I suck.

I don’t want to hear platitudes like “this is hard for everyone,” or “don’t be so hard on yourself.” There has to be more productive feedback than that. Do you have some?

I was away for two weeks. That was a really long time. And although I was with my parents and with my brother’s family and with M* for parts of all of it, it was still a long time. A lot of transitions for me and a lot of transitions for The Who, which made neither of us at our best. By the end of it, his string of “why” questions was so long and continuous that it was actually laughable. Except it was also maddening. So I was laughing, but in this mad way. In this “I am going to have to punch him in the head if he doesn’t shut the fuck up” way, which is not really laughable at all.

**Let me interject here that I have never done anything worse than grabbing his arm a little tighter than is probably kosher. I have never snapped his arms off and stuffed them in his mouth, as I have fantasized doing. And I have never drop-kicked him into his room as I have also fantasized doing. And I never will. But I am sure I will continue to fantasize about it.

Yesterday — the day after we got home from 14 days away — I started potty-training him. I actually think he’s ready. I think he knows how to hold it and can certainly communicate and given that we have all this time together, it seemed ideal.

I was wrong. I mean, he is ready. And it’s working. We actually went on an outing today to Target and he made it all the way there and back with no peeing. So, I do think the time is right. But coming home from 14 days away, already sick of his voice and already wishing my name wasn’t “Mama” was not the ideal time to hole myself up with him in the house, unable to walk away from him for five minutes, unable to go out and go grocery shopping, unable to take a shower, unable (disallowed, really. The kid’s a little dictator) to wear anything but jammies.

Yesterday, the house dissolved further and further into disarray. Toys everywhere. Every letter from the foam alphabet mat plucked from it’s spot and tossed into a pile (twice.) Dishes in the sink. Delivery containers on the counter. Little piles of peed-on jammies waiting to go into the wash. The house was dark and confining while the sun I could see from the windows was shining, brilliant and inviting. The Who napped for 3.5 hours yesterday. I slept for 1.5 of them with him in my bed. We must have both needed it, but when we woke up, it was almost 5pm. I felt horrible. I was hungry and we had no food. I felt trapped and groggy and we were still hours away from M*’s arrival home from work, with only the promise of a late bedtime for The Who, very little time for myself, and another day of the same shit to come.

Today has only been worse. The house is growing more and more disheveled as each day passes and I have absolutely no impetus to clean it up. I did finally insist that I was taking a shower and I just figured that if he peed, he peed. Whatever. When I finally got us both together and clean and dressed, I left the chaos at home behind the locked door and went to Target. Our big outing for the day — to buy more underwear.

We actually had a ball at Target. He walked with me and was mostly cooperative, but he got hungry and cranky as we were checking out. My fault for bringing him out at naptime, but I couldn’t get it together earlier and I needed to see the sun and feel the air and talk to other people. 14 days of beach and family and then stuck in a dark quiet house is not a recipe for success for me.

After lunch and on our way to leave, I gave him the option of the elevator or the escalator to get upstairs and he chose the escalator (humming the “excavator” song we know as we rode up. How charming is that?) At the top, he held my hand and we walked toward the door, but when we passed the elevator, he told me he wanted to ride that. I should have just done it. Ugh. I really should have. But I was worried that he didn’t have long before needing to pee again and I knew he was tired and that I needed to get him home to nap and I said no. And once I said no, even though I re-thought it, I figured I couldn’t go back on it. But he rebelled. Loud and hard, dropping to his knees in the middle of the entrance to Target and we became that mom and kid, battling it out.  took a few steps from him, heading toward the door. He called my bluff. I demanded that he “come here” but he didn’t, so I walked to him, took his hand, and led him firmly into the parking lot, where he proceeded to scream louder and insist that he wanted to walk out the doors himself. So I let him go back in and come back out himself, which he did. Then he whined all the way to the car. Then he remembered how sad he was about the elevator and he amped up again. And this is when I started to morph into someone I don’t even know. I felt like I was going to explode out of my skin. I felt like I had no tools in my toolbox for this situation. I had to get in the car with this banshee and drive us home, but I just wanted to get on a bus alone and go somewhere else. So I told him it was ok to be sad and to cry, but it was not ok to whine and scream at me. He took it down a notch.

