Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Anger and Motherhood

Part of the reason I chose the name "Pissed Off Mom" for this blog is that I'd discovered an ugly little secret about motherhood: you spend a lot of time really, really pissed off. The word "maternal" carries connotations of love and serenity but in my experience there's a huge measure of frustration, anger and craziness.

Case in point: a few weeks ago, SweetBabyGirl decided, out of the blue, that she wouldn't go with her beloved Coach Kelly into the gym for gymnastics class. Would. NOT. Do. It. The child had, up to then, adored 'nastics class and her coach.

And I got mad. Really mad. Seeing red. Literally, seeing red. Finally, I hauled the child to the car, drove home like a fucking maniac, and handed her over to her father so I wouldn't make it even worse. (So glad he works at home.) She spent at least an hour alone in her room while I ran a couple of errands.

Later, discussing my behavior, I had to admit that I was ashamed about my tantrum and my friend said, sensibly, well that's what people do.

The reasons for my anger aren't hard to figure out: I had been looking forward to some time where I could just knit and watch her have a good time (with somebody else in charge for a change). Hubby had been out of town earlier in the week. SBG had been a refusnik for days. I had needed a little break.

Anyway, here's the thing: parenting can make you crazy in lots of ways. For instance, every single day, there's something I can't find because either SBG wandered off with it, or I took it away and put it someplace where she couldn't reach it and forgot where it was (because I was busy dealing with the protests and explaining why it's not ok to play with whatever-it-was). Also, you have to deal with some baffling logic, as in this exchange:
Sweet Baby Girl: I want to play with [some toy].
Pissed-Off Mom: You want your [toy]? It's in your room--go upstairs and get it.
SBG: No! I'm scared!
POM: Huh? Of what?
SBG: I'm scared of the alarm! [meaning the motion sensor thingie on the wall with a light that flashes when somebody walks by]
POM: The alarm isn't on. It's not going to beep. [because a beeping alarm--or even the idea of it, is a horror to end all horrors.]
SBG: The light flashes at me! And that's rude.

Ok, then: how do I argue rationally with that? And we have conversations like that every day. She wants to be naked and then complains that she's cold. Getting her to wear clothes is a constant struggle. Keeping shoes on her is impossible. She refuses food at dinner and then announces, just as we're settling her into bed, that she's hungry and thirsty, even though we discussed this at length at dinnertime.

And she's not even that difficult a kid, by three-year-old standards.

No wonder the song refers to Mother's Little Helper, meaning Valium, or Miltown, or that old standby, alcohol.

I don't want to model anger like my parents did: seething that erupted in a rage that included throwing things or wielding the hairbrush. Plus bursts of irritability and cutting remarks. I do ok, most of the time, by taking a breath and stepping away for a minute. Timeout for mom AND kid.

And here's the lesson: some behavior (in this case, unexplained refusal to go along with the day's activities) might result in an angry parent who throws a fit, rants and raves (without calling names), then steps away when it's safe to do so, followed by a calm discussion of the behavior and future consequences of similar behavior.

Could be worse. I haven't managed to give up on my ideas about the Perfect Mother quite yet but I also know this: a perfect parent (if there could ever be such a thing) wouldn't do much good for showing their kid how to live life as an ordinary human being.


Blogger DaveP said...

Don't have to explain it Julia. Your honesty is what makes your blog so readable!

My 3 year old (grand daughter if that makes a difference.. yes it probably does) isn't much different. My reactions are quite similar. Simple logic rarely cuts it! I often wonder if a degree in psychology would help... but doubt it.

Keep on writing to let off steam! I doubt I'm the only one enjoying reading .

3:12 AM  
Blogger Julia Woods said...

Hey, thanks, Dave. I just re-read this post and thought, wow, I sound like a whackjob. But I guess that's the point: looking after kids can leave you like a complete looney.

8:07 AM  

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