Failing

Do you ever get the feeling you’re just not cut out for something?

I was pondering this as I pulled out of the elementary school parking lot this morning.

The “something” in question?

Parenthood.

It played over and over in my head as my car sped further away from the scene of my sad little epiphany.

I had just abandoned a shaking, sobbing Vince in front of his school, passing him off to a person I didn’t even know.

I had then raced down the school steps back to my car, only to be hit with the realization that I had left Gracie in the backseat with the engine humming and not one, but TWO doors open.

The person I didn’t know was a teacher; Vince cries whenever I can’t walk him all the way to his class; and Gracie was in the middle of a drop-off line 10 feet away from me.

But this was the icing on the dirt cake that has been our daily routine lately. This was the moment that I finally caved in and admitted it.

I’m failing.

I wasn’t always such a disorganized, frazzled mess. I used to be “That Mom.” I was the mom that didn’t yell; if Vince was having a meltdown we sat together, took two deep breaths, and calmly discussed his feelings.

I was the mom whose kids felt completely at ease with her. We had a safe, loud, warm, free, happy little existence.

I was living a completely different existence this morning as I tried to calm the screeching, foot-stomping melee that ensued after I threw away an old Bandaid.

Yes, you read that correctly.

“It was my favorite one! I need it back!”

“Vince, please calm down. We have plenty of-“

“Where is it?!”

“Please stop looking through the garbage, Vince; it’s outside in the trash.”

“No. NOOO!!”

Cue the dramatic collapse to the floor.

I was living this same existence at 2am on Wednesday while a mostly-asleep Grace flailed wildly, cried out incoherent words and kicked me in the face as punishment for rocking her and whispering “It’s ok, Mommy’s here.”

Yes, you read that correctly.

“I need Daddy! I want DADDY!”

“Honey, it was a nightmare. Daddy’s asleep, but Mommy is here. I can make it better-“

“DADDYYYYY!!!”

I stood by helplessly as Daddy swooped in, scooped her into his arms, pressed her against this chest, and, as my (slightly aching) jaw dropped to the ground, she immediately- immediately!- grew silent and serene.

I’m living this existence every single day when Grace responds to “Can you please clean your play doh?” by spitting at me and Vince reacts to “Please put away those Legos” by re-enacting my response to every episode of This Is Us.

I don’t know what happened to my children, but it appears they’ve been replaced by 3-foot tall teenagers with the hormones of several menopausal women.

And somewhere between dropping Vince off and pulling onto the highway, I determined that it’s entirely my fault.

I thought that a patient, understanding approach to parenting was best. But I must be wrong.

The Baby Boomers in my social media feed must be right- I’m not “putting the fear of God in them” like I should be.

But then again…when I yell, Vince shuts down. He refuses to look at me. All of the sparkle in his bright blue eyes fades to gray. I can’t reach him.

When I yell, Grace yells back. She throws herself on the ground. She carries on until she’s completely transformed from a person into a bobcat with a mouse trap on its tail.

So maybe I’m yelling too much? Maybe I’ve gone too far in the other direction? Maybe constantly asking them to “Quiet down, stop running around the table so close to the water cooler, don’t throw that ball by the television, for the last time, the dog is not a pony, get off her!” is too mean?

By the time I pulled up to Grace’s daycare an hour later (my commute is a dream, I tell you. A dream), I had reached the following conclusions:

  1. My children are completely out of control
  2. I am a total failure
  3. I am too lax with them
  4. I am too hard on them
  5. I am too everything
  6. I am not enough of anything
  7. I should just leave and let their father raise them alone

I was knee-deep in mom guilt. I could barely wade through it by the time I got to my desk.

Yes, I read other parent blogs. Actually, a more accurate description is that I devour them as a form of reassurance that I am not alone on this ship called “Raising Kids” that keeps threatening to sink.  I’ve nodded enthusiastically while reading all of the “you are not failing!” blog entries.

But I really am.

I stood in the living room this morning and said… after listening to 5 solid minutes of sobbing because he was upset that I let him sleep late (yes, you read that correctly)… I actually SAID these words to my son.  “Do you want to go live somewhere else? Do you want a different mommy and daddy? Because obviously we aren’t doing it for you, Vince. No matter how hard we try, you’re not happy! So maybe you want different parents. Do you want me to find them for you?”

I’ve completely lost it. I’m a horrible, useless, ineffective, mean, sorry excuse for a-

“Beep.”

I turned to look at my phone and saw an email from Vince’s teacher. My heart sank- no, plummeted- to the floor.

He told her I was giving him away. She was calling the police. Or child services. Or both. She was emailing to give me a stern warning to stop being so hard on him, he was just a little boy. Or she was emailing to tell me he wouldn’t calm down, he was being completely irrational, and I needed to get control of my child.

“Good Morning! Vincent wanted me to let you know that he is having a great day. I tested him and he is on G for Green! Congratulations! All his hard work is paying off. He is thrilled! Have a great weekend!”

I stared at it. Then I read it again. Then I exhaled for what I believe was the first time in 2 hours.

After struggling with reading for months, my little guy had finally reached the coveted “Green” reading level. We had been practicing his 10 words – and laughing until we cried every time he saw a-r-e and declared, “ARRRR!!” And he had done it- he passed! And the first person he wanted to tell, the person he wanted his teacher to email right that second, in the middle of class….was me.

I’m not failing.

So I guess it’s my turn now.

Frazzled, self-imposed guilt-ridden parent who is reading this…you are NOT a failure. Your kids will be ethereally, phenomenally, angelically perfect some days. Some days they will behave like wild animals. Some days you’ll get a little of both.

You’ll be too hard on them. And too lax. You’ll be too everything, and not enough of anything. One day you might snap and tell them you’re selling them to the circus (or in my case, ask them maniacally if they want a parental upgrade).

But you’ll get them to adulthood. And you’ll do it whichever way is right for YOU.

They’ll grow into kind, compassionate, successful, hopefully non-spitting members of society.

We’re not failing…we all just need a reminder sometimes.

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