I sometimes wonder why I divulge so much information here. In part, it’s a Public Service Announcement – my admitting my failures as a parent helps others feel less bad and that makes me feel helpful – but it’s also a form of therapy. I can write myself a pretty new picture of the way things are going. Or not. I can tell the truth about how hard things are and know that eventually they’ll change – change and then land right back where we started. Forward and backward and so on, never feeling quite like I’m gaining much ground.
When I read the blog posts that make the rounds, written by earnest women who tell us not to feel bad about our less than stellar parenting, I feel irritated even though I know they’re well-intended. My problems go so far beyond whether or not I make myself presentable to the world. They’re so much worse than feeding my kids breakfast for dinner or letting them live on toast. Mine go to screaming and cursing when I end up in a bad place. I clear the surfaces of tables in fits of fury. I act like a complete fool and do everything I thought I would never ever do as a mom. I know I am not alone but that isn’t much solace. Friends I have throw things too, and yell. I am not the only one to use bad language. A few weeks ago the big joke in our house was Violet saying “Where the hell are my fucking underwear?”, mimicking some version of something I had said at an earlier time. It was funny but it isn’t and I am making a big effort to stop with the foul language. It’s so very unpleasant, but at least my kids don’t use bad words in normal conversation. My assorted parents cursed a lot and we did too. My brother, who had some dyslexia as a child, was caught as a result of the jumbling of letters, having written “FKCU” on the black board as a young boy. His name is Ralph, like my son, and he spelled it RPLAH. We still call him Rplah now and then.
Last night after a screamfest which followed my attempts to get my kids to do their homework over the course of FOUR hours we were lying in bed. I started to calmly talk, yet again, about what absolutely has to change around here. Violet said “You’re all out of rope.” I asked her what she meant and she said “You know the expression ‘at the end of your rope?’, well you have none left.” That’s for sure, my smart girl. This week I’ve taken to hiding myself in my room and going to sleep at dinner time. Not great parenting but at least I’m not getting sloshed or taking drugs. At least I’m not leaving my kids alone in the apartment. I admit all of this to our family therapist who reassures me that I am not evil and bad, pointing out what I just said about drugs and alcohol and not leaving the house. He holds me to such high standards! He gently tries to get me to work with the positive instead of the negative but that’s just not second-nature to me and I forget time after time. “You just lost a Christmas present with that behavior!” “No dessert for you tonight!” and so on. Tonight I started in on them again but then caught myself. “No show tonight because 1. it’s a school night and 2. our morning was hell. We all behaved badly.” Then… “Shows and dessert and Christmas trees are rewards for good behavior! Let’s see if we can all try harder over the next couple of days so we can get a tree!” and “I don’t get dessert either because I behaved very badly this morning and hate what I said and did to you.” Little did they know I had a tiramisu before picking them up. And then an ice cream sandwich. A mom has to get by. In any case, they did listen for the first time in weeks. I still had to put one on a break for punching the other as we were entering the house but after ten minutes alone the circuits were rewired and we had a passably okay time. It helps when I can get it up to use a perky voice and sentences that end in happy explanation points. Ugh.