the stroller, and almost not caring whether the other two were following me. I was seething, and they knew it, because they followed without a word.

I got everyone in the van and blew my top. And as I was screaming at the wide-eyed children in my rear view mirror, I wanted to stop. I did. And yet I kept on going. Everyone was crying, even (and especially me), and I was yelling at them for crying. The irony did not escape me. What also did not escape me was how utterly inane it is to yell at someone for crying. All it does is make them cry more. As the piece de resistance, I yelled at them for crying about missing their dad. Mother of Year right here, my friends.

At home, I pulled the Old Woman in a Shoe act and sent them all to bed, except without the whipped them all soundly part. But don't think I didn't think about that. I could hear them crying in bed as I came down here to the keyboard, and this is where the night has brought me. I feel wretched, ashamed, full of regret, sick to my stomach, and tired, mostly just plain tired. And I'm sure you are all so glad that I didn't give myself any time to let the anger pass, to let the humor come and blur out the embarrassment.

Gah. I am eminently unqualified for this job. And I really do hate myself sometimes. I think I'll send myself to bed.

25 comments:

  1. Oh, I so love you! Really! That feeling you got with "the boy"- I get that with Alex- and Anna- and you know "older girl" is Kathryn to a "T". Yesterday at the open house for new students I grabbed Anna's chin and hissed at her through gritted teeth "Knock-it-off!! Do you understand me?" I turned to see the director of special ed standing right at my shoulder. I (in a very bright tone) said " you'll find I am somewhat of a mean mom." "No, no" she replied "You are, um, uh, AH! very clear!"- and she beetled away. She probably meant "clearly a bitch"- grabbing your hearing-aid wearing miracle baby by her little pointy chin and glaring into her overflowing- with- tears brown- puupy -like eyes! As for the too many kids thing- well you know I get that all the time! I'll call you tomorrow- since you're in bed!

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  2. Anonymous8:26 PM

    Don't be so hard on yourself- it has been the same kind of week here but I seemed to have a little better handle on things today in spite of it being the first day of preschool and having to make dinner for the family including my sister who stopped by before returning to host her parents' nite and oh yeah, it is my mother-in-law's b-day and so she and my father- in-law stopped by to say hello. But I don't feel frazzled tonight so there is light at the end of the tunnel and I know you will find it too.
    Hang in there.
    PS- Don't blame yourself, "It's just the hormones."
    -mirabella mom

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  3. Oh Aim, don't beat yourself up- you are one of the best moms I know...I love sneaking over to this blog and "catching up with you"..and I'm always so impressed at the Matriarch you've bloomed into:)! You got tired. The kids got tired. Just like they were fussy, you were fussy. Show me the mom who HASN'T had that night, and I'll show you a woman with a bottle of Zoloft.

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  4. "I think I'll send myself to bed."

    I've got an extra bunk.

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  5. I'm just glad I'm not the only one who yells at their kid/s knowing they should (and wanting) to stop but just can't. I too have yelled at her for crying when yes I know it will only make her cry more. I'm sure our parents did it to us too, it's just called the end and as we always say "the end is never pretty". I usually end up apologizing the next day to her and trying to talk about it rationally when both of us have calmed down. Hang in there, next week will be better. The first week of school is very tiring and I'm glad our meet the teacher night is next week instead. Hope you got some sleep.

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  6. We have all had times like that. You have a lot going on right now - a death in the family, your husband is away, you're pregnant (Hello hormones!), and the stresses of the beginning of the school year.

    All of us moms who are stared at for having more than two children wish to project an image of being so together, "'cause people are lookin' for Heaven's sake!" The truth is that some days are just so hard, it is only by the Grace of God that we survive them at all.

    Take a deep breath. Tomorrow is a new day.

    I'll say a prayer for you before I go to sleep tonight. ;)

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  7. This is probably one of the most heartfelt honest posts I've read from a mom in a long time. I COMPLETELY understand where you are, I have an 8 year old girl (who speaks to me as though she is 16, isn't that when they get mouthy?) and a 6 year old son...and twin 3 year olds...boy/girl. I hear you I hear you I hear you! LOVIN ON YOU FROM TN!

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  8. Aimee--Girlfriend, go have some ice-cream or something. They were ASKING FOR IT. It's that crap all kids (even basically good kids) can pull from time to time when they think they are in an environment where they think they can get away with crap because "people are watching."

    I bet it will be a long time before they try another stunt like that.

    One time when a friend of mine's boys were 11 and 13, she had just HAD it with their constant fighting, bickering and whining...so she hustled them both into their room, shut the door on them and told them they couldn't open the door until one of them was dead, and at that point she didn't particularly care which one. She said all of a sudden they got REALLY quiet ... and there was dead silence for about 10 minutes. And then the younger one called out and said "is there a time limit?" She said "give it time." Eventually they came out shamefaced.

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  9. Oh geez, I'm almost crying myself. We have all been there in some form or fashion and we will all be there again. I'm so sorry you had such a frustrating night and that you had to come home and share it with us because Rob is not there right now. It will get better, and they will most likely forget this minor (in time it will be minor) drama.
    I think we moms of large-ish families have extra guilt. We want to look like we have all of our children under control at all times, so as to not give any ammunition to the crowd that thinks many children is a burden, not a blessing. It is hard to be that woman, but it is so worth it.
    I hope your day today is much better and that your weekend brings you all some rest and relaxation.

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  10. check your email, honey!

