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Tuesday, May 25, 2010


It was hot. The boy and I had been out all morning, running errands, at the park. He started to fall asleep on the way to pick the girl up from school so I made him get out of the stroller and walk.

The air was heavy and humid. We had just said goodbye to our friends and were blocks from our house when I noticed the girl didn’t have her shoes on. Where are your shoes? I asked sharply. Here she said. There was only one purple Croc sitting beside her in the stroller.

Where is your other shoe? I asked. I don’t know she said, unconcerned. I took a deep breath. I am very frustrated I said. You have to keep your shoes on in the stroller. My voice was rising. My anger was building.

I walked a few steps away from the kids to think about my options. I could go back and try to find the shoe. I didn’t know where it had been lost but I could look. I had already lost one of the boy’s shoes that morning on the way to the grocery store when he had pulled it off. I hadn’t found it.

I could abandon the shoe to its fate. But that was her only pair of sandals and it was too hot to wear her other shoes. Plus, I didn’t want to have to buy another pair.

I turned the stroller around and went back.

I met another mom on the way home from prechool with her two kids. Did you see a kids’ shoe? I asked her as I passed beside her. Yes, she said, it’s back by the high school. I swore and kept walking. I would have to walk almost all the way back to the girl’s school to find that stupid shoe.

The girl kept trying to talk to me. I can’t talk to you right now I said to her. I am very angry and I can’t talk. Please be quiet until we get home.

Down the block from the high school I spotted the shoe. Furious, I parked the stroller. Stay there I said to the kids. I walked towards the shoe. I watched a teenager pass in front of it, pointing and laughing. Then I watched a truck drive over it as it lay in the middle of the road.

Did you do this? I yell at a group of high school kids sitting nearby on the curb. Do you think this is funny? One of them shrugged as if to say, it wasn’t me. Well tell your friends then that it isn’t funny! I yelled at them as I walked away.

I wanted them to yell back. I wanted to unleash the rage that was building about the shoe and the extra walk and the fact that we had been so close to home on someone. None of them responded, so I had to walk away.

I started the walk home again. As I knew he would the boy fell asleep on this second walk home. I tried to keep him awake. Facing me in the back seat of the stroller, he hung onto the sides while he dozed off.

I locked the stroller brake in front of the house. Please go into the house and upstairs while I bring everything in I said. I want to water my sunflower said the girl about the little Styrofoam cup I had been handed by one of the teachers that morning. Where is it? she demanded. Please go upstairs I said through my clenched jaw. No! I want to water my flower she said picking it up from the side of the steps where I had left it in a rush this morning. She started walking towards the water tap at the front of the house.

I snapped.

Get in the house! I screamed. If you don’t get in the house I am going to throw away the flower! I grabbed her arm and dragged her up the steps. I imagined that all the parents in the park across the street heard me scream. I had never screamed like that before. She started to cry. She kept talking about the flower but she went into the house.

I lifted the sleeping boy out of the stroller and carried him over my shoulder while dragging the stroller up the steps behind me. I made it into the house and started taking his shoes off as I headed up to the second floor. The girl was standing at the top, still crying. I went pee she said. Good, now please go read some books in my room while I get the boy in bed.

I lay him down in his bed. I debated changing his diaper but couldn’t face the possibility that it might wake him up. She followed me into the room, crying and yelling about her flower. I turned to her and screamed again. Get out! You are not listening to me! Get out!

I could hear her crying as she walked down the hallway to my room. I settled the boy. I took a moment to calm down. I went to her and told her I was sorry I screamed. That I was frustrated about having to go back and get her shoe. That I was angry that she wasn’t listening to me. I gave her a hug. I said she had to stay there until I came back to get her.

I was feeling better. Everything was going to be fine. Then I walked into the bathroom and saw a wet cloth diaper lying on the bathroom floor. I had left it soaking in the toilet because it had been particularly foul. Now there was water and poo and a diaper on the floor.

I marched back to my room where she was reading books in bed. I yelled some more and carried her to the bathroom to show her the diaper. I made her wash her hands. I cleaned the floor. I said all the things I had already said that morning. That I was angry. That I was frustrated.

