Welcome, Mamma Crew! Today is Mamma Thursdays when it’s all about us! The mammas!
Is there anything more dreadful than the big mamma screw up? I hate it when I mess up. And I agonize over it for weeks after. So much so that the story I’m about to tell you happened several weeks ago, but I have been replaying it in my head over and over and over again, and often, I even cry about it. I haven’t been able to let it go. I made a mistake. I made an honest-to-goodness human mistake. And I’m having a tough time forgiving myself.
So a few weeks ago, I was having a terrible day. I mean one of those extraordinarily bad days in which things kept going wrong, one after the other, after the other.
First, an adult had hurt my feelings earlier in the day. It was one of those situations in which you feel used and betrayed, and I was sad and upset. Then, in the homeschool coop that I lead, the kids were out of control because you know, this was the Holiday season, so everybody’s hyped-up, nobody’s paying attention and having to refocus ten kids over and over again gets tiresome. Let’s face it, and it can be challenging with one or two, let alone ten!
So I was worn out. And then on top of that, a person had agreed to wait for a package the day before — and this was a time-sensitive package — and they had, in fact, NOT followed through. So here I was the next day. I had to wait by the door until this package was delivered. And here in Puerto Rico, packages are not as… Well, let me rephrase that — here in Puerto Rico, deliveries are not as timely as we are accustomed to in the United States. So even though they say they’re going to deliver before six, here I was, it was already nine o’clock. I had been waiting three hours by the door, and the delivery still wasn’t there. And as much as I wanted to go inside because, well, the mosquitos were flying around, I was tired, and my brain was on overdrive, I couldn’t do that because if I didn’t take delivery of the package that day, it would be sent back to the facility.
Now, this is a facility here in Puerto Rico that’s only open between one and five. And to get to and from the facility, it’s only about a 20-30 minute drive. And the journey there is not so bad, but the trip back has to be done during rush hour traffic. So this would have meant about two hours driving back and forth, depending on the truck. And of course, any time you go into any of these offices here in Puerto Rico, it can take an ungodly time to get out of them. I’m not talking thirty-forty minutes — I’m talking, two, three, four hours! So I knew I had to wait. But I was very irritable. And my daughter Andy comes down the stairs, and she’s screaming.
Now I have to admit that she’s not screaming at me, but she was screaming nevertheless. So she comes over, and she shows me her Spider-Man t-shirt. And she screams!
“My favorite t-shirt is ruined! Ruined!”
And I’m looking at her. Now, this was a t-shirt that fit her too small, and she asked me to send it to the seamstress to add a strippy material on the bottom. Now it didn’t occur to me — clearly, it didn’t happen to her — that we were not going to be able to match the t-shirt material exactly. What the seamstress had done was she had attached a strip of red cloth that contrasted beautifully with the red Spider-Man face. But Andy, being twelve-years-old, having ADHD, in the moderate to severe range, more towards the critical, and being focused on minor details all of the time, this was a massive catastrophe.
And so I say to her, “Now, honey, it looks nice. Look how it contrasts against Spider-Man’s face.” And she looks at me with this sassy roll of her eyes, and says, “Well, the colors don’t match exactly!”
“Well, that’s true. That’s going to be impossible.” Especially when you’re living in Puerto Rico, and you don’t have access to the variety that you have in the States. So I explained this to her, but she continues screaming. She’s distraught.
“It’s ruined! It’s ruined! You should have told me about this!”
And I explained, “Look, we’re doing the best that we can, given the situation. You want to continue wearing this shirt, that’s fine. But that’s why we added that strip, and this was the best that we could do.
“Well, it’s just not right!” she screams. “It’s ruined, and I just can’t wear it!”
Okay. Now take a deep breath. I’m telling myself these things, take a deep breath. She’s only twelve. She’s upset… But there comes a moment, and you know when a child just goes too far. And mine kept pushing at that boundary. And so, she’s screaming and crying.
Screaming and crying now. “This is ruined! Ruined! You ruined my t-shirt, and you should have never let me found out the hard way! I had to find out by going into the closet and seeing it for myself! You could have at least told me about it!”
And poof! I lost it! I lost it. I was done! I was no longer accepting this behavior from her, and I said, “Don’t you dare yell at me again!” And of course, she’s suddenly contrite.
“Ah… I… I… wasn’t yelling at you. I was just… “
“Yeah, well, don’t! Don’t! I don’t want to hear it anymore.” And I said, “You know, there’s a lot of things that I do for you to make your life easier; to make it as pleasant as possible; to help you with your problems, and your preferences. And when everything goes right, you forget to say thank you. But when something doesn’t go exactly as you expect it, you’re always more than happy to come and tell me.” And now she’s looking at me, and she starts crying.
“I’m sure… I’m sure I thanked you… Sometimes.”
Well, to be honest with you, I’m sure too. But, this week, she had gotten carried away, and she was making a lot of unreasonable demands. And so I was in a snarky mood, and my response was, “When? When was the last time you thanked me for something nice that I did for you?”
And of course, she’s twelve; I’ve put her on the spot, and she couldn’t come up with anything. And she starts crying, and she says, “I just feel like anything I say right now, it’s going to come out wrong, and you’re just going to start yelling at me.” And I’m looking at her, and I’m thinking, “Okay, take a deep breath before you let her have it because she was the one that came downstairs yelling; she’s the one that’s been screaming all this time.
Why is it that our children expect us to have this endless amount of patience? And do they ever realize that they’re not the only ones wearing this patience down during the day? I think the answer is they don’t. They don’t know it, don’t understand that we have other demands. So I looked at her, and I said, “What?”
“Yes, I’m afraid of you!”