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  11. Amy turns to Aimee, arm around her shoulders, an says uin her most gentle voice:
    A. You are not allowed to beat yourself up anymore.
    B. Everyone who has kids or has worked with kids has done this. Multiple times. Let yourself off the hook.
    C. It's OK to tell them you're sorry for yelling and that you miss Dad too.
    D. Not as many people were actually staring at you as you think there were. It's never really as bad as we think it is when we're in the heat of things.
    E. Ask the Blessed Mother to pray for you that you might not be taken up by anger, frustration, tiredness, and embarrassment again.
    F. Thank God for you delightful children and the next one on the way. re-read your posts from their birthdays if it will help you to remember that they are not the monsters they acted like last night. And OG did act like a monster last night (Is she 8 or 13?) Whew!
    G. Go to confession as soon as you can. I don't think you sinned because it's not like you decided to be angry with your children, but saying "i'm sorry" to Jesus and the sacramental grace will help you a lot.

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  12. Anonymous10:09 AM

    My darling sweet daughter. You probably don't remember a time, many years ago, when I was pregnant with #3,your father was out of work, and your grandmother was dying...on a visit to said grandmother, I (tired, anxious,impatient...)yelled at you for running up the stairs and "making noise". Your grandmother quietly turned to your father and told him not to have any more children since my nerves were bad and I was "losing it" with her little Aimee...She had never seen me like that and I guess it scared her. I felt awful, but YOU didn't seem damaged in any way. And it certainly didn't stop Daddy and I from having #4, our little Bird...So many times I lost control with all of you, especially with myself...I have prayed to Bl Mother and asked her to help me be a gentle mother...I am still working on it...I also asked her to protect all of my children and she has been a faithful friend and ally...Move on my love. It's done and all's well...I love you very much...

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  13. Stephanie10:12 AM

    You are a good mommy - don't beat yourself up too bad. Get them up this morning, apologize and love on them. They will understand. I've been in this same situation and it is really tough. Nothing quite like public embarassment to bring out my color =) Hope today is a much much better day!

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  14. You're not getting enough chocolate in your diet, are you?

    Here's the prescription for this problem: ice cream, chocolate and hugs all around with a small, understanding apology will smooth everything out until Rob gets back home.
    While Honey was away there were a few extra hugs and popsicles handed out in our house.

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  15. Amy Michelle10:33 AM

    Yeah. What they said. HUGS!

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  16. Anonymous12:01 PM

    Dear Friend, you know i've had my moments with my son...and i know there will be more to come. know you are not alone, and that no one could judge you harder than you judged yourself. and, if they are judging you at all, then they are not the type of people whose opinions should matter to you in the least. i always find i learn from these moments, and you hang in there and find some ways to pamper yourself. and keep remembering that you are NOT alone. regards, Diana L.

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  17. i am crying after reading your mother's post! amen!
    humans are imperfect- it's what makes life interesting.
    big love and hugs...

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  18. Sending big hugs to you from South Jersey!
    I hope you all woke up this AM feeling better, and that you can put your arms around the whole bunch of them and chalk it all up to a bad night for everyone.
    I know that any of us mommies have been there, done that. (Ask me about Big Brother and the pierogi.)

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  19. Oh holy crap I can totally relate! My husband travels about 2 weeks of every month and during that time (and sometimes even hen he is here) I am the "meanest mommy EVER"! My kids will live and all the money we put in savings each month will pay for their therapy.
    I especially liked the part about getting in the van and blowing your top. That's me to a tee!

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  20. I started a blog at www.den-of-the-dragon.blogspot.com ... please feel free to provide writing topics. Thanks!
    ~Johanna~

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  21. Anonymous8:59 PM

    Tell Kimmy I wrote her a great paragraph regarding her Sept.6 post but her site doesn't allow anonymous bloggers...Tell her I love her and Andrea doesn't hold a candle to her...GeeGee

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  22. Thank you for sharing this- this feels like how my whole summer has been!! I really appreciate your honesty. I think that anyone with more than one kid has done this or at the very least felt like doing what you did.

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  23. Anonymous12:43 PM

    You are every mother. All of us have yelled and grabbed with more force than we meant too and had tantrums ourselves. Children need to know mommies have their breaking points too and sometimes these moments are very good reminders to take care of ourselves more so we have the energy to nurture others.

    Hope you got some sleep last night. Single parenting is brutal.

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  24. OK, things were so crazy around here last week, that I missed this. I'm sorry this happened. I can tell you that it was like reading a story out of my life last week. I terrorized the Little Man for pooping in his underwear two minutes before we had to leave for "lunch duty". I was furious. He was bad all day and this was the staw that broke the mama's back and I launched into the mother of all tirades. I felt horrible while doing it and just couldn't stop.
    We all have these moments, it's just that most people don't admit to them.
    Even though it's a bit late, I'm sending you hugs and a big mommy do-over. Today is your day to do it right. I know I'm trying!
    Oh, and the preschool principle saw me yelling at both of mine in the parking lot of the grocery store last week too. I'm not winning mommy of the year again this year either.

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  25. I only have 2 but surely they are more than enough for me. I always wanted more...I always thought I could handle more....I lied to myself. My boys are more than enough for any two parents. And with a dad who is gone all the time for work...they are wayyyy more than enough for me.
    We have all had those days, those breakdowns, those points where we wish we could just shut up but dont. Its amazing anyone ever wins mother of the year cause we have all been there.
    Its especially hard when daddy is away. if you have a friend who would watch them and let you have even 30 minutes to yourself it helps I promise
    Steff

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