I left her sitting in my bed surrounded by books. I left her upset and walked away.


I wish I could say the rest of the day was better. There were moments. Eventually she and I sat together on the couch, watching TV. We talked about what happened. We cuddled. But there were still more standoffs. Moments where I was overcome because she wouldn’t do what I asked. Moments where I longed for nothing more than to be somewhere else.

When the husband came home I went to bed. I lay there trying to make sense of the day and figure out how it had all gone so wrong. Sometime before I fell asleep I decided that my reactions and responses were a sure sign that my period was coming. Not that it is a good excuse. But it is an explanation I recognized as the truth as soon as I thought it.


The girl is asleep now. I can’t sleep. My heart is too heavy, my mind too full. We all have days of failure. I can accept that. What is hard for me is the fear that this will be a sign of things to come.

I don’t want to be her friend. I know that she won’t always like me. I know that we will fight. But I want so badly, so desperately to be the mother she deserves. The mother I want.

And that is why I am crying right now. The fear that I am not that mother.


  1. You are a wonderful and caring mother. You are a great mother.

    We all have our moments when we lose some of the control we try so hard to have. It shows we're human. It doesn't mean we're bad parents.

    The stress of a day like that - the heat, the knowledge that the precious nap of the boy could be compromised, the second walk in the heat, the teenagers who deserved a kick in the head and then the stubbornness of a three year old... I wouldn't need a period coming to lose it.
    I know it's hard. And I know it sucks when things feel like this. But don't doubt yourself as a mother - you're doing a great job!

  2. Aw, sweetie, you ARE the mother she deserves. The fact that you want to be that, that you're worried you're not, that you're doing your best all testify to that. It's the only thing that any of us can do. But as long as we do that, I really think we'll be OK. Mostly.

  3. You know you are a great mom. But heck you aren't perfect and if you expect yourself to be you are only going to feel let down. Everyone has those days when every little chore seems to be too much. I wish people could have more realistic ideas of what being a mom means. It means being a real person who cares and a real person has bad days and needs time to refuel. A real person does better on a good nights sleep. A real person loves her kids even when she can't stand being with them for that minute when she loses patience.
    You are a real person and a great mom and don't ever forget it!

  4. So sorry to hear that you had a rough day. I don't know you well enough to say - but I think losing your patience once in a while due to a list of things going wrong (and the heat today not helping) doesn't stop you being the parent you want to be for your kids - it just makes you human. Hope things are better tomorrow!

  5. Just what everyone else has said, plus *hugs*

  6. I don't think I am perfect. I have accepted that I am not. But yesterday knocked me sideways. It was a day like I haven't had in a very long time and I felt so unprepared for it. My responses caught me off guard.

    I am still trying to recover from it today. Thank you all for your wonderful comments.

  7. wow. that was likely the most honest mothering post i have read in a long, long, long time.
    it sucks really does. and it is hard and feels like the same battle over and over again. the truths no one ever warns us about. and, coming from one with older kids, it does not end.
    however, i promise that the joys become bigger as the children become bigger. and that their little heads carry the hugs and cuddles and gentle words longer than the harsh ones. you may not have forgiven yourself but she has.
    start today gently, love her greatly. she is fine and so will you be.

  8. Hopefully today is better. Find somewhere cool to hang out and stay out of the heat.

    We all have bad days. (I think yesterday was a bad day across the board for everyone!)

    Hopefully, taking this time and relfecting on it will help you feel better about it.

  9. amber is right. because you strive to be that mother, you are already there. this day is basically what my life has been for the ast few weeks as i try and deal with a very whinny jellybean who cries at the drop of a hat (quite literaly) and whimpers instead of speaking. I loose is daily and always wish that i didn't. it will get better and knowing that someone else if havng the same sort of bad days, makes it a little better. knowing that we aren't alone in our "bad" parenting moment.

  10. Maybe its the moon or that we are all getting our periods but I as well have had this kind of day but its been a week long of days. What you are doing is focusing on what you think is the negative when you need to count all the positives. All the hugs, the explaining, the moments you took to regroup, all the time you spent teaching. Teaching responsibility, accountability, teaching that we all get angry and frustrated and that we have words to explain how we feel and why. These lessons aren't as warm and fuzzy as others but wouldn't we be short changing our kids if we didn't teach them?

