- Family and Parenting
Surprise! I'm Not a Perfect Mom
I'm going to share this with you because I bet you think I have things mostly under control. At least, in my head that's what I'd like you to think. I mostly do, too. I'm almost like Mary Poppins, crazy shit happens and I keep relatively calm. But I do get into some shenanigans. Here was a night full of them. I wanted to share them with you because I bet you need a laugh, and also I wanted to respond a blog that rubbed me the wrong way; but more on that later. Onto the crazy! It was the February before last. I had just had Jacinda and was trying to get back in the good graces of the kids' church so I could have the baptism there. The day did not go as planned...
It was Ash Wednesday. I'm not sure why, but this mass has always been my favorite mass. Perhaps because of the irony (the reading is about not broadcasting your faith, but then they put ashes on your forehead) but if I'm going to make it to church I'd like something cool to happen, like getting ashes. Obviously I'm not very religious, but it's important to me that the kids have a sense of spirituality so I've had them christened Episcopalian because out of all of the branches of Christianity, it's the most tolerant. So I decided to take the kids to church. I figured I'd go, bump in to the reverend, she'd be happy to see me and notice I have a brand new baby, and then I could casually mention that I'd like to have a christening. Maybe she'd think that I'm always there, and not just when I need a christening. Yes, it was a perfect plan, but it failed.
Because it was a Wednesday, Jayden had his ABA therapy until 4:30. Mass was at 7. The library is across from the church so I brought them there. By 6 the kids were bored of the library. I didn't want to walk around out in the cold of February, but the kids were restless. I asked them if they had to go to the potty before we went on a walk. They assured me they didn't. I asked them to think about that again. Same answer, they were all set. I might have even triple-checked. I bundled them up, and put the baby in the sling. We took a ten minute walk downtown and played on a statue. I look at Jayden and he's got that look on his face. THAT look. "You have to go to the bathroom, don't you?" "Uh-huh." For the next 30 seconds a stream of "didn't I ask you if you had to go?" came out of me as I pulled Delaney off of the statue, grabbed the older two by the hands, and made for the church with a brisk pace. So brisk a pace that I was pulling Laney and sometimes her feet weren't touching the ground. As I was walking Jayden kept saying, "How much longer?" I'd say, "5 more minutes, you think of dry things, ok?" I knew I had less time than what I was quoting because Jayden's legs would lock up for a half a second and he'd groan. He was 7 and was good at not having accidents, but a 7 year old, in the freezing cold night, walking quickly, can only hold on for so long. As it was, luck had run out just as the church was coming into view. Jayden stopped short... and just went. Right there. Where he was standing. Laney, who was being dragged, knocked into my legs and yelled, "Why did we stop!?" To which Jayden yelled back, "Because I'm PEEING in my PANTS" very matter-of-factly. Sometimes you just have to accept what's happening because you can't stop it. Jayden was soaked. There was NO WAY he could go into church like that. But I was determined to be in that church for the ashes. I called John to come and get Jayden on his way home. Jayden was too wet to even sit on a towel, so he road home naked from the waist down.
Wait, there's more. After I saw Jayden off, I took the girls inside. A few steps in, I smell poop. My stomach drops. Jacinda is fast asleep in her sling. If I change her, she'll wake up and I'll be the lady in church with the crying baby. I bent down to sniff and confirm, but it wasn't her. Only being a month old, and exclusively breastfed, there was no way that ungodly smell should have come from her. I look down at Laney and in a low voice I ask her if she had an accident. She told me no. Then I remembered that the area is heavily populated with dogs. Sure enough... it was on Laney's shoe. Since we were bundled up like the Inuit, I couldn't get her shoe off quick enough before it got all over the place so I just picked her up under the armpits with one arm and held her foot out with the other. The clergy hadn't come in yet, and I figured they'd be coming from the back, so imagine my surprise when I open the side door to the hallway and there they all are, and here I am, sleeping baby attached to me and my middle child's poopy foot pointing right at them. I lifted Laney's foot clear over my head, which made her yell. I politely try to squeeze past them and not be seen by the reverend, but then a friend of mine's mother is in the chorus and I hear an, "Ohhhhh Myyyyyy! Is that ANDI FRENCH???" "Yes, it's me, hello, how are you... excuse me, sorry... how's your grandson? I just need to sneak by... He's adorable! See you in just a minute..." And that's when I nearly bump right into the reverend. She says, "I thought I heard someone say your name." I tell her I'd be right back and dash into the bathroom. So then I'm holding onto Jacinda, who is thankfully still asleep, with one hand as I'm cleaning dog poop off Laney's shoe with the other. Terrible, but we got through it and took our seats in the way back so I could duck out if I needed to.
