The Parenting Cliff

by Ginger on November 18, 2012

in Mom Thoughts

I had one of those parenting moments today, the kind that make you feel like a rotten, no-good, awful parent who should just go ahead and start a therapy fund for their kid now.

The worst part is, I saw it coming. 6+ hours of cleaning the house made me tired and just barely holding on to my frustrations at every.little.thing. Jackson was apparently unable to listen to a single thing we said, defiantly pushing every boundary we put in place for hours. Those two things were a recipe for disaster.

And I saw it. I saw that cliff coming, and knew it was only a few more little steps until I was over the edge of it. And when I got to the edge, and flung myself over it, I KNEW as I was doing it, that this was not how I wanted to react.

Jackson was in the middle of a fist pounding, leg kicking, head shaking tantrum that was accompanied by tears of rage and screams of frustration. He also happened to be in the bathtub, effectively soaking me and everything in a 4 foot radius. He refused to stop. And I lost my cool, and I screamed in a way I try never to scream, my ability to regulate myself gone, and suddenly his crying wasn’t rage and frustration, it was hurt and fear.

All I could think, even as the words were still trailing out of my mouth, was “shitshitshitshit.”

I stopped myself from yelling any more, and I took a deep breath, and I opened my arms to my little boy and I said I was sorry. He climbed out of the bath, soaking wet, and folded himself into me, and I told him that I shouldn’t have yelled the way I did, that mommy got mad, but she shouldn’t have yelled that way. And he hugged me, and his breathing slowed, and within minutes it was forgotten.

For him.

Not so much for me.

I know I’m not a bad parent. I know these moments can happen. I know that one moment of losing my cool doesn’t override the 99% of the time that I have patience and keep myself collected even when I’m frustrated. I know all that.

But I also know that I feel like absolute shit when these moments happen, however infrequently. Every intellectual understanding of what happened in the world doesn’t override that knowledge that I failed in that moment, no matter what the moments before or after involved.

Jen November 18, 2012 at 9:21 pm

Did I tell you about the time I got so angry at Rowan for accidentally bashing my lip with his forehead that I deliberately popped his balloon in absolute frustration? (I feel like I told you this last time at dinner.) I was so sure he’s never let me forget the incident, that I’d ruined him forever, but he’s never once mentioned it. And yet, it lingers within me.

I don’t have any wise words for you, just wanted to share with you that this sort of thing happens, and it doesn’t mean you’re a terrible mother. You just have your limits because you’re still a person. And truly, he’ll be OK. You will, too.

Ginger November 19, 2012 at 7:51 pm

You did share that story with me, and I actually thought of that last night. Because I *KNOW* it happens, and I didn’t think you were a terrible mom when you told me, so I was trying to remind myself of that.

It’s easier to remember that today than it was yesterday.

L. November 19, 2012 at 3:39 am

It happens to me, too. And oh god do I hate it, because I had pretty much gotten through the first three years without raising my voice, so somehow I thought, hey, maybe I’m not a yelling parent! Yeah, no. How do you NOT fail in the moment, though? That’s what I wonder. Sometimes I will try to laugh myself out of it just by recognizing that a 3-year-old yelling at me is utterly absurd, but that doesn’t always work.

Hugs to you, mama.

Ginger November 19, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Lots of times I’m able to laugh out of it (especially when the 3 year old is being SO RIDICULOUS). But like you said, it just doesn’t always work. The little button pushers.

Laura Diniwilk November 19, 2012 at 6:36 am

Ugh, I relate to this a little TOO well. My three year old button pusher takes personal pleasure in throwing me off the cliff. She is a lot like her mama. Hope today is much better!

And YAY, I didn’t realize you were coming to PJs at TJ’s until after the Blathering. A second chance to get to know you better!

Ginger November 19, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Yeah, sometimes I’m convinced my kid KNOWS he’s almost got me to that edge. And takes pleasure in it.

And yes! PJs! I’m excited to get another shot to get to know you (and others) better. Makes me feel slightly less sad about how many people I didn’t get to talk to in NOLA.

Missy | The Literal Mom November 19, 2012 at 7:55 am

I understand completely. I hate, hate, hate when i lose control like that. I’m trying to be more cognizant that when I lose control it’s because I’ve been pushed many steps too far and the blame isn’t entirely mine, but it’s still oh-so-hard to bounce back afterward.

Robbie November 19, 2012 at 10:06 am

It happens to me too. I work so hard and doing and saying the right thing and then I just explode. I try to walk away but you can’t exactly do that with a kid in the tub. Try to forgive yourself…remember all that you do right.

Cloud November 19, 2012 at 7:32 pm

I totally went over a parenting cliff yesterday, over a nap refusal. We’d stayed a little too long at the zoo, and that left everyone over tired and cranky. But really, that’s a good excuse for my 3 year old, and maybe even my 5 year old… but what about me? I’m 40! I should know better by now. But I don’t, so I occasionally lose it and yeah, that scares the kids. Which then makes me feel like an utter jerk.

I read somewhere that you just need to have the good interactions outnumber the bad ones- there was even a ratio, but I can’t remember what it was. But I think there is truth in that. We can’t be perfect. I’m aiming for “good enough.”

Susie November 20, 2012 at 9:33 am

I hate this feeling, the way you can see it coming but can’t stop it. Hardest part of parenting, for sure. When *I* want to stomp my feet and yell, but I’m supposed to be a grown up.

Hope November 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Everybody has these moments, in parenting and in life. I get unreasonably mean and irritable when I’m hungry, tired, and/or hormonal. I know I’m being unreasonable and I just can’t stop myself. It’s awful.

Likethewrap November 30, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Oh my gosh I cried when I read this because I was there last night. Long hours at work, a sick husband, and a tempermental two (almost three) year old who thinks his bed time should be 4 hours later than what it normally is had me being the parent I don’t want to be. And today I am suffering through major guilt and not sure how to get a handle on bed time for tonight. I really hope that my highs counteract my lows for him and that his inevitable therapy bills are reasonable.

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