I must say that after over ten years of parenting, I’ve got a pretty good record for keeping my cool in public with my kids.
Maybe I overcompensate because I have four children and feel like people are watching me extra-closely, just waiting for me to mess up.
I tend to never let anyone see me flustered- that’s for in private (or Mom-speak-through-gritted-teeth for “when we get in the car.”)
However, I am ashamed to admit there exists a situation in the Starbuck’s drive thru a few weeks ago. I lost it on one of my sons after he spilled his entire drink in the car just seconds after I handed it to him. I basically shouted in the most awful, shrill voice, “ARE YOU FRICKING KIDDING ME?!”
And maybe I said a few more things until I realized my window was still down and I was also driving ever so slowly past the outdoor seating area filled with people. Who all had their attention on me.
I was so embarrassed. And then I drove off as fast as I could.
I did find a spot to pull over and cleaned up the mess: I apologized to my son and I really hoped he understood. It wasn’t even as bad of a spill as he had let on. But the damage- my damage- was done.
Honestly, even weeks later I still feel horrible because really? Starbucks? That is so not worth making my kid feel like crap. My car is trashed anyway; a grande iced soy chai isn’t going to hurt anything. But also, as unfair as it may seem, I instantly longed for mercy from that listening crowd. (Mercy I should have shown my child in the first place.) I rationalized their judgment – hoping they assumed I had my reasons for being at my breaking point that day. I was ordering my kids each a Starbucks so I must have been pretty desperate. Did they see the four kids in the car? Had they noticed my tired eyes and exhausted posture? Could they tell I’d pulled an all-nighter because the only time I can work is when they are asleep?
But I wonder if I hadn’t been caught if I would feel this bad. I kinda have a feeling that I would have stayed in a horrible mood until I chilled out later in the day. Who knows what else I would have said (and then regretted.)
I mean, I carry my fair share of Mom-guilt daily, but knowing that other people saw and heard me yell at my child made me really view it from their perspective. Did they think I am a horrible mother? Am I a horrible mother? I have a hard time dismissing those thoughts. There have definitely been occasions where I’ve snapped at home and then worried that the neighbors might have heard. And then there was just the other morning that by 9 a.m. my throat hurt from a louder-than-necessary verbal scolding. Surely I am not the only mom who has ever done this. Yes, I know that doesn’t make it okay, but still. I’m hyper-aware of it now, and I am trying to use a much kinder, gentler voice, even if no one else is watching.
Please tell me I’m not alone and share your story, too? Have you ever been caught losing your cool with your kids?
Worried your kids will see you fighting with your partner? Don’t worry — as long as you handle it right.