Once, right before Christmas about 20 years ago, when the boys were 2 and 4 years old, I don’t remember what they were doing, but they were definitely doing something to piss me off. And, eventually I lost it. Amidst their shrieking, fighting, tantrum, whatever it was, it probably involved all of that, I picked up the phone and proceeded to call Santa in front of them
“Santa,” I said. “Don’t even bother coming by this house. These boys have been terrible this year, and they don’t deserve anything from you.”
That shut them up pretty damn fast. But the minute I hung up the phone, they sobbed uncontrollably, promising to be better and begging me to call Santa back, which I didn’t, because I am a Mean Mommy.
Another time when they were 10 and 12, I was driving them home from school. They were arguing loudly, being rude to each other, and I used that famous line, “If you say one more word, I will pull over this car, and you will walk home.”
That didn’t stop their antics, and the older one was being a real jerk, so I pulled over the car and kicked him out.
“Walk home,” I said, and drove off. Suddenly, my younger son was completely silent in the back seat.
It was winter time, literally freezing, and the walker wasn’t wearing a coat (I’d long since given up fighting with them to get them to dress appropriately in cold weather). And, being in the jazz band in middle school, he had his electric bass with him. Yep, I drove off and he walked the rest of the way home, about a mile, in the cold, without a coat, carrying his backpack and laden with a guitar case.
It was around the same time, the older one informed me that he didn’t want to invite his friends over anymore, because they all thought I was the mean mom. “Badge of honor,” I thought, “badge of honor.”
Despite this, my boys (now grown men – 23 and 25) are not in therapy. They’re both college graduates and gainfully employed, so clearly the scars I inflicted weren’t too deep. But, yeah, it’s true. I will never be nominated for a great parenting award. Still, I’m trying a little more with my daughter to be a mother of reason.
Case in point. One day last week, the teachers at my daughter’s afterschool program (called Hort) went on strike. It was all very German. I received a letter and emails weeks in advance notifying me of the strike. The teachers personally asked if this was inconvenience and if I was able to find alternate care. Since I work from home, it wasn’t such a big deal to pick her up early, but school ends at 11:20. In the morning. So that means I basically have an entire day with my daughter, which is a recipe for frayed nerves, a short temper, and typical Mean Mommy behavior.
To get us out of the house and doing something entertaining, I suggested to my daughter that we ride bikes to the zoo. Now, the zoo is 4 miles from our house, and Emmy has ridden 4 miles before, but with a long break at the half way point. Yes, I had stars in my eyes.
I figured I’d pick her up from school, we’d come home to drop off her backpack and have lunch, and then we’d be off to the zoo. It might take an hour (that’s probably twice as long as it would take me by myself I figured) and then we’d have a few hours at the zoo before leaving and riding home.
Naturally, that’s not at all how it went. Instead, the after school time went something like this.
We get home at 11:30 and immediately start homework. I had forgotten about that, because Emmy normally does homework at Hort. Half an hour later, Emmy decides to fill out a Friend Book she’s been given. These books are all the rave among grade schoolers. They’re passed around to friends, who fill out pages with questions like “What are you hobbies?” and “What’s your favorite food?” I have to translate every prompt for my daughter and then help her spell while she writes. After taking an hour to complete her page in the Friend Book (which required printing a photo to glue onto the page), I beg her to eat lunch because she definitely can’t ride for an hour on an empty stomach. Finally, at 1:30, I think we are ready to leave.
But then the questions start.
“Mom, can I bring my doll stroller?” she asks.
“No. We’re riding bikes.”
“Well, can I bring my doll then?”
“No. We’ll be at the zoo. You don’t need anything.”
“Can I bring Ellie [her favorite stuffed animal]?”
At this point, frustration is setting in, but I’m not going to give into it.
“Fine, bring Ellie, but that’s it. Now let’s go, because it will take us a while to get there on bikes.”
Fifteen minutes later, I call out, “Em, are you ready?”
“Just a minute. I’m putting clothes on Ellie.”
“Em, Ellie is a stuffed animal. She doesn’t need clothes.”
“But she’ll be cold.”
“No, she won’t. It’s 70 degrees out.”
“Well at least let me wrap her in a blanket.”
“Really?” I ask, wondering how much more until my last good nerve snaps.
Finally, 2 and a half hours after we left school, we are on our way to the zoo.
We unlock our bikes, put on our helmets and start riding. For about 5 minutes.
Then Emmy shouts to me, because I’m riding ahead of her, “Mom, can we have a break? I’m really tired.”
Oh. My. Goddess. We haven’t even gone a mile. We will never get to the zoo.
“Okay. We can stop, but would you rather just lock our bikes up and take the bus?” Wisely, I have chosen a route that parallels the bus line that goes to the zoo.
“No. I just need a break,” she said.
A few moments of resting, and we start off again. This time we make it about 250 meters further.
“Mom, I’m tired.”
I take a deep, deep breath and try to channel the Dalai Lama to keep Mean Mommy at bay.
“Okay. Let’s just cross the street and lock our bikes at the bus stop. How about that?” I asked her.
“Okay,” Emmy said, smiling at me. “Thanks, Mommy.”
So we rode our bikes another block to the bus stop, locked and left them there and took the bus to the zoo, where we had a great afternoon.
Good Mommy still has her work cut out for her, but she’s getting there.