Mom Perfection Crisis

Why is it so hard to say “I’m sorry”?

child yelling

I said what I said . . . and I wish that I hadn’t

I had a really tough morning the other day. Getting ready and leaving for work was hectic, as most school mornings are when the boys are with me. It takes an act of God to get my oldest up. Seriously, the house could be on fire, asteroids hurtling through the roof, and he would sleep straight through his untimely death.

This particular morning, two days shy of summer break, my patience was threadbare and exhausted by the sixth time I entered his room and realized it was 6:30, and I had yet to make my breakfast and take the dog out and find those ever elusive car keys. When I finally did get said preteen to acknowledge me, he was mean and impetuous and nasty. He is 12 going on 16 and has the temperament of a cornered badger. Usually, I can handle his outbursts and off-handed comments and complaining and insults, but this particular morning, we were headed to meltdown territory. I laid out clothes for him in an effort to make it as painless as possible. This is what ensued:

He yells, “Mom, I don’t want these jeans.”

To which, I yell from the kitchen, “Well, find the ones you want.”

To which, he yells back, “I don’t understand. You’ve had all week to do my laundry. Uuuuhhhhh!!!”

To which, I reply, as I throw open his door and stomp into his room, “From now on, you can do your own damn laundry. I am not your servant.”

Stomp. Stomp. Frustrated groan. Slam goes the door – all by yours truly.

I walked away with him whining in the background about jeans and clothes and his crappy mom. I tried to breathe, take a moment, but the moments were limited, and we had to get out the door. I judged myself for losing my temper, for letting damn slip out, but there was no mercy from the child that yelled behind his bedroom door.

And then . . .

“Mom, can you make me breakfast?”

“No, Josiah. I cannot make you breakfast. I am late because of you. You don’t have time now.”

More mumbling. The bat leaves his cave and comes out, tossing toast into the toaster oven and mumbling and complaining about how his mom couldn’t do it for him (even after I tell him he doesn’t have time). I let it slide until he decides he needs five more minutes to re-toast the toast because it’s not quite done. I’m telling him WE DON’T HAVE TIME. He’s telling me HE DOESN’T CARE.

And that was the snapping moment. Who does he think he is? I do all kinds of shit for this ungrateful, entitled kid. The thoughts race, justifying and fueling my anger.

“What is wrong with you this morning?” The words are clipped and barbed, ready to strike. My face is screwed up and contorted in an effort to ebb the flow of angry words I really want to hurl at him.

“Nothing. You’re getting on my nerves,” he spits the words at me, dripping with venom.

“You have been an ass all morning, and I’ve been nothing but nice.” My voice is getting louder, and my face is burning hotter.

“No. You have been mean; you’re frustrating me, and that’s why I’m upset.”

We continue to argue. I can’t get a sentence out, he’s going on and on, raising his voice over mine, and before I know it, out comes the scream.

“SHUUUUT UUUP!!!”

The same game, round and round, and now, I’ve let him lure me into the rabbit hole, and my mind goes blank and fills with rage, like only our children can bring out. And, on the edge of my subconscious, I realize I’ve given in. I’ve cursed twice at my preteen, emotionally unstable child, AND I’ve screamed for him to shut up. This magnitude of blowout hasn’t happened in at least six months. I’ve been so patient and understanding. Then, I realize I’m boiling angry; I’m so over it. I’m a person, too!!!

I can make it worse or better. Guess what I choose?

Worse.

Noah, my youngest child, who is always ready on time, quickly follows me out the door and into the car. Josiah is hot on our tail. We get into the car, and I lay into him while he just answers “uh-huh” with an irritating smirk on his face. I tell him I don’t want an I’m sorry and a hug before he gets out of the car because he is constantly like this with me. I tell him he needs to change instead of just apologizing. It all goes in one ear and out the other.

I drop them at school, and I am already late, but I still sit in the parking lot, way in the back, breaking down in tears for thirty minutes, calling my boyfriend who talks me down, and then, starting a really tough day because of my tough morning.

Keep in mind – I have done a ton of work. I am in therapy; I am in a program; I meditate; I pray; I journal; I read parenting articles about how to deal with children who are defiant and ADHD. I have sought out answers, and I have changed. I am beyond patient and caring and all about love and acceptance and finding my own peace through mindful living. But mornings like this remind me that I am not perfect.

I beat myself up. Make myself think that I suck as a mom. I lose all grace for myself, and find that, at the same time, I am also trying to justify my behavior. The two voices in my head are speaking two different things, judgement and justification.

Judgement Versus Justification

Justification: He would have been fine if he hadn’t snuck two pairs of jeans to his dads and not brought them back. How is that my fault?

