Friday, December 18, 2009


Good.  God.  Where to start?  I said that I wanted to be honest here so here I go.

I am a perfectionist.  Black and white are the boxes I have tried to stuff my feelings, my thoughts, and my life into.  It's not working for me anymore.

I am far from perfect.  Especially when it comes to being a mother.

I smile and say that I'm not angry but rather I am sad, depressed, tired, etc.  Those feelings just sound more polite.  But really, I am boiling over with anger, hatred, rage, and just pure poison.

This morning I fucked up.  Today I reached the point where I truly was not sure that I could be a parent.  Nice.  My daughter is a cute little six year old with the vocabulary of a ten year old, and the mouthy sass of a teenager.  Mornings before school are tough around our house.  My husband leaves before we get up so it is me versus two beagles and a six year old.  I lose most mornings.

In typical fashion my daughter fought me on what to wear, what to eat for breakfast and continued to sass me.  I had been pretty patient but then I lost it.  With the last words of back-talk, I turned around and asked her if she wanted me to go to her Christmas party today at school because she sure wasn't acting like she wanted me around.  Then I said something to the effect of "because I can just leave you and not be around at all"And I didn't just say these things.  I screamed them.

I watched the tears well up in my daughter's eyes and I saw my own painful grimace worn on her undeserving face.  I hurt her and my made her cry before school; two things I swore I would never do.

I salvaged the tears that I could and dropped her off at school.  A few hours later I went to her party and as I walked in she looked up and saw me and burst into tears.  In those tears I could hear my mother's words taunting me.  We talked for a few minutes, she calmed down and I apologized.  But really, how does five minutes do anything but put a band-aid on the real problem?

I'm that problem and I am scared to death.  There are some people just made to be parents.  They are the ones who should be allowed to have kids.  I am not one of those people.  For a fleeting second this morning, I honestly thought that me walking away would be best for all involved.  I hate myself for arriving at that point because I watched my mother flirt and threaten with that point more times than I can count.

After the party was over I got in my car and headed back to work.   I ended up turning around and going back to her school but her bio-father had already picked her up to spend the night tonight.  So I'm fucked.  And worse, my daughter gets to go to bed tonight, in a bed she doesn't really like, turning over in her mind what the hell her mother meant this morning when she said she would leave.

I am sick at my stomach and none of this is OK.  Yet another thing I swore I would never do; making my daughter wonder who will be there in the morning.

I am so, so sorry.


The Pliers said...

I don't have kids.

On purpose.

I was the eldest kid of three bio- and five step- at various formative times in my life. I did not have near the problems that you did of someone torturing me literally- and figuratively-speaking for the lion's share of my life.

That said, the main things that I feel were responsible for my mother's suicide, on a day in/day out basis, were perfectionism, repressed anger, and a decided inability to situate and "evaluate" (read "judge" because that was what she did) her actions and behavior on a sturdy, dependable scale of relative importance and gravity.

I have articulated that she acted as if she thought killing a fly was EQUAL to killing some woman's beloved infant in front of her very eyes and everything in between was judged to be equally as odious, horrible, extreme, unforgivable, irrevocable, unpardonable, etc.

From where I sit, NO one can survive being held to that kind of inflexible standard for a human lifetime. However, if one has chosen to have a child, it does bear investigating with one's therapist how one is going to "judge" whether or not one has had a successful day of parenting, let's not even get started on a week, month, year, decade, or generation.

It sounds like:

–you lost your patience (like most everyone else does)
–you used an emotional power play to try to get your way (like most everyone else does)
–you let the clock push you around (like most everyone else does)
–you felt guilty about it (like most everyone else does)
–and now you are using those very human responses to frustration to support the specious assertion that you are a shitty mother and deserve to be banished from your daughter's life (like some people do)

Since the kind of morning you had this morning is going to repeat itself, in one form or another, for at least a decade and a half to come you might have to give some thought to wrenching yourself down off that hook of perfectionism and have a heart-to-heart with your little girl.

