I recently read a blog by a mother narrating a particularly frustrating morning that resulted in losing her cool with her children.
Initially, I was appalled – she had been feeling underappreciated and on this particular morning, her children sent her over the edge when one turned the TV to a different channel after she said not to. I guess she was trying to be humorous in her post as she relived what she’d yelled through the bedroom door to her child after she’d stormed off, but it just sounded psychotic to me.
To my surprise, several commenters applauded her work and empathized with her.
“Oh my God,” I thought. “What’s the matter with these people?”
Keeping your cool as a parent has always been part of the job. Every parent gets frustrated, but no parent has the right to lose it when his or her child doesn’t do as instructed. That’s what kids do: the exact opposite of what would make life easier. I’ve read enough blogs by mothers wining about how they aren’t appreciated. Not to gloat, but as a single father, I have to make a living and a home without anyone’s help … and these women need to suck it up because I never flip out.
Correction: I never flipped out until Friday morning.
I GUESS IT ALL began five days earlier, when my mother told me my house was dirty. I’ll admit – I had fallen behind with housework, but we weren’t living in squalor. Still, the woman knows that’s one comment that’ll send me into a fury that won’t end until my fingertips are dried out and cracking open from bleach and Lysol. I grew up in a clean house; my child will do the same. So that particular Sunday night, I cleared off an unused dry erase board and wrote in permanent marker a chore chart for myself. Every day, I have jobs to do. When they’re done, I’ll cross them off with a dry erase marker so that after each week, I can wipe off the lines and start over.
It seems like a lot, but it won’t be if I keep up with it. The trouble is making the house clean to start.
I began compartmentalizing the task: I’d take it room-by-room all week long. It wouldn’t seem like much, but again, I did this every night after working all day long. I was exhausted by Thursday night. Sooo tired of cleaning by the time I said good night to Kalista.
That’s why it required so much of me to spend 20 minutes filling out a registration form Thursday night Kalista needed for a school program. It was a Scantron sheet, which made me feel like I was in high school again filling in a stupid bubble with a No. 2 pencil for every letter on the form. We have a long last name, too.
When I finished, completely drained and barely awake, I affixed a post-it note to the Scantron sheet that read “Kalista, please sign on this line and return this to school today.” I drew an arrow to the line asking for her signature. Next to it, I laid the pencil she needed to use.
Well, the next morning, Kalista struggled to get ready for school. I was tired from cleaning all week and kind of ornery. And when I walked into the kitchen and saw the Scantron sheet still on the table with the pencil next to it and that she’d used a marker so sign her name, I pretty much lost it.
I don’t recall exactly what I said, but it wasn’t pretty. It was enough to make her cry. But at that moment, I didn’t care. All I knew was I’d spent time I could have been sleeping filling out this registration form, which was likely null and void since she’d used marker on a document on which only a No. 2 pencil could be used.
She was making me late for work. I’d cleaned the house for her and really didn’t get much help from her. I was exhausted, stressed, bewildered, inadequate and dying because of her and she didn’t seem to even notice.
YOU KNOW THE WORST part about mornings like these as a parent? You don’t have time to make sure things are straight before you say goodbye for eight hours. You have to go your whole day knowing the last thing you saw from your child was his or her tears. What if Newtown happens in her school that day? What if Sept. 11 happens at your work?
What if that was your last chance to tell your child how much they mean to you?
By 8 a.m., I was beside myself. The poor child. She was tired. She’s gone through a lot this past year. She’s just a kid. On top of that, she’d left her lunch in the car … probably because I’d terrified her and she wanted to escape quickly.
Why did I do that?
At 9 a.m., I called the school. I’m sure they thought I was psycho, but I asked the secretary to let Kalista’s teacher know she’d had a bad morning and to make sure she was all right. I thought about showing up to have lunch with Kalista, but she’s getting to the age where she doesn’t want me around her friends. I felt pretty helpless. I wanted to do something – ANYTHING – to let Kalista know I was sorry and, more importantly, I love her more than anything in this world.
WHEN I SAW HER after school that day, I hugged her for a long time. I melted. I told her I was sorry for that morning. She said it was okay, but in kind of a childish, paranoid way, I worried I’d caused permanent damage to her trust in me.
Then I asked if they’d accepted her registration form with the marker on it.
A sheepish look came over her face.
“I forgot to turn it in,” she said.
What a victory, I thought. It didn’t excuse my actions that morning, but at least they hadn’t stuck with her. The fact she’d forgotten to turn in the very paper that’d caused my blowup pretty much proved that. Yeah, I was kind of irritated I’d basically wasted my time filling out the registration form the night before, but she’ll get another chance at it.
“It’s okay,” I said, relieved. “Mistakes happen.
“Just remember Monday, okay?”