I am neurotic. Straight up Woody Allen with those gawd-awful black-rimmed glasses sitting on a park bench lamenting other people’s disdain for him neurotic. There are more weird, anxious tics about me than I care to admit and stuff irritates me that really shouldn’t. I never mean to be this way – I just am.
Clothes need to feel just right or I can’t function. The towels have to sit on the shelf properly or I can’t fall asleep at night. I honestly cannot put the egg carton back into the fridge with an odd number of eggs in it – hand to God, I will eat an extra egg just because there cannot be 3 eggs go into the fridge.
And my parenting?! Oh lord, my parenting. It physically pained me to see my son get messy. I remember clearly the first time a family friend handed him a spoon and chocolate pudding – I cried! Watching him mix play-doh colors felt like I was being water-boarded – honestly and truly I couldn’t breathe. I never meant to be this Mom – I just am. I wanted, like every Mother, to be perfect. I wanted neatly kept and mannerly children who did well in school and never talked back. I wanted to make fresh cookies and read them stories and string popcorn strands on perfectly coifed Christmas trees. I wanted babies who slept through the night and tinkled in the potty on demand.
Boy, did fantasy and reality collide in my world. It was like the Hiroshima of Great Expectations meeting Cold Hard Facts. I had a baby who screamed (not cried – screamed like a banshee) 18 hours every day until he was almost 14 months. I struggle a lot potty training boys, mine didn’t fully potty train until almost 6 years of age. My perfect ideal was swept away by a tsunami of genetically-related -mayhem and my desire for perfection gave way to a need to simply survive. I needed to just make it one more day.
Let me be clear – I love my son and always have. That little screeching menace has been the apple of my eye and my reason for breathing since the moment I first laid eyes on him. But God, I have struggled with the polarizing ideas of what I wanted versus what I have. I have fought long and hard to come to the place where I can accept that he’s different than me, he’s messier, he’s more chaotic, he makes different choices…he’s not perfect. And I love that little ball of imperfection. He’s like a tornado everywhere he goes…a tornado wrapped in sunshine and laughter. He’s an amazing child and I love each little quirk about him.
But let me also be clear – I have hated myself as a Mother. I have full-on loathed myself. I have second-guessed my choices and I have self-bashed internally with a fervor boarding on mania. Have you ever seen video footage of self-flagellation? Yep, that’s basically who I was internally – beating myself with a board covered in broken glass. Being a parent is a painful dance. To love that little bundle so much and to fail him/her in so many ways each and every day is torture. I am short tempered and I have modeled some really horrible behavior for my son. He’s thrown stuff when he’s angry…because he’s seen me throw stuff when I am angry. He’s slammed doors, because I have. He’s yelled because he’s heard me yell. And yep, he’s cussed (always with the most self-righteous witness present) because I cuss like a merchant marine! But have I ever loved him any less?! Have I ever told him he was undeserving of my love?! No way in hell.
In fact, I love him for his imperfections all the more. I have told him time and again, “No matter WHAT I will always love you!” I have recited him this poem from a child’s book a million times, “Sometimes you make me sad and sometimes you make me mad, but no matter what you say or do I will always love you!” That’s what we Mothers do – we love our kids unconditionally!
An Interesting Thought
Which leads me to an interesting thought… why can I give to him what I won’t give myself?! Brene Brown says, “Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.” Would I ever say to my son the things I say internally to myself?! No way in hell! I would never tell him he’s an idiot or that he’s ruining my life. And yet, I say these things to myself all the time. “You’re such a neurotic idiot Dee. He’s going to need so much therapy because of you!”
Huh, I think it’s time to step back and maybe give my inner parent some of the parenting I have been giving my child. Maybe it’s time I started loving the Mother than I am, and not the one I wanted to be. Now, this can’t be a crutch for continued poor behavior or the stagnation of my progress, but maybe, just maybe if I can start embracing my flaws the way that I embrace his I can make a difference in me.
I believe we parent how we were parented out of human nature. But we should strive to parent our children how we ourselves needed to be parented. I needed someone to stop the constant deadlines and time crunches long enough to laugh at me over some childish silliness. I needed to mix the play-doh colours together and smear pudding on my face and forget to hang up my towel just right. And I need to embrace my own failings and successes as I embrace my son’s. I need to love me no matter what.
I love my son. I love the way he drags his backpack rather than carrying it. I love that he can never remember to do up his fly after using the washroom. I love that he doesn’t care about properly folded towels or proper egg counts.
I have got to start loving who I am, not who I dream of being. I have got to start loving the fact that I am neurotic and anxious and quirky and sometimes a little crazy. I am a Mom who yells. I am a Mom who fails every single day. But that’s ok because I am talking better to myself every day. And I am learning I am Mothering myself along this journey, too!
Dee, sometimes you make me sad and sometimes you make me mad. But no matter what you say or do, I will always love you!