I was recently reminded of a particularly memorable trip to the grocery store. I was pushing a cart with a toddler and a baby (which should have been clue number one to the other shoppers that I was sleep deprived and irritable). My toddler had a tendency to run away from me, so I quarantined her in the large part of the basket. The baby was in the front part with the seat belt.
In any case, we made it through the produce area, where we sampled the grapes, and through the deli, where the girls received pieces of lunch meat to keep them occupied.
And then we hit that lull between the [free meat/cheese] deli counter and the [free cookie] bakery. (It is at this point that some moms resort to opening packages of snacks to keep the natives from getting restless, but on this particular day I decided to chance it.)
I should have seen it coming. My oldest gets this twinkle in her eye that lets you know she’s up to something. She had the twinkle, but I was too distracted to notice, and—yadda yadda yadda—I hear “clean up on aisle 10.”
Rewind to a few seconds prior to that announcement and you would see my dear daughter selecting a jar of baby food to ceremonially chuck onto the not-so-soft floor, followed by the jaw-clenching sound of breaking glass.
So the kind store custodian came and cleaned it up. No big deal, right? Hey, maybe I should have seen this has a precursor to her days as a fast-pitch softball pitcher?
Not exactly. No sooner had the custodian’s mop been wrung out, my child did it again. Seriously. She picked up another jar and chucked it on the freshly mopped floor.
Her baby sister laughed.
Her mom: not so much.
At that moment (as the second “clean up on aisle 10” announcement was made in less than 5 minutes), I was filled with deep remorse for all those times I judged other moms… all those times I silently reassured myself with my kids would never do that… all those women with children who clearly didn’t know how to behave in public… all those mothers who must have been doing something terribly wrong… all those ladies with kids… just like mine.
Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with friends who have plenty of similar stories to tell. Stuff like:
- children driving a showroom car through a plate-glass window of a car dealership (yup, that happened to a friend of mine while she negotiated on a new car… she didn’t get such a great deal after all)…
- a 4-year-old pulling a fire alarm that emptied seven full movie theaters on a 100° summer day and required the theater to issue refunds to all those people… (I love that kid! Her poor mom was mortified!)
And a few more that may or may not have happened under my roof:
- a kindergartener screaming (at the top of her lungs) “I HATE YOU! YOU’RE NOT MY MOMMY!” in the middle of a crowded Target after she was told she could not have a candy bar… (Yes, I was questioned by store employees, but, no, CPS was not called, thankfully!)
- a little girl regularly feeding perfume and super-yucky water bugs to her baby sister (OK, that last one might be something my mom could tell you about me 😉 ).
The point is this: we *all* have those days [or week or months] where our kids seem to be on our last nerve and we can’t do anything right. If someone tells you the opposite, they’ve either not been a parent for very long, or are lying. The adopting moms who come to stay with us in Nicaragua always express concern over how their new children might behave under my roof. And I always tell them the same thing, “You will never ever receive parenting judgement from me!” I have lived through too many of my own parenting failures, and spent too much time blaming myself for those to ever have enough energy to tell you I could have parented your kids better.
So if your kids are young or old or acting out or digging in, find a fellow mom who’s “been around the block” a few times, and will freely — and honestly! — commiserate with you. Because, and let me say this again, every mother on the planet has felt like a colossal mom-failure at some point or another (or lots of anothers). As moms, we need to stick together and encourage one another, because you never know when your kid might be the next one to cause us to hear: “clean up on aisle 10!”