I lost my s**t today in the car this morning on my three-year-old.
She had been whining since she woke up at 7:30 AM. In the few high-pitched squeals that were able to escape her trying to catching her breath through tears, she managed to complain about everything from the leggings I picked out for her, to the fact that "Bingo" her talking dog didn't fit in the cup holder. There I was sitting in school traffic, trying to ignore her through the sounds of Tory Lanez and chalk up her sobs to the unbalanced emotion that come with an unstable sleep schedule. The final straw? She began to whine about being cold after refusing my sweater two seconds before.
In frustration, I tossed my sweater blindly into the backseat, not caring where it landed. And as I looked at her reaction in my rearview, I saw her huge eyes peering at me from behind a grey sleeve that draped her head while I screamed, "What in the absolute f**k is the problem?!" By the time we got to her grandparents' house, we both had calmed down. She played with "Bingo" while informing me she was "all better now." I sat with her for a few minutes on my lap apologizing and explaining why it's important to "use our words" instead of whining. I gave her a kiss but still felt like a crappy parent while commuting to work. The funniest part? Halfway through the day, I forgot about all of it and found myself missing her while scrolling through pictures on my phone.
It's in these moments I think of all the naive advice a child-free me once gave to parents I judged for screaming at their kids on a city bus when they were just clawing at the windows and laughing hysterically...as kids do. In fact, now I laugh at parents who still hide behind perfectly put together sleep schedules and send their sophisticated four-year-olds to Kindergarten who are all too happy to have hummus and pita bread for lunch. And of course, anytime you need some humbling or a regular reminder that you're completely failing at parenting and life in general, remember social media is just a log-in away.
A few weeks ago, as I perused through "First Day Of School" photos of my friends kids on Facebook, I began to question my whole approach to when and where I'd be sending my three-year-old next year and why I haven't already enrolled her with all of the other little people having their first classroom experience this year. I began to beat myself up about the fact that my toddler would have a future of being left behind and socially inept, until my support system of family and friends reminded me that I know what's best for my child and to not make decisions for her based on what I witness on my timeline.
All children are different; what works for someone else's may not work for mine. A big part of parenting is trusting your gut even when it's in total disagreement with your mama, your auntie, and your bestie who has already been elbows deep in motherhood for seven years. But where does this confidence come from and will there ever come a moment when I finally feel like I know WTF I'm doing?
The good news is yes, there will be moments when you'll find the capacity for self-control and the, "Are you f**king kidding me?" will come out of your mouth as, "The dog doesn't need Vicks Vapo rub all over her fur to feel better, but I appreciate your nurturing spirit, child." You'll nail dinner time, your toddler will actually eat the peas and even throw in a "Please" and "Thank You" to make you feel like you're officially killing the game. But more often, there will be tantrums in the backseat, your toddler dropping F-bombs in the middle of Target "just like daddy" and moments when you ignore meltdowns over missing Paw Patrol pajamas and pour yourself another glass of wine.
In those moments, you have to allow yourself to be on a learning curve and accept how imperfect parenting often is.
When I came across the article "Dear Mama: You're Not Doing It Wrong, It's Just *That* Hard", it was a reminder to myself that all of the perfectly packed lunches in "Peppa Pig" lunch bags across Instagram don't necessarily equal examples of parenting perfection. Honestly, most of those pictures were probably sandwiched in between moments like the one I had this morning, or much worse at drop-off time when preschoolers realized they'll be spending the day with Ms. Baxter and her friend's ABC's and 123's and not Mommy and the living room couch.
The article was reassurance that mothering with confidence is sometimes as simple as getting out of bed to make the attempt. You poured the cereal. You turned to "Little Einsteins". You folded the laundry. You actually care about why your child is crying. And as the author states, most days aren't easy:
"Sometimes it's all just really hard. Not because you are doing it wrong, simply because it is.
The fact that you keep going, keep cuddling, keep cleaning, keep planning, and keep loving in spite of how hard it is, is your superpower. You're doing the hardest job on the planet with dedication, grace, and love—and there is nothing wrong in that."
Confidence also comes from not allowing the thief that is comparison to take away from your wins. I will proudly proclaim my daughter is happy with a diet of Goldfish crackers, strawberries, blackberries, hotdogs, and chicken nuggets. Hummus is cool, but is your child really living their best life without trying crunchy peanut butter at least once? It's not that other mothers aren't killing the game everyday, but you have to remind yourself that social media at best is a glorified highlight reel and there's more mothers posting coordinated outfits with their littles and potty training success stories than ones giving followers a behind-the-scenes look at the laundry that's been in the washer for a week.
Lastly, it's about recognizing that although regularly beating yourself up seems to go hand in hand with motherhood, it doesn't have to. Everything that goes wrong in the world or ends with your child having a crisis in the back of your car or on a therapist's couch in adulthood isn't because of your influence (even if Iyanla Vanzant says differently).
You got this, mama. Even if it takes turning up some "Skrt Skrt" and dropping the occasional F-bomb to make it through the morning in one piece.
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