On Being That Mom
February 19, 2010
But first, elsewhere: Deconstructed Cotton Balls From Spaaaaace!
The comments on Monday's post were...well, they were humbling. In a shaming kind of way, the endless chorus of praise and virtual applause and refrains of YOU ARE SUCH AN AWESOME MOM, because oh. Oh.
That moment...yeah, I'll own that. I was proud of Noah. I was proud of MYSELF.
I was proud that I didn't march us back to the house in a huff of frustration and anger, letting Noah know that I was indeed, frustrated and angry, either through my words (or lack or words, ah, nothing like busting out the silent treatment on your four-year-old) or through impatient tugs on his hand: COME ON. YOU WANTED TO LEAVE, WE'LL LEAVE. GOD. I was proud that I didn't react that way.
The way I react far too often. Maybe even most of the time. Fifty-fifty? On a good day?
The way I reacted just the night before writing that entry, while locked in a bedtime battle of wills, confronted with an uncooperative child who wouldn't stand still, get undressed, get dressed, listen to me, look at me, stop that, stop that.
If it made me feel better, I suppose I could blame Sensory Processing Disorder: he has no self-regulation, he is distracted by things we've learned to shut out, he has difficulty interpreting vocal tone and facial expressions, he can't always distinguish when we're upset and when we're playing, blah blah blah, I only fail because my kid is so much harder to deal with.
But I don't think that's true. I know it isn't fair. To Noah, that is.
No, Sunday night he was just being...four. A high-spirited, strong-willed four-year-old who didn't want to go to bed. And I couldn't handle that.
I scolded. I threatened. I yelled. When that didn't work, I grabbed his shoulders and yelled again. I grabbed hard. I stormed out and threw his pajamas at Jason, who had just finished putting Ezra to bed. (Ezra! Who is so easy! Except when you're trying to change his diaper and he wriggles and flips over and grabs things and throws them on the floor stop that, stop that.)
"YOU DO IT," I said. "I'M DONE."
I wasn't, really. I went and took a breather in our room and then guiltily emerged to guiltily read a bedtime story dripping in guilty guilt.
My brain scolded me: So he runs around for an extra 10 minutes and then goes to bed, it's not the end of the world. Why didn't you try turning it into a game instead of immediately switching into Mommy As Dictator mode?
(And of course, the Mommy As Dictator part of my brain offered up an enraged answer: Because I gave birth to him and ruined my body and moved to the suburbs and work so hard for him and private school therapy endless drudgery I don't think it's too much to ask for a little respect at bedtime GAR SMASH.)
(Translation: Because I'm the Mommy, that's why!)
And the next day I sat down and wrote an entry about a different moment, a better moment. The kind of moment I wish we could have more of, and the kind that I hope Noah remembers. But I don't get to pick and choose what he remembers. The patient mother in the ocean, soothing, praising, protecting. Or the impatient mother in his room, yelling, contorting, snapping.
In both of these stories, Noah -- unpredictable, confounding, mysterious Noah -- is actually the constant. I am the variable.