Yup, today I was truly the worst mother on the face of the earth. I had screamed when I wasn’t yelling and snarled when I wasn’t screaming. I had chased my 5-year-old up the stairs to his room when he wouldn’t take himself there, after repeated and ugly commands (he would NOT get off his brother). I had even asked my son, “Why I am STILL yelling at you?!”
It was a bad mom day. And I felt terrible. I give myself a lot of grace; I have four kids. I’ve been through a lot over the past 10 years of being a mother and I know mostly how to chalk things up to #momfails and tired children who’ve been at (pre)school all day. But that day, I knew I was the worst mom on the planet. My daughter hid in her room and the twins did nothing but cry. I know I set the tone for the household, and it’s true, when mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. This is a big burden, and not a good one to carry on a bad day, hard enough on a good day. I usually know when to reign myself in though, and today I failed.
I slid down into the bubbles in the hot bath and cried that night for the first time in a while. It had been a long winter break, full of fun and a great time with the kids, but it also was 17 days of togetherness, and I think we were all feeling the after effects. And I was sick with an ear infection and a cough that didn’t let me sleep, compounding everything. Later, in bed, I scrolled through pictures of my kids on my phone with nothing but warm fuzzies in my heart. Why is it, when I finally get them all to sleep, I look at their sweet faces in a still (and non-whining) photo and want nothing more than to wake them up and snuggle them? Did I really only want photos of my kids instead of the real thing? Of course not. What was I doing wrong? Why can’t I be a good mom?
I toggled from iPhoto to Facebook to Instagram, mindlessly scrolling through posts by Jax Moms Blog, Scary Mommy, PopSugar, Twiniversity, MOPS, @busytoddler and the other two dozen parenting sites I follow. And then I realized: clearly NONE of us know what we are doing (I’m not talking to you, Sanctimommy, so shut it). I mean, why else would there be so many funny parenting memes or 24-hour social media groups dedicated to entertaining your toddler or advising your teen? There are full magazines dedicated to parenting. That publish. Every month. Year after year. Would the countless mommy blogs, with topics ranging from teens to tots to crafts to recipes to travel, actually exist if any of us actually knew what we were doing? Would I be able to fill my Amazon cart to the brim and my bookshelves to overflowing with parenting books if anyone out there really had a clue? Would my moms’ nights out (hooray, an evening without kids!) devolve into talking about nothing but our kids if any of us mamas were 100 percent sure we were doing everything right? Would the Bird Box movie memes with the blindfolded mother be as funny without the blindfold? No.
After four kids (an older daughter and son, followed by girl-boy twins), I figured, oh I can do this, I’ve already been through the boy stuff and the girl stuff. But, ahem. 1. Twins. 2. Just because you have one girl and one boy, followed by another girl and another boy, does not mean any of the four children, whether by sex or age or eye color are in any way, size or shape the same. Is this why parenting is so hard? Because there is no one size fits all? There’s no, why yes, this works with the oldest child, so it certainly will work with the next three. With my oldest, all I have to do is throw a threatening look her way and she straightens right up. My son only responds to bribes and me taking away dessert and bedtime stories. And my twins right now, (oh yay for toddlers!), think that any form of discipline or stern look or sharp words are a hilarious game that we are playing and that mommy is the funniest person ever.
With my 10-year-old daughter, I have to carefully coax out of her why she’s upset or what she did that day. My son is a verbal waterfall of information about everything he participated in if I ask him one simple question. My sweet 2-year-old boy will also talk all day, but his twin sister still speaks Minion, when she’s not shrieking NO at me. After many tears, we’ve realized my daughter does best with individual activities like ballet and not team sports; my 5-year-old is happiest with a ball in his hands, barreling down a field. My littlest girl will sit quietly and color or play with her baby doll, while my littlest boy enjoys running, sliding, and face-planting into the floor.
They are all so different, in wonderful, beautiful ways, and I have to learn how to respond to each one as they grow. So for each phase and stage, I have to try different ways of parenting over and over again, for each of my four kids. This means I never know for sure what I’m doing at any given time. This is hard stuff. At Christmas this year, my aunt gave me a drink coaster. The wrapping on the package read, “What do you say to a woman who has four kids?” and the coaster inside the wrapping said, “Bless Your Heart.” Now I keep it for my water glass by my bed. Every night before I turn out the light I see, Bless Your Heart in cute orange font. It’s a nice reminder to give myself a break. Because honestly, I have no idea what I’m doing, I just love them every day the best way I know how.
Now, what glorious bit of enlightening parenting advice is Amazon going to deliver to me tomorrow?