Judgement: Really? Does that really justify a 37 year old woman calling her son an ass when he’s just an emotional 12 year old. He already has told you he feels guilty for the way he talks to you. You just set the clock way back.

Justification: But he WAS being an ass. It’s the truth.

Judgement: You sing for the kids’ ministry at church. You are a teacher. What kind of role model are you?

Justification: I have a child with impulse issues. He needs to understand that his behavior hurts relationships. He has to change. Tough love, and all that!

Judgement: You sucked at being a parent this morning, and you know it.

The day is really hard. I am shaky and foggy, and I am rolling things over and over in my mind, trying to shape all of these bottled emotions into some form of sense.

Can I take it all back?

Admitting our mistakes can be so difficult. We find ourselves tossing and turning and justifying the decisions we have made, the actions we have taken. There is a perpetual adolescent voice in most of our adult brains – that teenage, self-centered, unteachable, hormonal voice that says, “You didn’t do anything wrong. Look at what he did. Look at what she did. She deserved what she got. Don’t blame yourself. It’s karma, fate, the cosmos is righting wrongs. You just helped it along.”

This is the insanity I lived in for a long time, justifying things I might say or do. The soft voice of truth drowned out by my adolescent, invisible friend. The problem that arises when we give into this voice is the loss of identity we begin to feel as we slip further away from the truth and further into our ego. We feed the ego, the problem-starter, the part of us that grows larger with conflict and justification of our flawed behavior. This leads to insanity, to the inability to see the truth of who we are and head in a direction toward our best selves.

As I work my program, I have begun to realize that feeding this ego robs me of myself. Not accepting the truth and instead reinforcing my skewed reality prevents me from seeing myself clearly. I present this version of myself that is not an honest representation but a falsehood, and it affects all of my relationships. Because . . . the more I reinforce this image of myself, the further I get from true authenticity. I am no longer able to form authentic, vulnerable connections. I am basing my relationships off a false version of myself. My children, my coworkers, my friends, they all see through it, and no matter how much I reassure myself, deep down I know that I am not whole because I am hiding from myself.

Why make amends?

Amends are important because they keep us human; when we apologize and admit our wrongs, we begin to see the places in our lives that need improvement. We become vulnerable to ourselves and others, and this vulnerability takes courage. We become brave. People respect that. Through making amends, we learn and change and grow and so do our relationships. We accept where we are and try to work to become the best versions of ourselves. What better way of finding grace for ourselves than by giving others the opportunity to demonstrate grace? When we seek amends, our friends often show us kindness. What better way to grow friendships and trust than honesty and the willingness to change our flaws to grow in our relationships?

Where do I need to make amends?

Personally, my amends need to be made mostly with my children. As parents, we often feel that we have to have all of the answers. We can’t admit our wrongs because our children won’t admire us or look to us for guidance. I have found that this way of parenting further disconnects me from my children. I am human, and so are they. They need to see how to struggle with adversity and frustration, how to handle strong emotions when we let them take us on a roller-coaster ride, how to admit our mistakes and grow from them.

Time to say “I’m sorry”

So . . . I have an amends to make with Josiah, and the next time my son says an off-hand comment to the over-tired teacher and mother, trying to make it through the last week of school, failing to get to work on time, it will go something like this:

Josiah yells, “Mom, I don’t want these jeans.”

To which, I yell from the kitchen, “Well, find the ones you want.”

To which, he yells back, “I don’t understand. You’ve had all week to do my laundry. Uuuuhhhhh!!!”

To which, I simply . . . don’t . . . respond.

Two seconds later . . .

Josiah says, “Mom, can you make me breakfast?”

To which, I say, matter-of-factly, “I don’t have time. We are late.”

To which, he says, “I can’t believe my own mom won’t make me breakfast.”

To which, I reply by walking away, stating calmly, “It’s time to go.”

See . . . what I have learned through my blow-out experiences with my sons is not to engage, not to become reactive. Stay calm, and the moments pass quicker. By making amends with my sons, I can say they have put their trust in me, even if they don’t always get along with me. They also are learning how to respond better to heated moments when I show them that I have learned to respond calmly.

And this is the life of amends. This is the path I’ve chosen because it helps me stay true to myself and build really strong relationships. It is hard work, and it is emotionally tough.

Does it ever get easier? Nope.

Is it worth it? Absolutely.

Honesty. Truth. Authenticity. I want to share my space in the mommy trenches with other moms out there. Words to live by: Be love. Love yourself. Then, love others. Love deeply. Love fully. Love well.

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