What to wear? What to eat? Sass? Give me a break. How to start the day with everyone feeling like s/he had a hand in kick-starting the universe again? You're not dead and she's in, what, first grade? And she loves you and isn't quaking in her boots every time you walk into a room?

I remember one thing from my childhood very clearly:

"You are so argumentative!"
"No I'm not." (me)
"See what I mean!"

Also, children are psychic. You can't really keep secrets from them or lie to them. They can suss the contraction between what you say and what you do out of thin air. They know when you feel out of control. So, you have to ask for their help with keeping the routines of life in order. It has to be a win/win life and each member of the family only gets one vote.

See why I don't have any children?
And very few friends?

And, last, but not least, they don't call it "making up" for nothing. Good luck with that when she gets home. In the meantime, if you haven't read it, you might like Daniel Goleman's "Emotional Intelligence" for yourself and your daughter. It talks about a skill called "self-calming" that is integral to emotional survival in children. It might be useful to see how well it's working in your daughter and who's responsible for it on your team.


Inglesidemom said...

I commend you for apologizing and telling your daughter that you were wrong. That is such a hard thing to do, but it really does make a difference.

I recommend a simple little book called Choosing Forgiveness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It might help you as you seek healing in your life.


English Rider said...

I think having a parent willing and able to apologize is tremendously valuable. My Dad would blow up with impatience sometimes. If he felt he was in the wrong he would say so afterwards and say he was sorry. It showed me fairness and honesty and that a human slip is just that, Human, and can be redeemed and forgiven.
I remember the morning dressing torture with my little (blame the French side) fashionista. We got to a solution by selecting clothes the night before and letting her get dressed and preen and primp in front of the full length mirrored closet doors in our room.

Ruth said...

My 27-year-old son is a self controlled person and has been since he was old enough to make decisions. Once when he was about 10 I yelled at him about something, just lost my temper. I apologized, and then he said, "Mom, that just doesn't work any more. You lose it, then apologize." I took him by the shoulders and pulled him straight down to the kitchen floor, facing him, sitting Indian style. I was crying, and I said, "Peter, you might as well start getting used to the fact that people will be making mistakes the rest of your life." We both still struggle with his expectations and self control, and my disappointing mistakes. I decided at some point that it was my duty to model mistake making for my children.

I know what you said to your daughter this morning is horrible. It is. As The Pliers said, most of us parents do this at some point, or often. If you can forgive yourself, your daughter can too. You can model forgiveness to her.

Andrea said...

Apologizing does make a difference. I know..I have had to do it many times with my kids. I will be praying for both you and your daughter.
Hang in there.
Blessings, andrea

Deborah said...

When my kids were growing up I all too often said and did things that I had to apologize for. At one point I decided that I was intelligent and aware enough to just stop making the mistakes, instead of going through the same pattern every time. But it was pretty hard, and I still made mistakes, still apologized, and it turns out that even after all that, my kids still love me. At least I think they do, or else they're really good at faking it.

There is some very good advice in the preceding comments, especially about reducing stressors and planning/agreeing in advance to reduce the morning tension. Maybe you could also talk to her about how you may sometimes need her help. That she may need to let you know that she is scared. What about a code word or phrase she could use when you are losing control? Something even as obvious as 'You're scaring me, Mom'. You could hand her some control of her own in this way.

I am pretty certain that this incident is bothering you a lot more than it is her. I have memories of the fear and anxiety on my children's faces that I would rather not have, but I know now that they have not been irreperably harmed and that they don't even remember most of what haunts me.
They were resisilient and forgiving, just as your daughter is, and she will be particularly so if you talk to her about it. You'll know how far you can go in discussing this with her without asking her to take on an adult's understanding.

Anger is a very common reaction to children's intransigence, their misbehaviour, their desire to assert themselves, especially at inconvenient moments. Parenting is a very frsutrating business and it sometimes brings out the worst in us. Anyone with children has been through similar situations to what you went through this morning.

