I could make a list of a million things that are hard for me about parenting. Cleaning up puke when I already feel queasy. The 23rd question in a row. Having a meaningful discussion with an old (or new) friend while a toddler reminds you she needs to potty at an obnoxious volume. Anything involving the hours 2-5am.
Top on my list of parental challenges is dealing with my kid when s/he is a jerk. Specifically, to me. I can mostly deal with jerkish actions toward others because those are an opportunity for growth and we can talk about how others feel and work through other ways of dealing with the situation.
When my kid speaks rudely or, as seems our new normal, completely ignores instructions to go to bed, my feelings get hurt. Not just the “I’m a bad parent, they never listen, they’ll grow up to become delinquent by age 11” kind of head hanging. It’s not just my pride that hurts but also my feelings.
I realize, and I sometimes I repeat to myself over and over, that “I’m the mommy. I’m the mommy. I’m the mommy.” (If I don’t, I’m tempted to fight back like the 4 year old, to resort to immature and unfavorable methods because she did it first.) Because of my position in the hierarchy (and yes, in this house there is a hierarchy. I’ve mentioned we don’t operate by democracy around here), I don’t see myself as an “equal” to my children. I strongly believe I’m not a friend to my children, I’m first and foremost their parent.
But they sometimes make me cry.
Just because I’m the parent doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings. My children and I spend all of the hours of all of the days in close proximity and who wants to spend so much time with jerks? Who enjoys those who give little regard to the people with whom they share space? I don’t. Which is why I take seriously my job to help raise up thoughtful, kind and brave people.
In the process, it’s hard to lovingly forgive words said out of hunger or tiredness. We serve as the target for all the emotions these teeny-tiny brains are trying to develop. If we don’t, they could be aimed outward where the armor of love doesn’t protect hearts and minds and more damage could result. Part of the responsibility I bear in our relationship includes absorbing and redirecting the hurt that could be thoughtlessly targeted elsewhere.
So I put on my big girl, mommy pants (likely made from a lycra-spandex combo). I set the example. I might shed tears, but I turn to my husband to remember I am valued and loved. I don’t let bedtime get the last word because it’s not the time of day when we’re at our most beautiful. Just because a moment may be the loudest doesn’t mean it holds the strongest voice.
In the words of a wise woman, Carry On, Warrior.