  11. dump the kids in foster care and come here and look after us, where your loving, caring, patient, intelligent, insightful ways (did I mention good cooking?) will be appreciated.

  12. Oh goodness, we all have days like that. I often find the days I yell most at the kids have more to do with my frame of mind than them acting any worse than usual. If I'm in the midst of PMS I always have a shorter fuse. DH has a shorter fuse when he's tired or stressed about work. Thinks that would mildly annoy us on other days send us through the roof on bad days. After the fact I can see how the inconsistency of this must confuse the kids, but at the time I'm too busy reining in my anger to think all that rationally about the situation.

  13. We've been having some rough days as well--thanks for writing about yours. It makes me feel a bit more normal!

    From what I've read, children respond more to the general level of parenting rather than occasional deviations, so it probably won't scar her! A couple of years ago, my mom confessed to me that she felt extremely guilty for how she parented us. I asked her for specifics and she said, "Oh, for yelling at you and being mean." The funny thing is that I can't remember a single time my mom yelled at me for anything!

    I do believe you're a good mom--just try to forget it & move on. But goodness, I identify with the guilt!!!

  14. Oh, this was a tough one to read because I completely saw myself in you. I've been there -- the one little thing that snaps me. The shrieking -- whose voice is that? -- that I know scares the kids. I almost want them to be scared so they will run away and do something quiet and leave me alone to pull it together.

    It's always my PMS days that are like this, too.

    I think you did the best you could in a tough situation. I always remind myself after days like this that tomorrow is another day, and that I'll make a fresh start. It'll be better, I'll do better.

    But when I think back to my own childhood, I remember times I was yelled at the most.

    I have to push that to the back of my brain most days or I wouldn't be able to live.

    Tomorrow is another day.

  15. (((hugs)))

    Yesterday was rough for us too (2-hour tantrum that included L. screaming "I hate you!" at me). It was a loooong weekend and I think everyone was tired and stressed from being together so much. Plus the heat, dear lord, we're not ready for this yet!

    I remind myself that for all the disobedience and fighting and potty accidents, I still love my kids to pieces. Surely they still love me in spite of my yelling and frustration.

  16. Aw, I hate days like these. I could see myself in this story and I wanted to cry right along with you. Sometimes we just lose it - it sucks, but it happens. I think our kids forgive us and forget about it MUCH faster than we do. We just have to let it go and concentrate on having a better tomorrow. Like others said, the fact that you are thinking about it and wanting to be a good mom shows that you already are!

  17. Brenda (@ottawamom)May 26, 2010 at 10:12 PM

    So sorry you had a rotten day. I too have found myself having more days where my daughter doesn't listen and I get incredibly frustrated. Have also been known to yell and then hate myself for it later.

    We all have our bad days, some worse then others, just proves we're not perfect. They don't call parenting the hardest job in the world for nothing. Raising these little people is hard work but the rewards are worth it.

    Hope today was a better one.

  18. I have had days like that too. They are rare, but they happen. We both know this is not our normal parenting style, and that we are just human. I don't think it hurts for our kids to know that we are human too.
    It is only if we don't recognize that this is not ideal parenting, then there is a problem.

    Hugs to you!

  19. You are a GREAT mom.

    I see myself in this post, I really do. I've had days like this.

    I think many moms have this idea that we need to be perfect all of the time. But who can be perfect all of the time? It's impossible.

    Can I share what works for me (which is sometimes easier said than done): making sure I'm rested, fed, and hydrated, that I have a stash of chocolate in the house for when I need it most.

    Big hugs.

  20. Thanks everyone for all of your comments. The support meant a lot.
    The days have gotten better since then. Until next time, right?

  21. I"m behind on my blog reading so I only saw this now. I'm sorry it was a rough day and that it upset you so much. I think the fact that you are even thinking about the kind of mother you want to be says mountains about the kind of mother you already are. And even if you felt like a failure, I can assure you that you are not.

    Here's to better days.

  22. Must be the weather lately - yesterday seemed like an exercise in frustration with Sage. We ended up sending her to bed early because we blamed the nap strike.