Last night, I sat down in front of my computer intent on writing a follow-up piece to my post about positive thinking. Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I thought it was the perfect time for a post on gratitude. Instead of making a list of all the things I am thankful for, like I’ve done before, I thought I’d delve into how we need to hang on to this gratefulness mindset once the holidays are over.
However, as my fingers tapped out the first few words, I heard the sound of my bedroom door swinging open, followed by the pounding of tiny feet on the floor as they carried my 3 year old down the hallway. The interruption drew a sigh from my lips, as she had been tucked in nearly 30 minutes ago and should have been blissfully sleeping, which hypothetically would have given me a solid hour of work time before I needed to go to bed myself.
My child stopped short at the imaginary line between the dining room and the living room, and let out a mischievous giggle.
My slight irritation turned into a mixture of disbelief and frustration as my eyes registered what I was looking at.
There stood my beautiful daughter, with lipstick smeared all over her face, hands, and bare belly as she proudly stood before me wearing nothing but a grin and her pull-up.
As I rose to my feet, she took off towards the bedroom, where I discovered that she had also wiped lipstick all over the walls and the bed.
Now, this isn’t the first (or second, or third) time she has covered herself in lipstick. In fact, not too long ago I shared this photo to Facebook and Instagram:
After that picture was taken, I promptly moved all my makeup out of reach. Or so I thought.
She had gotten a hold of some more a couple weeks later, and it had wound up in the carpet, at which point we set forth the rule that she could only play with it if mommy gives it to her and in the bathroom. Since this had worked when we told her that Play-doh was a kitchen-only toy, we assumed this was enough.
We were wrong.
Despite all of our re-enforcement of that particular limit, she managed to find the one tube I left on my dresser and make a big ol’ mess.
I’m not going to lie, as I dragged her into the bathroom to clean her up I may have yelled…a lot…as I reminded her that a) she was supposed to be in bed, and b) mommy’s makeup was not a toy. I told her, for what felt like the millionth time, that lipstick was for lips only. I railed on about how mommy and daddy make the rules and that she has to be a good listener. I’m pretty sure I used my mother’s go-to phrase, “I’m the parent, you’re the child.” On and on I lectured, while she giggled and resisted my attempts to clean her up.
As I ran out of steam, I reiterated the main points again in a calmer manner and told her she was going to time out.
This lasted about 10 seconds. I tried again. And again. And again.
And finally, she got a swat on the bottom. She laughed.
I fought the urge to cry.
It’s moments like this that make me question how good of a job I’m really doing at this whole motherhood gig. I don’t want to be the parent who spanks. I also don’t want to be the parent with an unruly brat. When times like these come around and there is no method of discipline that seems to get through to her, I begin to wonder if there is something wrong with one of us. I start going through all the things I could have done differently. I think about my crappy housekeeping skills. I think about all the times she plays by herself while I try to get dinner going or work on a piece for the blog. I think about the days I leave her at daycares for a couple hours after my shift so that I can catch up on the things that slide through the week. I think about how I know better than to yell like a maniac when she pushes my buttons. And I feel like a failure.
After all the hoopla had settled down, I told this story to a couple friends of mine and vented about how I was feeling. An amazing thing happened in that moment: I was met with a resounding “me too!”
Both of them admitted that they have been there before. That there are moments that make them doubt their parenting abilities, too.
As we continued talking, Jules (from One Ruud Mom) said something that stuck with me:
“You are definitely not alone. You should write that out. We all feel like other moms are better, but we don’t see those moments–not because we are hiding these moments, but because these aren’t the moments you take out your camera.”
Why? Why don’t we take out the camera. Why don’t we share these stories more readily? Is it a fear of being judged? Is it a fear of finding out we’re the only ones who can’t handle the job of raising decent children from time to time?
It’s silly, really. We’ve all had moments like these and keeping them to ourselves only keeps the myth of perfect parenting alive. It keeps us isolated from one another and feeling like we are doing a much more terrible job than we really are. It also prevents us from brainstorming possible solutions with parents who have been there.
The truth is, we all suck as parents from time to time, and that’s okay. What matters is that these are brief, fleeting moments that are by far outnumbered by the more joyous moments. For everything we do wrong, there is sure to be 10 other things we are doing right.
So, to you, dear reader, I say keep on keeping on. You are doing an amazing job and I promise your kid won’t be a little heathen forever.