Mommy’s temper tantrums

“I wish I hadn’t done that.”

This goes through my mind every time I lose my temper at Lily.

Of course, I was predictably arrogant about the kind of parent I would be before actually having a child. (Aren’t we all?) Yes, I knew myself well enough to know I wouldn’t be the perpetually cheerful, meet-every-situation-with-a-laugh-and-a-smile mom. But I did harbor delusions of unflappability. For I’d always been a driven but generally pragmatic, patient person; so I’d long pictured myself as a woman who would, in the end, be a zen/yoga mommy who’d never lose my cool – who, in the face of a kid’s irrational screaming and baiting, would just take a deep breath and let it all roll right off me, like so much white noise.

I’d never become one of those miserable harridans who loses it at her kid over nothing. Would I?

The problem with picturing what kind of parent you’ll be, before you actually are one, is that you don’t quite realize how much sleep deprivation, domestic tail-chasing (laundry, dishes, bills, etc.), job stress, parenting anxiety, and the struggle to maintain closeness with your spouse while still making a little time for yourself all play into your mood and your responses to any given parenting situation.

And if you bring it down to an even more basic level, I think, underlying a parent’s short temper is an anger with yourself because, ultimately, you CHOSE this chaotic, challenging, all-consuming path. Continue reading

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Dance, Dance Revolution!

The night of Lily’s first-ever dance class, in early September, she was so excited that she spent nearly an hour dancing around our kitchen in her tap shoes, watching herself in the oven’s dark glass.

And since then, she asks me nearly every day, “Do I have dance class today?”

So color me shocked when she came out in the middle of her most recent ballet/tap lesson – dressed in her pink, skirted leotard, and this week’s appointed class “leader” – and asked to go home.

Huh? Did I miss something?

Oh, yes. I had no idea in the moment, but yes. Continue reading

“Rapunzel dollie!” = Kill me now.

My long-haired, sweet nemesis

To tell the story I want to tell, I have to backtrack a little in order to provide context. So bear with me.

Lily is just now getting her first experiences with money. At a neighbor’s suggestion, we recently encouraged her to help us pick up sticks in the yard, and we gave her a penny for each stick. After a while, she’d earned $3, so we took her to the nearby CVS and told her she could pick out something that cost that much or less. (She chose glittery gold nail polish, naturally.)

Plus, a couple of weekends ago, I took her to Toys R Us to pick out a present for a preschool friend who was having a birthday party. In the past, in similar circumstances, Joe had also let her choose something small for herself, so I did the same. But the first thing she gravitated to was a Rapunzel doll that costs $20 (“Tangled” is probably her favorite movie). I told her it was too much money, and she didn’t cry, she didn’t throw a fit. She found other things, and each time, when I explained they were too much money, she put them back without a fight and looked for something more appropriate. We finally settled on a lower-key doll that was $8 – more than I initially intended to spend on her thing, but she’d been so good about all the “nos” that preceded it that I cut her some extra slack – and I told her that Hanukkah and Christmas were coming up, so maybe she’d get the Rapunzel dollie then.

“Rapunzel was too much money,” she said several times on the drive home, lovingly stroking the red hair of the doll we actually purchased. “But maybe I can get it for Hanukkah. When is Hanukkah?”

“Well, it’s several weeks away yet,” I said, looking at her in the reariew mirror. “But if you’re a good girl, like you usually are, I think you’re chances of getting a Rapunzel dollie are good, sweetie.”

OK. A lovely experience, generally, and I was proud of Lily. She hadn’t acted like an entitled brat in the store, and she seemed to be in the early stages of learning the value of money. All good.

Then, last Wednesday night, I’d wished I’d never had this conversation with her. Continue reading

Mommy’s got something to prove – to whom?

When Lily was a newborn, one of the only things that consistently soothed her was being toted around in a sling – so we walked around town with our “baby in a bag” quite a bit.

On one occasion, a neighbor, after peeking inside the sling to see our then-sleeping new addition, admonished me and Joe to “cherish this time,” because we’d never get it back, and it would all go so fast.

We nodded gravely, but Joe and I exchanged subtle glances that conveyed that we were both mentally circling a pointed finger aside our heads in a “cuckoo” gesture. Was this guy meshugge? Having your sleep constantly and randomly interrupted; being screamed at for long stretches, and feeling absolutely helpless to soothe your child; being shat and spit up upon regularly; and not being able to eat a meal together in peace (let alone eat a meal, or take a shower, when flying solo with the baby) – this was the apex of parenthood? Seriously?

Joe and I shook our heads while walking back to our house, agreeing that, from what we could tell so far, the baby phase was something to be endured rather than “cherished.”

Now, of course, our family lineup has changed, and we have a boundary-pushing 3 year old as well as a newborn in the house. And this long-past, casual conversation with a neighbor has come to have far more resonance for me.

This is partly due, surely, to the fact that Neve is a low-key, sleepy, easily comforted baby, and I’ve enjoyed the baby phase much more the second time around (when the anxiety is generally lower, anyway). But I think the primary reason I’m recalling this exchange lately is because I’m realizing that handling a newborn, despite its challenges, is relatively simple when compared to the self-doubt/guilt/misery spiral involved in disciplining your average, volatile 3 year old, who’s prone to operatic, irrational tirades. Continue reading