Approaching home, I told him it would be naptime when we got there. He whined that he wanted to “play for a couple of minutes,” whined being the key term. Each whiny word was another five minutes off my life. At home, he whined about wanting his red airplane, which I knew was upstairs. He whined at me not to pick up his blocks as I picked them up. I was sweating. I had had it. I felt like I was going to burst into flames if he kept whining. “Go upstairs,” I said, still calmly, “and see if your red airplane is up there near your crib.” So, he went. Whining the whole way. Then he stood up there, whining. I finished putting the blocks away and then I completely lost my shit. “STOP WHINING!” I yelled, in a voice that rumbled and tore up my throat. I think I even peed a little from the force of my voice. Honest to god. He cried harder. I was scaring him, I’m sure. I was scaring myself. I stomped, literally, to the bottom of the steps and then yelled again, “COME HERE,” as I reached the top. He, still crying (harder now) came toward me and as he did, bowed out his knees and cried, “I’m pooping!” as a whole bladderful of urine leaked down his legs. I immediately softened and pulled him into a hug.

“It’s ok, bud. It’s just pee. It’s ok.” He buried his face in my neck. I was shaking and sweating and I started to think about changing him, but realized there was no underwear upstairs and the thought of having to go back down put me over the edge. “I need a minute by myself,” I said and went into my room, closed the door, turned the fan on high (hoping to drown out his voice) and sucked back a sob. In the hall, he cried, “I can’t find my mama,” and so I went back out. Told him again it was ok. Took him down to his room to put on a diaper (for nap) and new shorts, but he insisted, of course, on jammies. I tried to tell him “clothes for daytime; jammies for night” (why was I still battling him?) but he was having no part of it and I soon relented. Fine. FINE. FINEFINEFINE. Jammies. FINE. But he continued to whine and cry as I was putting them on. “You need to stop crying. I will put these on, but please, stop crying.”

“It’s too hard,” he said, wiping his eyes. “I can’t get better.”

Jesus. I am such an asshole. He is two goddamn years old.

Once he was in his jammies, I pulled him into my lap and hugged him. “I’m sorry I yelled, bud,” I told him and he whispered back, “ok.” I said, “I got very angry when you were whining, but I should not have yelled.” Then he nuzzled into my neck and I said, “I don’t like it when I yell at you.” And he said, very quietly, “I don’t like it too.”

We sat like that for five more minutes while I tried to keep my crying quiet and unnoticeable and then I put him in the crib. I sang him a song. I covered him up, told him I loved him, turned on his nightlight, came downstairs, and sobbed for ten minutes.

I don’t want to lose my shit like that. I don’t want to yell at him and I don’t want to make him stop feeling things when he’s feeling them just because it’s hard for me to tolerate it. But I also don’t know what the hell to do. I don’t know how to manage myself in those situations. I honest to god don’t know.

10 thoughts on “I suck.

  1. I won’t give you a platitude.

    But I will say that every parent has moments that we aren’t proud of. Today I shrieked at E to “get your ass on this bed RIGHT NOW.” Could have handled it better. Didn’t. Regret it.

    Go with your gut on the potty training thing, but I will say that no one ever died from saying “let’s take a break for a few weeks.”

  2. I’m obviously not a parent, so I clearly can’t give you parent-ly advice. I can however give you a productive things that my objective eyes see. He learned a few things today:
    1.) Mama has a breaking point. This is where it is. Bad things happen when I cross this line. (We all crossed that line a dozen times as kids trying to master exactly where it was.)
    2.) When you are ‘mean’ to someone, you say your sorry. (It actually made me smile a bit that he accepted your apology so readily.)
    3.) Even though Mama is angry, she still let me wear my jammies. (Anger isn’t absolute.)

