Some days in this journey called parenthood are golden. We get to drink our coffee before it gets cold. Everyone can find their shoes when it’s time to get out the door. No one has a meltdown, including the parent … especially the parent.
And then, there are the days that suck out loud.
I don’t strive for perfection in parenting … or anything. I shoot for “above average” and I’m usually satisfied with “not a hot mess” or “mediocre.”
Most of the time, I think I succeed. Sometimes, though, I miss the mark. I have days where I feel like I’m the worst parent ever and I have a hard time not beating myself up over my shortcomings. I know motherhood is all about peaks and dips. Some days are easy, some aren’t … that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
But when a parent has a really bad day or when there are too many kinda-sorta bad days strung too close together, it wears you down. It’s deflating. Patience? What’s that? Your threshold for losing your crap pretty much does not exist.
I had one such day last Sunday.
It was the second-to-last store in a multi-store string of errands at the end of a very bad, no-good, long and tiring day: the craft store.
Because a sane woman takes two tired, cranky 5-year-olds to the craft store (a.k.a. an inviting den of colorful, delicate, and breakable stuff that you screech at them not to touch while bribing them with overpriced candy from the bin next to the checkout line). Please say that’s not just me.
On the way to the craft store, we drove right by the place where my boys get their hair cut and one of them got it into his little cranium that we needed to stop and get a trim right then and there. I tried to explain that haircuts weren’t on the agenda for that day. My stubborn little dude was having none of it.
Have you ever been shopping with a 5-year-old who’s screaming “I wanna get my hair cut right now” up and down every aisle of the craft store? People stare at you. Some of the stares are sympathetic. Some snicker. Other people look at you like you have three heads.
And that freaking craft store. You know, I can never find what I need in that maze of DIY bounty. I wanted paint, which is not a simple thing to locate. There’s paint on aisle three … except for the kind of paint that’s all the way over on aisle 27, but don’t get that confused with the kind of paint that’s locked up waaaaaaaaaaay in the back of the store by the kids craft kits. Because it totally makes sense to keep the paint people like to huff near the boxes of loom bands and make-your-own-necklace stuff.
I was having a bad day … and everyone knew it. I understood the stares and the chuckles. I mean … I would probably laugh if I saw a kid pitching a hissy over a haircut, especially a kid clearly not in need of barbering. As I was browsing and trying to keep the kid who wasn’t crying from pawing the scrapbook paper that was positioned perfectly at his eye-level, he grabbed my wrist and snapped the elastic on my bracelet.
I snapped, too.
I became “that mom” who screamed at her kids in public. That mom who cussed at her kids in public. I was tired, hot, and hangry and as those beads bounced all over the floor, I lost my shit, becoming one of those train-wreck moms people stare at while pretending not to look. The kind of train-wreck mom that people unobtrusively record on their phones and upload to YouTube.
I seriously hope that hot mess express of a shopping trip isn’t on YouTube. If it is, don’t tell me.
But you know what? That moment doesn’t define my worth as a parent. I’m a good mom. I picked up those beads and stuffed them in my purse. I picked up my head and told my kids to move along. We didn’t buy paint, but I damn sure bought them candy if for no other reason that it made me feel a little less like a crazy person and a little more in control.
I’m a good mom who had a bad day.
I’m not going to beat myself up. I’m not going to tell myself I’m a lousy parent. I’m not going to pick apart what I could have done differently, done better. I’m going to dust myself off, take a deep breath, love my kids, and try again.
Because that’s all I can do.
I’m a good mom but sometimes, I stumble. A bad day doesn’t make me a bad parent.
To all the mamas out there having hard days in the trenches, remember that. You’re a good mom, too, but even good moms have their moments. Trust me on this … it takes one to know one.