Sometimes my kids are just wonderful. They are kind and understanding to each other, and they run away to some corner of the house to, say, play school, and they come up occasionally to politely ask for help with a snack. When I have the requested snack in stock, they reward me with joyful shouts of “You’re the best!” and “I love you, Mommy!” (Interesting statistic, here: 5 out of 6 of all “I love yous” that I received are directly related to proving nourishment. True.) On days like these, I appreciate the girls, but I often turn my attention to other tasks, and the success or failure of my day hinges on how much I accomplish.
On other days my children are dreadful and I try my best, but I lose it. The scenarios are similar each time. With M, she’ll exhibit a relatively minor attitude problem (usually belittling J or acting snotty to me), and I’ll call her on it, telling her to come sit down with me so that I can remind her about correct behavior. But instead of sucking it up and coming over and saying, “You’re right, I’m sorry,” she rolls her eyes, talks back, refuses to come over or to sit down, and continues being obnoxious until my mild annoyance escalates into red-hot anger and I send her to her room so that I won’t beat her. With J, she’ll cling, act helpless, or ask me for things using all hand gestures instead of words until the tone of my voice changes, just slightly, into the tone of a mother losing patience. Then she begins to sob and I try to reason with her that I’m really not mad, I’m just trying to help her, and she sobs more, and by that time I feel both angry and guilt-ridden for betraying that my patience with her is not, in fact, infinite.
And then, there are days like today.
Days when M sobs over long division and yells in frustration while J works on a project that includes leaves, glue, fabric, scissors, more glue, poster board, and googly eyes. Days when the two of them drop every article of clothing that they own in every single room in the common areas of our home. Days when they seem intent on making themselves, each other, and me as miserable as possible. And I go back and forth, correcting and calming M, coaching J on her spelling while deflecting M’s critiques of J’s spelling, and helping to control J’s gooey artistic mess. All while enforcing the pick-up-your-crap rules, stepping in only when absolutely necessary to ensure sibling civility, and cooking a delicious dinner. And as the storms subside, I think to myself that I’m maintaining the demeanor of some kind of Amazing Zen Master.
And by the time Cute W gets home, he overhears, from upstairs, our wretched, snotty children and my responses, and he comes downstairs and tells me that I’m unbelievably patient and he even uses the word “Zen.” And I am in an awesome mood. Because, sure, I love cuddling with my kids or celebrating milestones. But the times when I feel like a Super Mama are when my kids have been hideously awful for a sustained period of time, and I have remained calm and pleasant through it all. When we’ve weathered the storm and come through it unscathed.
It might be the best feeling in the entire world.