Hello. I’d like to introduce myself. I’m the meanest mom ever. I know, I know, you probably thought you were, but I’m sure I’ve got this one in the bag. Which is pretty nice actually; especially considering the fact that, to hear my kids tell it, I don’t know anything and I really just don’t get it. I’m not sure what “it” is, but whatever it might be, it is well out of my grasp. So, if nothing else, it’s really nice being the best at something, even if it is only being the best cruel dictator-for-life I can be.
Now, I am certain that there are more than a few of you out there who are shaking your head at my claim because your own kids have granted you the title. As a matter of fact, my brother-in-law just announced last week that he and my sister are the meanest parents ever (a two-for-one deal) because they didn’t let their five-year-old win at Go Fish. That’s some pretty stiff competition. But be that as it may, after this week, I’m feeling pretty good about holding my place at the top of the list.
In case you couldn’t tell, it’s been a rough one. I don’t know if it’s because school has wiped out every remaining molecule of energy and patience that any of us had after a long summer, or if the entire cosmos is falling out of alignment, but stuff has gotten all kinds of real up in my house this week.
At the moment, I’m assuming that despite that fact that I bought official Boy Scout-sanctioned solar eclipse glasses, my children took them off when I wasn’t looking (or maybe I was, who knows. You can’t see anything in those things), then stared directly into the sun and are now legally blind. Based on my intense scientific observation, they can see their phone screens without issue, but they cannot see the backpacks blocking the front door even after I have pointed directly to them and asked that they be moved. Nor can they see the neatly collected stacks of items that I have sitting on the kitchen island for them to take upstairs. Even more bewildering, the stacks of neatly collected piles that I have actually placed ON THE STAIRS are also invisible. I have even gone so far as to place the piles right outside of their doors. I kid you not, they will step over the piles and shut the door – which leads me to believe they can at least make out some shapes and colors. But the item that seems to give them the most trouble, the one I am certain they cannot see, is the dishwasher. And I promise you now, if I walk into the kitchen and see ONE MORE DISH sitting on the counter DIRECTLY ABOVE THE DISHWASHER, the judge may not even post bail.
The thing is, I wake fairly level headed, thinking that today is the day I’m going to be a calm, direct and to-the-point mom with just the right amount of passive aggressive thrown in – you know, to guide them to their own truth and all. Then someone oversleeps and somehow it’s not only my fault for not waking them (even though their alarm had been going off for 15 minutes and can be heard in Russia), but it’s now also my responsibility to drive them to school. Someone else remembers that today is today the peanut fundraiser is due – and I’m the only one they’re selling to five minutes before the bus is due to arrive. Another forgets their lunch on the counter – and it’s most likely the one I’ve already driven into school. And that’s just the morning. Evenings are reserved for the really fun stuff like talking back, arguing, eye rolling, and door slamming.
All of this to say, I’ve been doing a lot of yelling this week. Or as I like to call it “providing valuable life advice in a theatrical tone” (my stage voice, if you will…assuming the audience is across the street). But honestly, I feel like no one listens until I yell. I will say the same thing five times nicely with no response, and yes, I’ve actually counted, but as soon as I yell, heads turn. By this time, I have a riveting monologue prepared and a captive audience – so, you know, I go with it.
By the end of my performance(s), I have been dubbed someone “who does nothing but yell” and “is always angry” (i.e., the world’s meanest mom), which I like to think is less a statement of truth and more a lightly veiled nod to my convincing theatrical presentation. Because the fact is, I’m not mean. I’m just a parent. As I tried to explain to my 15-year old (yes, I realize this was my first mistake), it’s just how things go. Kids are awful, parents yell/lecture/discipline. Then one day, those kids grow up and have kids of their own. Those kids are awful, and the original kids, now parents, get to yell/lecture/discipline. It’s the circle of life.
The fact is, parenting is hard. And exhausting. And relentless. And at time, feels never ending. When weeks like this one hit, I don’t really care if they think I’m the most horrible person on the planet. I just want to restore order to the chaos. And if I have to “be mean” to get it done, then so be it. But that doesn’t mean that I go to bed feeling any less defeated. And I would imagine, that for my kids, the feeling is often mutual.
But parenting is all about the long game, and that game can be hard when instead of cheerleaders on the sidelines, you’ve got a booing crowd. However, I’ve come to realize that anger and frustration and discipline and boundaries are very different things. When I get angry and yell, the outward expressions that my kids latch onto, so often it is coming from a place of panic when I feel like nothing is ever going to get better and everyone is destined for juvie. But my discipline and correction of unacceptable behaviors come from a place of love. They stem from the deepest part of my being that wants nothing more than to create good adults out of these half-formed souls that leave trails of peanut butter across my kitchen counter without a thought to cleaning up.
A bad week, one in which you find yourself yelling when you really didn’t want to, or one that makes you feel like a failure as a parent, often with your kids’ agreement, is not the end of the world. It’s just a bad week – or day, or hour, or whatever. It’s a sign of growing pains and change and a need to alter aspects of your life in an effort to restore order. It’s a sign that your kids have some lessons that they need to learn and that they need you to be there to teach them.
The way I see it, being the meanest mom or dad is a compliment. It means you’re doing your job. Kids are going to push back against boundaries. They are not going to like how change or corrected behavior feels. And they’re going to blame you. But they’re also going to learn from it and, most importantly, they’re going to see that you care enough to engage, to teach and to withstand the storm.
It has been a long week, but tomorrow, I plan to wake up level headed. I plan to be a calm, direct, to-the-point kind of mom who throws in a passive aggressive comment or two for good measure. But chances are, I will lecture. I might even yell. But I won’t give up, because they won’t always think I’m the meanest mom in the world. One day, they’ll have their own kids to remind them that they, in fact, hold that title. And at that time, the order of the universe will be restored.