Wait, there's still more. The baby, it turned out, never woke up and cried. It was Laney that was a distraction. She could neither keep still, nor whisper. The very small congregation did not mind, however, and when it came to showing the sign of peace, she was shaking everyone's hand as if she was the mayor of the city. But I really wanted to hold it together and hope that it didn't look like I just showed up randomly. During communion, everyone who has been baptized is welcomed to take part, including nearly 3 year olds, and there is the Eucharist, and wine, so Laney had both. It happened so quickly that I didn't have time to make a formal parental decision. But I was able to stop her when she reached for a second sip of wine. On the long walk back to our seats, she told me how yummy the juice was. I thought, 'oh boy' and I tell her it wasn't juice it was wine. When we got back I told her that she had to kneel, she asked why, I told her that she needed to pray, she asked what that was. As quickly and quietly as possible, I told her to think of the things that really made her feel happy and safe and to say a thank you for them. I then bowed my head for just a second. I hear laughter. I open my eyes expecting to find Laney poking the person in front of us or something, but she wasn't there at all. I panicked. I stood up. Laney was walking straight down the aisle all by herself, waving to the whole congregation, who were waving back, and right up the steps of the alter. With the baby still attached to me in the sling, I silently beg Laney to come back, and she shakes her head at me. I swiftly and gracefully sprint up the aisle and up onto the alter and whisk Laney away. As I'm doing this, she calls after the clergy member that gave her the wine and says, loudly, "Thank you for the wiiiiiiiiiiiine!" When we got to the back I asked her why did she do that and she told me it was because I told her to say a thank you for the thing that made her happy. Touche. Luckily, the congregation are a lovely and accepting people, and they seemed to even welcome my child's tom foolery. I waited a whole year before I went back to ask for a christening.
I'm sharing this with you so that you know that parenting is a sloppy and embarrassing business. And that's ok. Most of the world understands that you're doing your best. Recently, many fb friends had posted the link to a popular momblog where the author apologized to her daughter stating, "I wasn't a good mom", after having a bad day. This blog particularly pissed me off. I know the premise of the blog is about badass mom who can still be her formerly sarcastic self (but not in front of the kids), and that she is every mom-related e-card on your news feed. "Edgy Parenting." I think a lot of moms identify with her because not every mom is cut out for bake sales and soccer scrimmages; but just because you're not wearing a pair of mom jeans doesn't mean you have to be a vapid monster either. In the blog that made me grimace, the writer talked about how from wake up till afternoon nap, she was being awful, and the blog was her sorry letter. Let me just say: 1. There's nothing wrong with having a bad day, to state otherwise would mean that moms are expected to be practically perfect in every way, which is a big pile of crap. No one's perfect. No one is always 'on'. No one should feel guilty for not measuring up to something unattainable. You don't need to feel sorry for having a rough day. 2. You can't just do something bad and then apologize for it. This is a lesson my kids learned when they'd do something wrong and then tie it up in a bow with an, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it." Bullshit! If you cared, you wouldn't have done anything like that in the first place, or stopped immediately. Same for her. The blog describes her behavior as something that continued all day. You can't just say you're sorry for something you did all day. If that were the case, anyone could just be an asshole and when they were done being an asshole just apologize for it. 3. To be honest, most of the things she talked about doing weren't all that bad. I mean, she talks about having little patience, no joy in her child, crying, and eating her feelings at lunch and not wanting to share which aren't great things for you to do to yourself as a person, but had little to do with her daughter, and probably her young daughter wasn't even as impacted by this as she would have been had she been older. But it was when she said that she yelled "Shut Up" at her little girl that's what really bummed me out. You don't just issue an an apology on a blog to your illiterate child for something like that. Those words were hateful. Less hateful than other words she could have said, but nonetheless the sharpness of them was understood. What's the little girl going to do with the blogpology though? Is she going to show her daughter when she's old enough, "Hey, remember that time I made you feel like shit for no reason a really long time ago? Well I wrote you an apology." Of course not, she wrote it for her followers. She wrote it because other moms would see the headline and think that could of been, or is, herself, and empathize with her and feel better, or worse, about themselves and their real or imagined shortcomings. But by making these real or imagined shortcomings erasable by a simple apology is irresponsible. Being sorry for something becomes meaningless. Not to say that losing your temper once with your child is an unforgivable offense, and at least this momblogger explained that she was going to make it up to her daughter with love and affection. So my main problem is not entirely with this article itself, but with the rapidness of wildfire how much it was reposted. As if it was a revelation, 'Look at this concept I've discovered.' The basis could make good moms, the ones that try their best, feel like they have something to feel sorry about, and the less than good moms feel like they can just apologize for their bad behavior. I'm not perfect, but I also don't run around apologizing for myself. If I screw up, that's on me. There is no sense in punishing yourself or your children for lack of perfection. Parenthood is all progress. You learn as you go. In fact, I've learned that there is no choosing not to go on the potty before you go on a walk. Lesson learned fo-evah.
Our moms didn't have all of this outside input. They weren't made to feel inadequate daily by a birage of information. They surely made mistakes, and I'm wondering if the mistakes they made were worse than how narotic we are as moms now because of all this information. I guess we'll see when our kids grow up if they turned out ok.