Friday, July 30, 2010

Mommy Guilt

So, before I launch into my planned soliloquy of how horribly guilty I've been feeling as a mother, I want to clear up something about yesterday's post: there's absolutely nothing wrong with bragging about one's kid, and I didn't mean to say that there was.

The bigger point I was trying to make was that often parents (I include myself in this, most definitely) orchestrate these odd little things- the things I listed- so that their kid reflects a certain... image, I guess, is the word, to the world. And I find it funny and amusing that we parents (especially at the beginning of our parenting journey) find our children to be such a mirror reflection of ourselves and of the job we are doing as parents. Good, polite, early-learning, variety-eating, potty-trained-as-babies kids means that we are smart parents that are doing an excellent job in raising our child.

The irony, of course, is that our children are NOT a mirror image of us, and the rate at which they reach milestones has virtually NOTHING to do with how well we parent.

Also, as I said, I was definitely guilty of doing those types of things when my twins were little.


This morning I was sitting with all of our playgroup friends- a fantastic group that I don't give nearly the accolades in this space that they deserve- and the older half of the kids announced they were doing a "show" for us. (Sound familiar? My poor friends, whose children are suffering from the influence of my children.)

I think it's important to note that I was up very late last night (3am-holla!), having some lovely porch time with Tea and Beautiful Neighbor. And while I a) didn't intend to stay up that late and b) none-the-less didn't mind staying up that late, for the company was worth it, I was feeling a maaaaajor sleep hangover this morning.

So, I'm sitting there on my friend's couch, ready to be mildly amused and also mildly irritated at the "show" (those things always cause me to roll my eyes at least once), when the group of little girls started dancing. They had worked it out so they were doing these actions in unison, and it was really amazing, actually, since they put the whole thing together themselves in about 5 minutes. One of the moms said "Can you guys just picture them in a few years, as high schoolers?"

Well. I think about that kind of thing ALL THE TIME, but something happened in that moment, and I suddenly so very clearly COULD picture it, and the next thing I knew I couldn't stop crying. And then the other moms were getting teared up, and I thought for one brief second that I might go into the Ugly Cry, and wow.

It just came out of no where. How fast it's going, how they are only "mine" for such a little time. How they (Kate and Joan) will still reach for my hand in a parking lot, still want to be tucked in at night, still sit on my lap. HOW MUCH LONGER WILL THEY HOLD MY HAND?

And I was bowled over with guilt. Because these beautiful, innocent, precious girls deserve only the best, only the happiest and most pure experiences in their childhood.

But you know what? Aside from my brother (the jerky one) growing up, no other humans on this planet have seen me at my most vicious and ugly and angry. I have not been so boiling hot mad at ANYONE ELSE, at least not to their face. These little girls- that I undoubtedly love more than even I can understand- are some of the humans that I treat the worst.

No really. I would not treat anyone else in the world how I sometimes treat my kids.

And I know, I KNOW, that our kids push us to places that we've never been before. Caring for them is a relentless and extremely taxing job that never ends and never gives us a break and always demands more from us, even when our wells have run completely bone dry.

And I know that there's no lack of love in my children's lives. We have happiness and laughter and silliness and affection...

But I don't get so pissed off at anyone else in my life. I am not so impatient and unkind, rude and harassing to ANYONE like I am to them. I don't snap at my friends, or hurry my friends through a meal, or say to my friends "BECAUSE I SAID SO. JUST DO IT" in a rude exasperated tone. If a friend asks me a question for the third time, my blood doesn't boil, I don't feel LIVID at ALL THE TALKING.

Even my husband- who can be annoying as fuck sometimes, I assure you- doesn't illicit this kind of response in me.

Why do I treat my children that way? Why? Why, as a mature, educated adult who wanted these children more than anything in life, do I treat them so poorly sometimes? There is no one else I love as fiercely or entirely, as completely and unconditionally, as I love my daughters. AND YET.