    I know you’re not proud of yourself. I know you don’t want to hear that everyone has these moments. So instead, think back to your own childhood. I think back to a few rare, exceptional moments where my parents snapped (‘came unhinged’ might be more appropriate). I used those moments right through adolescence as guideposts of how far not to push my parents (and of course there were slip ups). I still love and respect my parents, and I think they did an admirable job of raising me. Kids are always trying to find out what the limits are. We all did. Now yours is doing it. And he found one.

    Is it pretty? No. Is it natural? I think so. Just my two cents.

  3. I’m not a parent, so I also can’t give parently advice— but what I will say is everyone loses their shit once in a while and I’m fairly certain my parents lost their shit on me many times–because they tell me about it— and ya know what? I have no memory of it. So no harm, no foul. It’s ok.

    You need to figure out how to do things for you that make the tension and the stress not amp up, or if it does amp up, to forgive yourself afterwards and not feel ick about it… I’m an italian girl, I think screaming and yelling and pitching a fit once in a while is actually pretty ok…

    I know this is way easier said then done with a toddler, but perhaps hire some high school or college kid to play with him for a few hours a week while you stay home but do other things… (I paid for my nicotine habit in college playing with toddlers who had moms who just need a few hours to themselves)…

  4. You did the best you could at the time. And honestly, you handled it better than I would’ve. Cut yourself some slack, have another good cry, and keep it moving. You’re doing fine.

  5. Robin, I have “sucked” so, so many times and I know all of those feelings. It’s like you wrote about me. What I have learned to do (now that Yuki si 4) is to get to the root of the whining, which helps me to step back and not get crazy. Is she tired? Hungry? Over stimulated? It’s amazing what a meal or a good snack will do to improve moods. Or even water sometimes. It’s like magic. And like you did, talking about it together is always good. I think it’s important for our kids to know we are people with feelings. That’s all I got. Hang in there. You’re doing good.

  6. Robin,
    I know my post is months after the fact but I feel compelled to respond. I will say that my favorite part of this story is when you say to your boy, “I don’t like it when I yell at you”. What a tremendous present to your child to admit disappointments in yourself. This is a gift that teaches that we are all human, with failings, and that we get back up and love again anyway. You did all the right things because it was good enough. The way you did it is compassionate and real and admirable. I bother to tell you this because you will get many more chances to do this just as well again.

    • Thanks for this. It actually was only a few days ago, so your reply is very timely. I appreciate your words. They helped me get through what was a very trying few days. I keep learning.

  7. This is hard for everyone. Don’t be so hard on yourself. (Sorry, had to.)

    Well. I would say most of us have days like that (some of us, DAYS AND DAYS AND DAYS). You did an amazing job of holding out as long as possible before losing it (and who wouldn’t have lost it by then? Jesus, 3-yr-olds or almost-3-yr-olds are annoying as all hell, aren’t they??), and you stopped and comforted him immediately, and you talked about it afterwards and admitted that you felt bad about it. He learned a lot that day, especially that you are human and you love him so very, very much. You are miles ahead of most parents in that regard–in losing your shit but then comforting your son and admitting you lost it.

    Oh, and FWIW, Saturday when we were driving home from vacation and both kids were crying and whining, especially Max, I finally yelled “THAT”S ENOUGH” and pulled the car over and screeched to a stop off the highway so suddenly that I scared MY HUSBAND. 🙂 And I have yet to apologize to anyone for that. You’re doing great, Mama Who.

    And soon potty training will be over and regularly scheduled work and daycare will resume and we’ll all regain our sanity a little bit…..

    Thanks for a very beautiful and honest post. I’d love to share it if it’s not password-protected. Is it?

    • Well, husbands can use a good scare now and then. 😉

      Thanks for your words of support. They really helped me get through a truly crappy couple of days. And I’d be happy for you to share it. xxx

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