I feel vulnerable writing this post because I fear if I claim some triumph in parenting, surely it will be put to the test in the coming days. In addition to the challenge of rarely being able to rest on our laurels as mothers, we make our lives worse by comparing ourselves to the multitude of better, perfect mothers out there.
I was reminded that I am not the only one who has this perfect mother delusion when I ran into a friend at the supermarket the other day. She commented how well behaved my children were in the market, especially as compared to her two children. I had to chuckle because
- We were on our way to the zoo and they knew that it would ruin their fun day if they acted up. (Yes, I threatened them, just a little.)
- About one week prior I had to leave the very same store because my two year old daughter had a full-on-tantrum. Here’s the story:
One sunny afternoon I ventured into the market to exchange some diapers (my well-intentioned hubby bought wrong size). When putting my 2 year-old into the shopping cart she begged to be able to walk. I knew better than to let her loose in the store, so of course I said No. She protested, loudly, but I finally got her strapped in. Ignoring the cues that would lead to my eventual defeat against a 2 year-old’s will, I told myself: This will only take a few minutes.
Maybe I should have left once she started crying, or maybe once she started her Houdini escape from the seat strap, or maybe once the ungodly screeches began – it is all a blur now…I managed to make it to customer service to tell the nice young woman that I needed to exchange the diapers once I picked up some other things (I was already there, wasn’t I?). Mind you, I was communicating all this over my daughter’s crying, screeches, and howling. And I was trying my best to ignore the cold stares of other shoppers (or maybe they were sympathetic, I was just too mortified to perceive that).
Thinking I still had it under control, I went to the produce section on my way to get the diapers. My daughter reached over to grab a fruit (presumably to throw at me, she was so mad) and almost toppled over the cart sideways in the process. I backed the cart up to move her out of reach and knocked over a bucket filled with bouquets of flowers for sale. Water spilled everywhere (and this time I’m pretty sure the look from the lady in the flower department was NOT sympathetic).
I’m not sure what forced me to surrender. The short of it is that I grabbed the wrong sized diapers back from customer service. With tears welling up in my eyes and refusing the offers of help, I removed my beastly child from the premises. In the car we had a “crying party” (my 4 year-old son chimed in, just because). After a good family cry my sweet child emerged again and we all went home for a much needed nap!
I would love to claim that my children are well-behaved, well-adjusted, and happy all the time. The truth is they are not. Neither am I. What an immense pressure it is to expect that to be so. And what a kindness it is to share with other moms just how difficult and imperfect and frustrating and, well, embarrassing motherhood can be.