There are days when I feel like I've got this mom thing in the bag. Take yesterday morning, for example. My 2 year old woke up, asked for her books, then said goodbye. I sat on the couch enjoying my chai tea latte feeling satisfied as my independent toddler read to herself in her crib for 30 minutes. Moments like the aforementioned, however, are few and far between. Usually I'm worried about how badly I'm screwing her up. Honestly, a lot of the time, I feel like I'm failing my toddler.
I've been managing my depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) my entire adult life. In some ways it's improved since my foray into motherhood. My daughter helps me stay in the moment, and her hugs and kisses are tonic to a bad mood. In some ways, however, things are worse. I've always been hard on myself, but now that I'm responsible for this little life, that feeling of inadequacy is more intense. With each decision I make, I worry that I'll do irreparable damage. Every misbehavior feels like a reflection of my poor parenting.
My mom says that all good moms at some point feel like failures. It means we're reflective and that we care. I also know that kids are forgiving and resilient, but it's difficult to remember that when I'm face-to-face with the following situations:
When No One Understands Her
I was pretty panicked when my daughter barely had 10 words (if you count animal sounds) when she was 18 months old. I'm raising her bilingually, but as a non-native (albeit fluent) speaker of Spanish, I'm constantly worried I'm f*cking up her language development.
She says a lot more now, but most of it doesn't resemble either of the languages she's supposed to be learning. Every time someone watches her, I have to explain that "she-she" means either milk (leche) or the dog (Sheriff).
It really makes me question if two languages are really best for her or just a feather in my mama cap.
When I Ignore Her
In general, I respond to tantrums by ignoring them. I think this is necessary at times, but it doesn't mean I feel good about it.
One night, my daughter was thrashing around in her booster seat because she didn't want to be there. She won't stay put in a regular chair, so she has to be buckled in. I'd had enough, so I put her in her room and closed the door so I could enjoy my meal. "Enjoy" isn't the right word, though, because I spent the whole time worrying about the emotional damage I was surely inflicting on my precious child and went to rescue her. Lesson learned? Not so much.
When I Let Her Have Her Way
It doesn't happen all the time, and certain things are certainly non-negotiable. She doesn't get to decide if she wants to buckle up or when bedtime is, but if that kid asks for crackers (especially if I'm on the phone), you can bet she'll have a cup of goldfish shortly.
Even though I know she should have a piece of fruit instead, I'll make quite a few concessions to avoid a fit. I don't want to raise a spoiled, entitled child, but in the moment I sacrifice that long-term goal for a few minutes of peace. I know I'm not doing her any favors.
When I'm Scrolling Through Social Media
In the mornings, I like to scroll through my newsfeed as a part of my "hatching out" routine — a guilty pleasure, to be sure. It's time I could be spending coloring, reading, or building with my little one. I know this, but I still don't put the phone down. Worse, I'm setting a terrible example. If I don't want her to become a screen junkie, I'm going to have to disengage from the device.
When I Push Her Too Hard
We recently took a family trip to Europe. On several occasions, I was highly irritated by what I saw as my toddler's bratty behavior. Then I remembered that I put her on a 10-hour flight and schlepped her around to five European cities with different beds, unfamiliar foods, oh, and a dad she hadn't seen in 8 months.
I'm grateful for the memories, but in hindsight, my toddler might have been better served by a more relaxed itinerary somewhere closer to home.
When She's Clingy
My close friend did attachment parenting, and her kid is adventurous. I didn't, and mine is a stage four clinger. I've always thought that my kid was securely bonded to me, but is she really if she can't let go of me at the playground? It really makes me wonder what I did wrong when I'm watching all the kids enjoying themselves at playdates and mine won't go anywhere without holding my hand.
When She's Good For Everyone But Me
My kid saves her absolute worst behavior for me. I've heard that's normal. Mom is the safe person, so kids behave badly because they know she will still love them. Or something like that. Maybe that's true, but when your kid leaves preschool happy as a clam only to turn into an utter tyrant in the parking lot, it makes you seriously question your parenting abilities.
When She Kicks The Animals
The other day, my daughter kicked our cat and yelled, "Go! Go!" I was horrified and explained to her that we don't kick the pets. Then I realized where she learned it. I've been teaching her with my words that "we don't hit/kick in this family" but I fully nudge the dog in the belly to get him into the bedroom when we leave the house. Sigh.
When I Feed Her Crap
My husband is really big on serving healthy meals, with a heaping portion of vegetables. Before he deployed we were great about preparing asparagus, brussels sprouts, carrots, or zucchini every night for dinner. I loved finding new Pinterest recipes to try on my family.
Now that he's gone, I find myself doing whatever's easy. Sometimes that's a frozen pizza. My kid is a great eater, and I know I'll kick myself if I ruin that wonderful palate.
When I Carry Her
My child's preschool teacher has been trying to get me to make my daughter walk at drop off and pick up. It's really hard for me. First, she often refuses to lower her landing gear, so I know I'm going to end up with a crying kid on the floor.
Also, I have a rule that if she won't hold my hand she has to be carried. So now I have this situation where my 30 pound toddler wants "uppa" all the damn time, and she's already overly reliant on me.
When She's Losing It In The Backseat
I'm old enough to know that you can't make someone happy, but as a mom it's hard when my kid is sad and there's nothing I can do about it. That pretty much happens any time we're in the car. It could be any of a laundry list of complaints (e.g. "I hate my car seat," "I can't get anymore yogurt out of this pouch," "I dropped my lovey," "My favorite song is over"), but she's invariably back there losing her sh*t.
When Other People Do My Job Better Than Me
I came home from an event one day, and under the care of her auntie, my child looked 100 percent cuter than when I'd left her. She'd been reading stories, playing at the water table, and generally having a grand old time. And now she had bows. I feel like all the other adults in her life are so patient and engaged. I'm grateful for them, but it also makes me feel like crap.
I have to remember that it's easy to be the fairy godmother. I'm in the trenches day in and day out. And at the end of the day, I'm the one my kid wants. I guess if she loves me despite all my flaws, I can't possibly be a total failure.