Before I had kids, in my head, I was the kind of laid back mom who drifted along with her kids, from experience to experience, laughing and shunning the pack of other stressed out moms who I definitely WASN’T part of. As the kids got older, I was the kind of mom who graduated with them, watching them grow, giddy with the freedoms that come along with getting out of the toddler phases. I was the kind of mom who didn’t yell — life’s too short for that! I mean, if you have inner peace, and you see the bigger picture of life, then yelling at your kids over something silly like not listening for the third time when you ask them nicely to brush their teeth before school just seems ridiculous. Right?
Yeah, ugh, right, er, NOT. In my head I’m still that mom — and I guess I was until my kids got old enough to tell me that I’m actually, well, NOT that mom. Yesterday in the airport on our way to a relaxing fun-filled beach vacation, my 7 year-old daughter, walking along with Paul, said “you know Dad, it’s funny because YOU used to be the mean parent, always yelling, and Mom was the nice one. But now, Mom’s the one always yelling, and you’re pretty nice.” Ouch! Really? No one told me that these little sweet bundles of joy would morph into MIRRORS OF MY SOUL. I laughed it off, but deep down I know she’s right — lately I’ve been way more impatient than I should be, and have raised my voice more times than I can count. Is it that damn IUD I just got? Maybe that’s it. Uh, yeah.
The truth is, I feel bad about the yelling. And I’m not sure what’s going on here. I definitely feel more nervous as a parent now, which is surprising to me. I don’t know…the older they get, the more paranoid I feel about them slipping away, and me not having control over something bad happening. What if they go on a playdate to the movies and the parent isn’t paying attention and they — poof! — disappear into the abyss of weird moviegoers, never to return from The Lorax? Is it ok for them to walk around the corner from our hotel room, down to the grassy area, without us? At what point do I really give them that freedom? Lots of kids in our neighborhood get to walk by themselves to get ice cream, as long as the oldest in the pack is 10 or 11. That just doesn’t seem ok for me, at least not yet.
And then, paradoxically, I feel like I’m annoyed with them for things they SHOULD be doing, but aren’t yet — like putting dirty clothes in the hamper, or clearing the dishes, or just putting themselves to bed once in awhile when we have guests over.
And then there’s the whole thing about WHO they’re growing up to BE. Yeah, that pesky little element that I feel totally and utterly responsible for.
I guess it’s this gray area — they really still are ‘little’ — but not really, in certain ways. It’s all kind of confusing to me. And I’m sad that my daughter thinks of me as the Mean Mom. Somehow I’ve got to figure out how to be the laid back cool mom while making sure they turn out ok.