Everyone knows their children are angels for everyone else, but nightmares at home, where they feel safe to let their inner asshole run free.
Don’t we parents do the same thing?
Recently, after a particularly shameful parenting episode, I realized that my inner asshole was not only running free, it had gone on a Viking raid. I had been by far the worst behaved person in the house, as hellacious my children ever were, if not more so because Mommy should be above that nonsense.
I remember when my babies were just born, when I was drunk on love, my heart exploding with adoration and the feeling that all I wanted and needed to do was nurture and protect these tiny people.
How did I get to the point where I could ball my fists and shake with rage as I scolded my children?
How did I come to the place where one part of me was appalled at my behavior and the other relished the release of a full-blown adult tantrum?
My son once told me that after a day following so many rules at school, he needed to come home and relax and be free. He was exactly right. Always following the rules, swallowing my feelings, and trying to live up to a myth of perfect motherhood had worn me down.
I was conscientious and polite — one of those women who was apologizing always, and confronting never. Seeing public displays of anger as unbecoming and ineffective on a woman – you caught more flies with honey than with vinegar — I limited my outbursts to the car. When I was in the car alone, or with other potty-mouthed adults, I let loose torrents of curses worthy of a prison gang. But otherwise, in public, I was Ms. Nicelady. Recently when a department head informed me that I was an esteemed finalist but wouldn’t be getting hired, I longed to tell her to save the consolation cliché fest, to inform her that I had been teaching for over 20 years, and how wrong this was, or even to ask her why, but I didn’t. Better to be polite than say what you mean.
With my children, I bent over backward to ensure a childhood full of playdates, enriching activities, toys and books, wholesome meals, and fun, fun, fun. This meant spending most of my days preparing all the delicious and healthy meals, wrangling often resistant kids to all the places, expecting/asking/begging them to do something for themselves Goddammit, always thinking about my never ending to-do list and spending precious little time on myself.
I was exhausted.
My kids became the target of my rage. Who else could I call out on their frustrating behavior, poor judgment, ridiculous choices, and utter lack of sensitivity? I couldn’t often say “What you just did/said sucked out loud and here’s why!” to many of the adults in my life – not at least if I wanted to avoid being some combination of divorced, friendless, or punched in the neck. My kids – my vulnerable little people who were learning how to get along in the world and for the most part, acting age-appropriately – were the victims of my enraged Supermom.
Perhaps too little, too late, I always told my kids I was sorry for my outbursts. I don’t know if it made me seem more human, or was fodder for many heart-to-heart chats with friends, significant others, and therapists in my children’s future. Maybe both.
When I was tearing my hair out about my kids crappy in-house behavior, a friend consoled me by saying it was “better to have a child who acts out at home than in public.” This person went on to tell me that my children had internalized how to behave in out in the world, and knew to let it all hang out only at home, where they were safe. Despite the fact that at home, my kids fought like wild animals, rolled their eyes, talked back, and ignored instructions like one would a rolling fart at a hoity party, I had done my job well.
But when I was having the outbursts, it didn’t mean I was doing my job well. It meant I needed to make some serious changes.
Taking better care of myself, breathing, and removing myself from situations where I felt supremely pissed off at my children would be a start, but wouldn’t put an end to my Mommy meltdowns.
As a family, we’d need to talk more about feelings, needs and triggers. Hubs and I would have to do more to show our children that as adults, we weren’t exempt from following our family rules. We’d have to have the courage and humility to demonstrate that we held ourselves accountable for our actions.
How great would it be for kids to understand that adults have room to mature emotionally and are still a work in progress?
It’s a lovely idea. But I draw the line at an adult behavior chart.
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This post was written by Keesha Beckford exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC.