What is the perfect mom, really? Why do we all strive to be her? Do we hold up moms like Kate Gosselin just because she has 8 kids and survives, or because we can see that she has shortcomings like the rest of us? Why are we so hard on ourselves, and good god, each other?
When Jake was six and we were dealing with meltdowns, I had a friend who smugly informed me that her children tantrumed once in a grocery store, but she dealt with it and they never would do that again.
"Oh it's too bad that you have a boy who is so....rowdy." The word rolled off her tongue as if it were something distasteful.
I could have told her that her perfect boy was smacking mine and being rude when she left the room, but I didn't have it in me. Too many people had already given me the "well my kids don't do THAT" speech, and I felt beaten. Of course it was my fault. Isn't everything? Isn't every thing that Jake struggles with my fault because I'm his mother?
Took me years to figure out that the answer to that million dollar question is ABSOLUTELY NOT. That's not to say that I haven't had my share of screw-ups.
It's so easy to highlight only our shining moments on blogs, and through the media. We don't really have to talk about the times that we blew it and did something that was not a great Mom-moment.
The truth is, we all have them, even those moms who portray the 'perfection persona'. Jake calls them "epic fail moments".
A mistake of such monumental proportions that it requires its own term in order to successfully point out the unfathomable shortcomings of an individual or group. (from Urban Dictionary, posted by Operative 668)
Here's a taste of my own epic failures; the things that I look back now and can't believe I did, the moments I'm not proud of, and the ones that were just downright funny.
1. Jake was a biter when he was 2. He would get mad and chomp me or Hubs, to the point of taking chunks of skin and drawing blood. Once we got so frustrated that I actually put liquid dish soap on my finger, and rubbed it on his teeth.
He never bit us again. I never got rid of the guilt.
2. 3 year old Jake kept blowing bubbles in his milkshake. I told him if he did it again, I would take it away and drink it. He eyed me, and blew. I grabbed the shake and downed it right in front of his horrified little face. Oh, that boy CRIED.
Oh, and to top it off, even though he had really bad rashes and digestive issues, I didn't even slightly clue in that he could be lactose intolerant until he was TWELVE. In all those years we made him drink milk and eat cheese, because it was 'healthy'. Go ahead. Slap me upside the head.
3. Stubborn as all get out 7 year old Jake decided to try a jump on his 2 wheeler despite my warnings not to. He wiped out horribly, and ended up with some road rash. I laughed when he fell and said, "I told you so."
He forgave me after I doctored him up and handed him a Popsicle. I think he figured that Mom was right after all.
4. We were at the playground with Jake's friends from pre-school and for the first (and only) time ever in his life, he didn't want to share his prized toy truck. His bestest friend grabbed it and a little argument ensued. I'm not completely sure what happened, but I don't think I handled it well.
Anyway that evening I made Jake phone the friend and apologize. Seriously? A four year old? How stupid is that? No wonder the Mom didn't talk to me after that. Jake was crushed because he never saw his best friend again.
5. When changing a poopy diaper, I got some on the carpet. Being stupid, I decided to clean it with water and baking soda. Brand new house and new carpet, which ended up with this weird stain. I covered it with a mat and when Hubs discovered it years later and yelled at Jake about it, I played dumb.
6. On a class ski trip, 12 year old Jake's ski came off mid-mountain. He refused to travel the short distance to where I was, and instead stood and wailed. I tromped up the hill, and when we had trouble getting his ski back on and he was all crying, hanging all over me, etc I went ballistic and told him to grow up already. Yes, I screamed at him in front of a chair lift full of his class mates.
7. When Jake was 5 I took him to see Toy Story at the theatre, and when he freaked out (as a lot of sensory sensitive kids would), I got mad at him and told him I was never taking him to a movie again. Ever. And I didn't, for a good 3 years. Now he hates movie theaters and refuses to go to them at all.
8. Jake had made friends with the neighbors up the road that had a daughter his age. We were over for a visit once when it was time to go and he completely flipped out. Like, crazy screaming wild banshee style flipping out. I hauled him in the bathroom, gave him a firm talking to and a good spanking.
Um, you know gasoline and matches? What happens?
I ended up hauling a hysterically screaming 5 year old down the road to home. The friend never, ever, called us again and acted like she didn't know us if she saw us after that. Which was sad, because Jake loved her daughter and asked why they didn't like him for YEARS later.
**Readers need to know that at that time, Jake was struggling with sensory integration issues and had extreme trouble with transitions. My response to his meltdowns was to spank him, because people always told me that it was a discipline thing and I needed to get him under control. We didn't figure out the sensory issue until he was 9 and then realized that spanking when he was little was the absolute worst way to handle it. Guilt. Major, gut-wrenching, horrifying, guilt.
9. Jake asked if we'd have another baby, so he could have a brother or sister. It had been a brutal day, we were driving home in the rain, I was exhausted, and what I was thinking came right out of my mouth without skipping a beat,
"Oh my God, Jake. TWO of you?"
Um, ya. Not the best response.
10. My biggest epic fail of all-agreeing with Jake's grade 1 teacher that he was a behavior problem, instead of listening to him and following my mommy instincts. I even disciplined him based on her assessment and rather than rock the boat, left him in that classroom for an entire school year. Even though you could hear her screaming at him all the way down the hall.
Kids are resilient, though. When I confessed to Jake how overwhelmingly guilty I felt over some of my parenting fails, he just patted me and smiled.
"It's okay, Mom, you didn't know. Being a parent is hard-you're allowed to make mistakes. I still love you."
I have no doubt that there's many more epic failures to come in the next few years, but that small piece of wisdom from a 9 year old boy is what I hold onto, every single day.