All of this was causing the tears this morning. It was very humbling to see those little bodies, dancing and grinning, perfectly perfect in every way. To realize that tomorrow- TOMORROW- I am going to wake up and it will be July 31, the year of our lord 2020. And those little gap-toothed faces will be 17 year old seniors in high school.

This season in our lives is so short. It seem long when we're in it, yes, but when viewed in the context of an average human lifespan, it is honestly and laughable short.

I want to do better at honoring my girls- even when they are being annoying little shitheads- as people who deserve respect and kindness and patience.

And I feel so guilty that I haven't been doing that all along.


Swistle said...

I KNOW. ME TOO. And yet. I haven't had much success at changing into a perfect and appreciative parent.

Marie Green said...

Swistle, I doubt I'll have raging success either, but I WANT TO. Does WANTING it count for something?

d e v a n said...

Oh great. Now *I'm* crying.

This post was absolutely a reflection of the things I feel ALL THE TIME. I feel so terribly guilty about it. Gawd, this parenting thing... it's so much more than I thought it would be.

Erica said...

You know, just to balance the scale a little bit, no one treats us as crappily as our kids do. They completely take us for granted and act like total assholes sometimes. If we were contemporaries, we'd no doubt have NOTHING to do with them if they treated us that way.

That being said, I totally agree with everything you said. I feel this same guilt. But you know, my mom sure as hell wasn't perfect and I love her very, very much and I know she did the best she could most of the time.

Jess said...

I was going to say what Erica said. If your friends treated you the way your kids treat you, you would probably behave similarly toward them. It's human nature and I don't think there's anyone whose parents haven't gotten pissed off at them and expressed it clearly. And in a lot of ways that's good. That's how we learn not to treat our friends the way we treat our parents. That's how we learn where the boundaries of politeness and mannerly behavior are, and what sorts of actions trigger negative reactions. It's human, it's a part of growing up.

And, the other thing is that you have these extreme reactions toward your kids because you are so invested in them. It's two sides of the same coin. You give them everything you have in a way that you do for nobody else, in a great way, but sometimes that means that you snap in a way that you do for nobody else. It all balances out.

Not to say that maybe we couldn't all stand to be a little more appreciative and positive, but try not to beat yourself up about it too much.

Marie Green said...

Erica- yes, it's true that they are little asshats much of the time. But those aren't the times I feel guilty for. I often react with anger/impatience/rudeness when they are simply being KIDS- "dwadling" when climbing into the car (but really just innocently interested in a cool leaf on the driveway), not jumping the INSTANT that I demand it (because they are kids and have a hard time stopping one activity to do another) etc. Ignoring them because I'm on the phone or computer, when they just want my attention for a few seconds... I dunno- it seems like I could do better. I'm not even seeking perfection, but MAN a little improvement would go a long way...

And Jess- it's true that love and hate are very close emotions, and that they illicit the response they do BECAUSE I care so much. Yes.

Basically, I thought I would be a better, nicer, calmer, mother than I am. Lots of things are different about parenthood than I expected, and this is certainly one of them.

Angie said...

Oh yes. I thought I would be better at this. I'm crying, too. And, my daughter starts kindergarten next month, and I am constantly upset about how she is going to graduate from high school before I know it.

Anonymous said...

OMG this was the perfect post b/c it's so fucking true. I agree with what Erica said, to a small extent, but the kids are being kids. They don't know better and are just doing what they do, being kids. I am the adult, I am the one who should know better. I had no idea that one little person could make me more angry than I've ever been in my entire existence and also be the same person that I love and cherish in a way that is different from any other. Motherhood is the great dichotomy, no?

Kelsey said...

Yes to everything - I feel that exact thing very often and get so frustrated with myself.

Like right now, for example, we're on vacation in a gorgeous house where the children have a bedroom to themselves and they will not go to sleep. Which, in this moment, makes me never want to vacation again!!! And yet, they are two and five, what do I expect?

I hope it helps some to know that you are not alone.

I'm sure your loving and patient moments outweigh the short-tempered ones. The smiles you photograph show that your children are very happy!