Today was my worst day yet as a parent.
I failed. Hard.
This morning I put Bree in the stroller to go run errands. It was close to nap time, but I figured she could just sleep in the stroller while we were out.
We got a block before I experienced my first ever full blown temper tantrum. Kicking. Screaming. Hysterical tears. Shaking of the head. Holding of the breath.
I pulled out every thing I had in my admittedly small bag of tricks. I got down to her level. Made her look me in the eye. I verbalized her emotions.
“You’re feeling upset. You want to get out of the stroller, but you can’t so you’re mad. Right?”
I accepted I was defeated, and we went home for nap time. It was my own fault, I know she sleeps at the same time and on the couch. With Mama.
So we did.
Then we ate lunch. Played. Read some books. I even got kisses! (Mama gets hugs, and Dada gets all her kisses.) We’re all smiles. Happy. And ready to go run those errands!
I strap her in and the tears start. I figure I’ll give her a minute. She’ll calm down as soon as we’re out of the door.
She always does.
Except she didn’t.
The tears fell faster. The kicks started. The screaming intensified. So did my emotions.
And then I said it.
“Uggggh! You’re so bad!”
My anger disappeared, and was immediately replaced by shame.
I just called my one year old daughter bad. I didn’t even say, “You’re BEING bad,” which is only just slightly better.
Hell, I’d argue that she can’t even “be” bad because she has no concept of acting up yet.
She had a need that I wasn’t fulfilling, and my response was to tell her she’s something that she clearly is not. I responded with anger. I made her out to be in charge of how I was feeling, and my response.
She wasn’t doing anything to annoy me, or hurt me. It wasn’t about me, but I responded as if it were.
It’s embarrassing. It’s wrong. And I felt awful.
I never want her to feel responsible for my emotions. I never want her to think I think she’s bad. She’s not.
She’s curious, happy, silly, funny, smart. She’s the brightest light I know. She’s a lot of things, but bad isn’t one of them.
So I apologized. I pulled out that admittedly small bag of tricks again. I squatted down to her level, I smiled. Made her look at me.
And just then a lady approached.
“Great,” I thought, along with an eye roll. “This busybody’s just coming to rub my face in it. Everybody has an opinion.”
Remember when I said it was my worst day yet as a parent?
“Rough day, huh? Is it the stroller? My son always hated his, too.”
“Yup. Normally I’d wear her.”
Why am I defending my use of a stroller? To a Mom I don’t even know? Yes, I’m an advocate of baby wearing. It’s something I love. Some times the stroller is just easier! I’m pregnant and my back hurts, I’m walking four miles today. But this random lady doesn’t need to know. She doesn’t care, but I’m about to spill every detail just because I’m oh so sure she’s about to judge me as a Mother.
And then she doesn’t. She smiles at me, knowingly.
“My son hated it too, until I figured out a trick. Do you think she just wants to sit more upright? That was his problem.”
“I think so, too.” I sounded so relaxed, so calm, I surprised myself.
And then she showed me the most amazing trick ever to turn the 5 point harness into a 3 point harness.
Aubrey looked around. She did not cry. She did not kick. She did not scream.
She smiled. A big toothy smile. The smile that warms my heart.
I thank the nice stranger Mom and we’re off. We finish our errands, and I decide to take my good girl to the park to play.
And then it hits me. Square in the face. Like a big fat pie.
I’m not a perfect mom. I never will be. I will lose my temper. I will mess up.
But I’ll always apologize if I’m wrong. I’ll always let Bree know I love her and respect her for all that she is. I’ll always try my best to be the Mom she deserves.
And that’s all any Mom wants.
I could have given that nice lady an attitude and scared her off. I could have been so defensive I attacked her before what I perceived would be an attack on my parenting.
And I would have missed out on a great piece of advice that helped me tremendously.
For what? Am I so arrogant that I think only I know what’s best? Are we as moms so arrogant that we are sure our way is the only right way?
I for one will work on that. I’ll swallow my pride and smile at the mom with the wailing child. The one that loses her cool for a split second. The one who says something unkind to her child. Even the one who looks at other moms with judgement written all over her face.
Especially her. She’s the one who needs the kindness the most.
I know this because until today I was her.
Right until the Universe smacked me square in the face with that humble pie.