Our night started out really nice: I got home from work a few minutes earlier than usual and started one of the kids’ favorite meals; the boys came home from their wrestling meet (they both won — pins, not just points — which made them happy) and I got everyone fed. Soph wanted to make cookies, so I helped her get everything out and she pretty much did it on her own, but I still do the actual baking because she’s too little to handle a hot cookie sheet. The kids had warm chocolate chip cookies and were happy and it was nice enough that I was watching them while I was doing the dishes and feeling good about this life, hard as it may be a lot of the time. (Single parenting can be brutal sometimes, you know? And I have help pretty frequently, and breaks every other weekend.)
Somewhere in there one of my kids (I’m not naming names) totally and spectacularly lost it. I tried to keep my cool and figure out the situation rationally, but it just got more and more wound up, until I broke and ended up yelling really loudly practically in said child’s face and there were tears and slammed doors and lots more yelling. I hate this part of parenting. Hate. it.
Once I got the first fire put out, another one broke out from another kid.
They all three agree that I’m not as nice as I used to be.
Finally, it was just Willow, wide-eyed and coming up to me with a Mommy? I love you. Can you hug me? Which, you know, made me teary all over again, because she deserves better. (Generally I’d say they all do, but you know what? I am still pretty pissed at them right now.)
Maybe it’s mostly me who’s having the bad day. I’m sitting here feeling like a total failure of a parent, wondering what the hell and can I fix this or is it just going to get worse and worse the older they get?
I sent a text to Scuba earlier that said something like: I am not qualified to be anyone’s parent. Let’s run away to Hawaii together, OK? And he knows how it can get around here, though he’s never been here for a night like tonight. Maybe because when he’s here I am able to keep my temper and figure out the right amount of firmness and soothing to get us back on the rails.
The good part is that my kids are resilient and in the moment. Once they’re sorry and you’re sorry, it’s all fine. Me? I’m left upset for longer, kicking myself for not handling things better, wishing I’d done things differently starting a long time ago, frustrated that I can’t undo this stuff. As soaked in exhaustion as I was with four babies in six years, this preteen and teen stretch of the parenting experience is so much more difficult. It’s lonely. I know it’s normal and how things go, but it’s pretty rotten when the people who you do so much for go from wanting to be by your side all the time because they adore you to mostly thinking that you’re a totally old dumbass who just doesn’t understand anything. Honestly, I’d be fine with them growing up and moving on without such a painful cutting of the cord. I know it was just an off night and that tomorrow will be better, but I can’t help but wish that they were still so little that I could fix everything with a freaking cookie.