Family / Parenting

Confessions of a Mother on the Other Side

I see you trying to catch my eye while your kid is screaming incessantly at a deafening pitch, flailing arms and legs and only occasionally coming up for air only to begin wailing again. You assume I’ll understand your struggle, and you scan my face for compassion because you know that I am a mother, just like you.

You wait to be met with a knowing expression and a sympathetic smile. You expect me to nod my head and acknowledge that you’re doing the best that you can and that your child’s behavior is age-appropriate and has nothing to do with anything you could have done wrong. You want me to tell you with my eyes that it gets better, and you do not look away until I have connected with you in some way as a mother who knows your pain–a sister in struggle.

I remember being in your shoes, sweating while I tried to console my inconsolable children. There were those by-standers who would roll eyes and cluck tongues, and I was sure that they must have been childless or that their children were raised by nannies that protected them from the day-to-day reality of parenting. They couldn’t possibly have been close to any children because they would have been more understanding and patient and they never would have clucked their tongues at me.

I need to tell you something that may confuse, might offend, and could easily lead you to judge me harshly. But, I want to explain something to you from the perspective of a parent with older kids. HERE is where I insert the disclaimer that not ALL seasoned parents will have experienced what I’m about to lay out for you here. SOME of them may even speak ill of me for my attitude. MANY of them will know exactly what I mean, however, and I thought it best that you were aware of what lies beneath those knowing eyes of some parents with older children.

Your kids bug the shit out of me and it’s because I am a parent. I am that eye-rolling, mother-clucker.

No, it’s not what you think. I’m not judging you. You ARE doing the best you can. They ARE behaving developmentally appropriately (most likely). I DO feel your pain. As a matter of fact, I feel it so much having been there that I do NOT want to feel it ANYMORE…EVER AGAIN!

You see, I’ve been there, and I made it to the other side by the skin of my teeth. The last thing I want is to get sucked back to those early childhood years. I could hardly stand my own children at that stage, and I am grateful every single day that they are more person than primordial plebe.

Photo credit: io9.com

Photo credit: io9.com

Do you ever have a super vivid, bad dream about a miserable and horrific time in your life? And then you wake up shaken from the trauma of reliving those dark days. You recalibrate your reality, and then you fill your lungs to capacity and exhale the sweet breath of relief. That satisfying sigh that you are not reliving that traumatic past is almost–ALMOST–worth the terrifying flashbacks.

Reliving that nightmare and awakening those cellular memories is what happens when I’m in restaurants and airplanes and movie theaters and grocery stores affronted by tantrum-throwing, whining children. I want to look at you with those same reaching eyes you laid on me and say, “I paid my dues. Twice. I’ve earned some peace, haven’t I? Have mercy! Your child is a trigger, and I need you to get your urchin the fuck out of my sight! Please.”

I like my kids more and more with every passing day as they evolve and settle into themselves. Sure we have our issues. There are plenty of frustrating days, and I know that there are many challenges ahead. I know this because my kids are not perfect and neither am I. I am not always my best self with my children, so you cannot expect me to be my best self with yours. I may look at you and your gremlins without a hint of tolerance or empathy. I may even sneer.

It’s not you. It’s me. And your kid.

How’s about we meet when you too are on the other side. We’ll sit at a coffee shop where we can spend an hour talking to each other without interruption. We can look sideways at the new parents and be glad that we are not in their shoes anymore, and we can try really, really hard to smile when they look to us with those desperate faces we too once wore. Until then, I do apologize, but your kid still bugs the shit out of me.

 

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12 Comments

  1. That. Is. Awesome. SO true! “I DO feel your pain. As a matter of fact, I feel it so much having been there that I do NOT want to feel it ANYMORE…EVER AGAIN!” That is ME! Every time I hear a baby wailing, it’s like PTSD. But now I will stop judging myself for sneering and/or tsking and/or reacting like a 90-year-old man guarding the shuffleboard court in Century Village. Thank you, DG!

    • Deborah Goldstein says:

      I validate you, CJ, and I wish you peaceful days ahead. I bet you play a mean game of shuffleboard, though.

  2. So true, brilliant and funny. When I see someone with babies or toddlers I usually just want to run.

    • Deborah Goldstein says:

      Thank you, Scott! I definitely recommend flight over fight in the case of babies and toddlers. Make sure your shoe laces are always tied!

  3. Giulia Marra says:

    And in a few years , when you are old and not so pretty and defecating in your pants , those babies will probably put you in a home.
    Karma is a bitch

    • Deborah Goldstein says:

      If we’re looking at a karma balance sheet of parenthood, both of my kids would tell you that I’m in the black. Admitting that parenthood can be tough doesn’t make me a bad parent. And if they should ever become parents, they’ll appreciate how much I can relate to, validate, and support them with any challenges they may face.

      Thanks for your comment, Giulia. I hope karma works in your favor, too!!

  4. Shannon Cate says:

    Oh yes. Same reason I don’t want kids in the fancy restaurant on date night because HELLO I paid a babysitter to eat without any children around me.

  5. I am at the other end of the spectrum. I love and admire my son(now 17). I’m proud of all he has accomplished in a life that hadn’t been easy. He is bi-polar, has adhd, and asburgers. He was on meds for a few years. Last year he decided he wanted offs the meds, and we worked hard at doing just that. However,I sincerely wish he was still my baby rather than a teenager. I love the way babies smell, how they love learning, and how they feel on my arms. I have given birth to two amazing kids, one of whom has survived. I would have another in a heartbeat if it were possible. Sadly, after my last miscarriage I had to have a hysterectomy. Instead I must get my baby fixes through others.

    • Deborah Goldstein says:

      Much respect and love to you, Tina, for all that you have endured and all the joy you have found amidst the sadness!

      If I’m going to be completely honest, I do miss the sweet moments of early childhood. I wish us both happy baby fixes!!

  6. Jennifer says:

    Oh God! This is so true! You hit the nail on the head! I am SO glad my 2 sons are 18 and 16 and that my 18 year old is out of the house. I love and adore my sons more and more every day that they continue to grow and for the most part, be reasonable and mature young adults. We still have our moments because none of us are perfect, but teenagers, especially boys, are much easier to handle and live with than toddlers and babies.
    I hate little kids and never ever want to deal with them again. When my boys were little and tried to throw tantrums in a public place, we left IMMEDIATLEY. And I do mean immediately. It did not matter where we were or what we were doing, we left and they vot put down for naps. It only took a couple of times for them to realize mom meant it when she said behave in public.

    I am one of those tsk-er and eye brow raising and clucking mothers when I see children having melt downs and behaving badly in public. I understand some of it is age and maturity level appropriate, but that doesn’t mean you can’t remove your children from what is overwhelming to them and everyone around you. Sorry, but I am not going to give you the sympathy you crave. Remove the child to helo them calm down.

    • Deborah Goldstein says:

      Thank you for your honesty, Jennifer, and sharing what I think many parents would benefit from hearing. When those littles melt down, they are telling us something, and most likely that something is that they need to be doing something besides torturing us.

      Congratulations on successfully making it to the other side!

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