I looked at her again with a puzzled look on my face, kind of interested in this now. And I say, “Well, umm, why are you afraid of me? Have I ever spanked you?”
“Have I ever hit you in any way, shape, or form?”
“Uhh… Are my punishments unreasonable? For example, when you don’t do your homework, I take away your electronics?”
“Then why do you say you’re afraid of me?”
“I don’t know!”
Of course, in retrospect, I realize that my daughters care what I think. And so my being upset, my being disappointed, for them, is just as bad as getting a spanking. Of course, for me, the victim of physical child abuse, it can be challenging to relate to this, but I do understand it, and I do try to keep it in mind. And so I’m working hard to breathe and thinking, “Man, this is a good time to stop this conversation and go do some meditation, cause I might just want to throttle her!”
But, I know I can’t do that. And I say, “Okay, Andy. Life isn’t always perfect. Things don’t always come out precisely the way we expect them to. For example, I didn’t expect to be out here for three and a half hours, waiting for the delivery truck to bring a time-sensitive package, and I certainly didn’t expect you to come down the stairs screaming or to accuse me of not caring about your feelings. But I tried — I tried to be understanding, and I decided to be calm about it. And it is something that you need to begin working on — understanding and accepting that life isn’t always going to be perfect. Sometimes things don’t come out exactly the way that we want them to.
“But look at this t-shirt. You still love it. It’s still your favorite Spider-Man t-shirt. It still looks nice –” and of course, she interrupts, “But my friends are going to know that it’s not right!”
“Uhh, no, they’re not. Your friends are too worried about their t-shirts and thinking that they don’t look right. Don’t worry about your t-shirt and think that you don’t look right!” But of course, she doesn’t believe me.
And I said, “Can’t you appreciate the fact that the t-shirt was adjusted because it is your favorite t-shirt and you can continue to use it? And while it only cost me $2 in material and labor, it took time to take the t-shirt to the seamstress, to bring it back, and it was a few bucks. I did something nice for you because I thought It would mean something to you. That this t-shirt that you love so much would still be available for your use.”
So she stops crying. And she looks at me. And I said, “Do you understand what I’m trying to say?” She nods. I said, can we work on being more accepting of things when they don’t come out exactly the way that you like them to?” She nods. And of course, I remind her I love her, and I think she’s a smart, bright individual who just needs to work on some issues. But I also tell her we all do. You know, I’m 53 years old, and I’m still working on some problems. Life is a never-ending learning process. We’re always working on ourselves. And she agrees, and then we start having a conversation about that and the positive changes she has made.
But then she looks at me, and she goes, “But you’re always yelling at me.” Oh, man! After all that work, I just want it to be done! I wanted to say, “I’ve had it! Just leave!” Instead, I said, “Really?! Really? We’re back to this?”
Then she goes, “See? You’re yelling at me!” Which, of course, I had raised my voice. I said, “Listen, I work hard at trying not to yell at you. But in the morning, for example, when I wake you up at seven, and I tell you you need to be ready to go by eight, and I come back into your bedroom at 7:20, and you’ve gone back to sleep, I wake you up nicely again. Ask you to get ready because you need to have breakfast so that you can have your medications so that you can be ready to go by eight oçlock — and you’re still in bed! I get you up, and I come back 20 minutes later, you’re still in the bathroom! You’re not dressed, you’re not ready, you can’t find your glasses!”
“I’m sorry! But at some point, I get frustrated.”
“How many times do I need to go into your bedroom and ask you to get ready nicely before you do it?”
Because one day, out of frustration, just sheer frustration and both interest to see how long my patience would last, I counted! 21 times in 30 minutes, I went in to ask her to please get out of bed and get ready for the day. And of course, she did not. And yes, like almost every day, she was late.
So sometimes, after about the fifth, the tenth, the twenty-first, I yell, “Get out of bed!” Because I’ve tried being nice and it didn’t work. So, of course, she looks at me, and she says, “But I am trying!”
I’m not exactly sure how I’m supposed to know that she’s trying, because she’s still in bed an hour after I wanted to get her out of bed. So I sigh, take a deep breath, and I say, “Listen, let’s make a pact — you work on doing what you need to do in a timely fashion, and I will work on yelling less. What do you say?”
She says, “Yes.” And we hug, and we kiss, and she goes off to finish her homework.
So why is this still plaguing me after all of these weeks? It ended up okay because I yelled at her! And I think the thing that bothers me the most was because I yelled at her. After all, I was disappointed in other people. I was frustrated with other people. Had she been the one that had done all the frustration, I think it would make me feel differently. And the reality is that had I not been so frustrated, I would have been more patient when she came downstairs screaming. But I had no patience left that day. And I feel enormous guilt over the fact that I had run out of patience when it turns out she was going to need exactly that from me. It bothers me endlessly.
It even brings tears to my eyes because I tried so hard. I care about being the best mom that I can be, and on moments like that, I feel like I have failed. But as soon as I say those words, I realize that I’m ridiculous. I didn’t fail, because I always tried hard to be the best mom that I can be. And I’m only a human being. I cannot be perfect, just like I told her. Just like I told my Andy, things don’t always work out correctly, and we have to learn to deal with those imperfections.
So I have kept my promise. I’m trying very hard not to raise my voice no matter how frustrated I am, or how frustrated she can make me, and boy does she know how to push my buttons. I’m not sure how hard she’s working on doing things promptly, but I have noticed that she is getting her clothes out ready the night before, so, you know, maybe she won’t be as late as she used to be. Perhaps we’ll cut it back from ten minutes to five. Then we’ll work to being on time and then, maybe later, being a little early.
As for me, I will continue to work on being the best mother I can be and learn to be patient with myself when I fail to reach the perfection that I would like to achieve.