I wrote the following post during a particularly trying time of single mamahood back in 2009. Things have (obviously) improved
over the years, but we do have our moments.
The kid sure knows how to pull at the heart strings.
"I love you! I want you! I want yooooou!"
Granted these nuggets of undying devotion only come out with such passion when she is on a time out. When she sees that I am unswayed and not returning to her room, she turns on me.
There is a period of time where all I hear from her room are sorrow-filled ululations which quickly turn into cries for family members who cannot hear her. I am sure that if she had a clear concept of God and the heavens she would be appealing to them as well.
"I don't like you! I want Grandma! Grandmaaaaaaa! Grandpaaaaa! I want Uncle Briiiiiii! Aunt TTTTTTTTTT!"
But alas no one come to her rescue. Her cries simmer down to whimpers and sniffles which then settle into silence. A few moments later she will either emerge with tear-streaked cheeks, shuffle over to me and fling herself headfirst into my lap whispering a muffled "Sorry..." or I will peek my head into her room and find her asleep in bed surrounded by her stuffed animals with her blanket pulled up to her chin.
Whatever the outcome, I always feel a sense of triumph. "Haha, I win! You cannot beat me, little one. I am the adult here. Ha and ha!"
But here is the problem. I feel this every single time my discipline works. I can talk a mean game and I can carry it out too, but I am always surprised when it works. Perhaps it is because there is always the moment when in the midst of it, I want to give up. Thrown in the towel. Say, "Fine, have the daggone piece of candy!" or "Fine, wear your swimsuit and rainboots and nothing else to school. Who cares that it's snowing outside!" But I don't and that is usually when she turns the corner.
Multiple times a week I feel like we are acting out this scene from Kramer v. Kramer:
Ted: [while Billy brings ice cream to the table] You go right back and put that right back until you finish your dinner... I'm warning you, you take one bite out of that and you are in big trouble. Don't... Hey! Don't you dare... Don't you DARE do that. You hear me? Hold it right there! You put that ice cream in your mouth and you are in very, very, VERY big trouble. Don't you dare go anywhere beyond that... Put it down right now. I am not going to say it again. I am NOT going to say it AGAIN.
[Billy eats ice cream]
Billy: [Ted picks him up] Ow! You're hurting me!
Ted: OW! Don't you kick me!
Billy: I hate you!
Ted: You're no bargain either, pal! You are a spoiled, rotten little brat and I'll tell you right now...
Billy: I hate you!
Ted: And I hate you back, you little shit!
Billy: I want my mommy!
Ted: I'm all you got.
And I feel horribly. How can you feel that way about your own child? But I do. Well, I don't hate her. But I very strongly disliker her during those moments. Those are the moments when I wish I could just drop her on her father's doorstep and say, "Here you deal with her because I can't." And I imagine that you can probably do that in a marriage. Leave that kid with the other parent and drive off into the sunset for a little while and return when a cooler head has prevailed. But I can't do that.
So sometimes, I give myself a time out. I lock myself in the bathroom, turn on the shower as hot as it will go and give myself a stern talking to or say all the things that I wish I could say, but cannot because she's only three and a half for gosh sakes. Once the mirror has steamed up, I have usually deflated all my own hot air and am okay enough to open the door.
Where is AB during my time out, you ask? On the other side of the door vacillating between crying for me to come out and asking if I'm okay and if I accidently locked myself in the bathroom. When I emerge she is always quite happy to see me and willing to talk about what went wrong. She will give me a run through of the prior ten minutes, "Annabelle threw the books and Froggie and Mommy said to pick them up and Annabelle said NO! and was put on time out and then Mommy locked herself in the bathroom by axident."
Suffice it to say, while I have gotten much better at discipline over the past year, I am by no means a master. While it is clear that AB does not hold a grudge (with me anyway), I know that she is in no way being scarred by me being a consistent disciplinarian or, dare I say, a mean mom at times. I just wish that I didn't feel like such a baby about it myself. Hurt feelings have no place in motherhood, right? Kids are always going to say things that they don't mean. Heck, I constantly say things that I don't mean in my bathroom time-out rants. I feel like I am on an emotional roller coaster though. I go from sadness that she is so upset, then frustration that she thought she could get away with it, then anger that she thinks that I am so horrible that she requires some sort of stealth rescue mission, then relief when it is over which is quickly followed by the dread that it is inevitably going to happen again.
I need to grow a thicker skin. Pronto.