Wednesday, February 9, 2011

With parenting comes heartbreak

Parenting is filled with joy.

Nothing swells my heart more than when my oldest boy, on his way to his room, makes a quick unsolicited pit stop to kiss me on the arm and declare “I love you, Mama.” And when my littlest tilts his head to look up at me, grins his dimply smile, and states that Mama loves him “all da way to da stars,” my heart certainly grows a few sizes.

But along with the highs, there are the lows.

And I’m realizing there are more lows than I anticipated.


When I was a little girl, I daydreamed about my wedding day: the dress I would wear, the song I would dance, the shade of the flowers in my bouquet (little did I know then that I’d end up having not one, but two dresses, songs, bouquets….! Oh, if only I’d known, I would’ve daydreamed double!). Then, as I got older, I started daydreaming about being a Mommy: the pink bows and skirts, the Barbie dream house, the dolls (little did I know then that the only pink items in the house would be in my own closet, the dream house would continue to be a dream, and the dolls would be army men and action figures).

The point being: I’ve always had preconceived notions of what IT would be like. The IT referring to just about anything of any importance. And the older I get, the more I realize that it is these pre-set expectations, these self-imposed constraints, which cause me great grief on a day-to-day basis, because, as most of us know, IT rarely turns out exactly as you expected it to.

Having been a teacher of small children for a full decade prior to having kids of my own, I had some very definite visions of what IT would be like: school. As my baby slowly became a boy, I started daydreaming again: my son would be the well-rounded kid, the one who the teachers loved, the one who always turned everything in on time, the one who behaved, the one who said “please” and “thank you,” the one whose parents obviously were doing their job.

Yesterday, when picking up my two boys from school, I was told that Ben had had “a really bad day” (this was accompanied with some wide-eyed brow-raising and some whew-like whistling from the teacher) and had earned himself a red card. This red card was not accompanied, luckily, with stories about bullying on the playground…we have come a long way from that. His “yellow and red days” are more about not sitting still, goofing off, insisting that he come down the slide backwards and on his tummy. Immediately after this explanation, the teacher then went on to ask “Oh, and did you hear about Aidan?” (which I had…my usually-angelic-in-school two-year-old decided to whack his classmate on the head with a toy hard enough that a report needed to be signed). I went home yesterday, two adorable and sweaty little boys in tow, feeling dejected and discouraged.

This morning, while dropping them off, I hid my face from the mother of the kid Aidan had whacked, and wondered if she was thinking: “Oh, there’s the mother of THAT kid.”

I assured Ben’s teacher that yes, he had, in fact, gone to the bathroom (TWICE) at home before coming, but for some reason he was currently fixated on going again when he arrived at school, and apologized sheepishly for her having to take him for a third day in a row while I went to work.

I got into my car and silently prayed for a “green day.”

And then I started to cry.

In my daydreams of being a parent, I never imagined feeling embarrassment or shame when dropping them off at school. I never thought I’d worry about what the teachers must think of my kids—or worse—of us.

And therein lies my issue: I worry too damn much about what other people think.

I’m frustrated and stressed because I want it to be like a problem statement: “If this, then this.” I kinda thought that’s what parenting was: IF you teach your kids right from wrong, IF you are consistent and firm, IF you balance the rewards and the consequences, IF you are a good role model, THEN they will…

Will what?

What is it that I would be filling in the blank with here?

…THEN they will not go down the slide backwards on their tummies???????


  1. Liz, this is a heart-wrenchingling honest post that is such an eye opener for you and so many other mothers. While I have my own issues (many many many) I don't have these particular ones.....anymore. When my son was born I spent the better part of his first 1 1/2 comparing myself to other mothers and their children. Then, I had an a-ha moment and realized I'm not them and my child is not theirs. Everyone is their own person and will act and react differently.

    Hopefully this experience will be an a-ha moment for you and you can kick that mommy guilt to the curb. You obviously love your boys, it shines in your writing. You are doing the best you can and giving them love. That's all a "good mother" needs.

    Chin up, and eff those other mothers and teachers.

  2. Giving kids the tools to make good decisions doesn't mean that's what they will choose to do, that's for sure. I worry about this, too. And I have zero answers, but lots of sympathy!

  3. Also, this fabulous blogger is doing a hilarious series on "before I was a mom". Maybe some laughter will help you to feel better?

  4. It will be okay...There are days (or weeks) like the one you just described. YOU ARE A GOOD MOTHER. You are doing everything right. And Ben will get it. He already has made incredible strides, Liz. You should be proud of that.

    Don't think: if this, then that...too much wasted energy, too much setting yourself (and your kid) up for failure. Go with it. Be consistent. Be loving. Be forgiving. Hang in there. You are not in it alone, sister. ((you))

  5. How could you know I needed this?
    Yesterday was one of those days for me as well.. I too was one of those woman who thought that if you taught a child x then y. What a load of crap that equation is.
    This year has been a real challenge for me, finding myself often embarrassed by my child. Why doesn't anyone mention these things at the baby shower?

  6. Oh Liz! They are just being little boys. I promise. Continue to teach them "if this, then that" and they will learn it....eventually. Don't be embarrassed (or let anyone embarrass you); they are just little guys.

  7. Oh honey....these are just days - albeit challenging ones.....there will be good ones too.

    Strange that I should read this today.

    I picked up my son from school yesterday and he played for 5 mins as he always does and we waited for my daughter. I then saw a little girl crying her eyes out and walking in my direction....heading home I assumed, she was with her mother. The mother approached me (as I was chatting with friends) and asked if she could have a word. Apparently my son had run up to her daughter and kicked her in the leg. I was mortified. I didn't see the incident - and my son says they collided and it was just an accident. But I have to assume he did do what she said. The girl in question is in his class, she's a total sweetheart. The mother is however a total princess (and the mother of two pink little girls) and I could tell she was HORRIFIED by my thug of a son. Oh god!!!!

    My son is a typical boy, not given to hitting and he's very even-tempered, no tantrums etc, he's very easy going. But my 10 yr old daughter has always been so well behaved, all I ever get is praise on her behaviour - so these events with him are a bit of a shock....and I don't know exactly what to do.

    I told him I was upset and cross - as did his Daddy - we made a "sorry" card and he didn't get to watch TV. I wasn't sure if I was making a huge deal of it the incident - or not enough. Who knows?? And what if it was a genuine collision and he really didn't kick her?!

    I think it's partly boys being boys and partly over-exuberance....hmmmmm!!!

    With my daughter, she has always followed the rules to the letter and I have only had to tell her once.....I am learning it is not like that with my son. I SO get what you mean when you say "if" you do this, "then" you get that....if only it was that simple.

    Thanks for this post, I hope you have some green days will xx

  8. Oh,sweetie. I think all of us can relate to this. The feeling of failure, of being out of control and powerless, of guilt that we're screwing up our kids.

    A funny to cheer your day: Miss M. had decided on her Halloween costume this past year--a witch with little black bat wings. Kind of random, but that's what she wanted, so I got it for her.

    The next day at school, Miss D. announced to her third grade class that her sister was going to be a "Bitch" for Halloween. Bat+Witch=Bitch, apparently.

    Thank God her teacher thought it was funny, but I feared the dinnertime conversation of some of her classmates that night.

  9. I understand.... my girls are going through "that stage"... why didn't anyone warn me that "terrible two's" sometimes extend into the "three's"???? Little girls can be quite dramatic. When I have one of those moments, when I think "oh crap...what am I doing...who is this child....???" I just take a deep breath and think that it's just a phase and with patience it will pass. You aren't alone girl!


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