Tomorrow is another day. Hope you can sleep.

Josephine said...

Look, I have no kids, I don't know much about this stuff. But you love her and she feels it, so I guess it's okay to be sorry; just try to explain it to her and reassure her you won't leave. That's what I would want from my mum in such situations anyway.

Bruce Coltin said...

I think you hold yourself to an impossible standard. Can you allow yourself some room for human error?

Shattered said...

The Pliers, I am learning more and more that perfectionism is a dangerous trait that I need to let go of. I am sorry that things ended the way that they did for your mom; having been through that myself, I know how hard it can be to be left behind trying to understand why.

I know that my daughter and I can both benefit from a more established morning routine. That is something I will be working on for sure. We will also be having a heart-to-heart this morning. I don't know what I'm going to say but I do know that I'm going to be honest.

Thank you for the encouragement and the book reccomendation. :)

Shattered said...

Inglesidemom, thank you for the encouragement. Apologizing is a hard thing to do but living like this is even harder. I'll choose apologizing any day... :)

I actually have that book somewhere. Irony of ironies, I found it in my mother's things when she died.

Shattered said...

ER, apologizing is valuable. I'm glad to hear that it made an impression on you as a child when your dad apologized.

Thanks for the suggestion about laying her clothes out the night before. I'm not real sure why I hadn't thought of that before this.

P.S. It made me smile to read about your little French fashionista...

Shattered said...

"If you can forgive yourself, your daughter can too. You can model forgiveness to her."

Ruth, maybe this is part of the lesson in this for me. I am very hard on myself and in thinking about it, that is not something I want to teach my daughter. Forgiveness is.

I'm not going to lie and say that I'm OK after what I did yesterday and I will probably feel a little better once she gets home this morning and we can talk. However, I do feel a little less alone after reading what has been shared here.

Shattered said...

Andrea, thank you for the encouragement and your prayers. I have needed both...

Shattered said...

Deborah, I didn't sleep for shit but today is still a new day...

Thank you for the suggestion of asking for my daughter's help in letting me know when she is scared. A code word is something she would probably like. I think I have only begun to scare her so hopefully I can curb this. I am realizing that I am going to make mistakes and I wouldn't be a good mother if I was just OK with making them. Like my husband told me last night, we just do our best, try to do what is right and apologize when we fail.

I'm glad to hear that your kids love you despite your mistakes. I honestly thought yesterday that I had bought my daughter a one-way ticket to a lifetime of therapy...

Shattered said...

Josephine, I will defintely be assuring my daughter that I'm not going anywhere... Thank you for reading and for the encouragement.

Shattered said...

Bruce, I have held myself to an impossible parenting standard. Allowing myself room for human error has never been an option I would consider because of my own parent's "errors".

I am so scared of being them but I know that I am doing more things right than they ever did. For one thing, they never apologized. Additionally, I have help, support, and people who love me and hold me accountable. I am also in a better place because of the work I have done because quite honestly, a year ago, I would have told no one about this and I would have taken it all out on myself. I am doing things they never did.

Ruth said...

After too many mistakes raising our daughter, who was an extremely annoying preschooler who cried at the drop of a pin and drove us to madness, I learned to believe that what mattered in the end was that we loved her. I read in a book called How to Really Love Your Child that most children know they are loved, but that is not the same as feeling loved. Knowing that my #1 goal was to make our children feel loved, all the mistakes seemed to pile in a little basket like scrap or trash. The living room was full of love. When you keep talking to your wee daughter (who sounds quite grown up in her mind already) about these disappointments and mistakes and failures and horrors that will come up (they are inside you, dear Shattered), what will win is your love for her. I don't know how she can feel anything more strongly than your love, even when you fail. I was raised with a rejection of all failure, and that was too frightening to live with. If we accept failure, our children learn to accept it too, and live with the balance of failure and victory, comingled in a strange human world. For you to focus on her and healing, I don't think you can go very wrong.

All love.

English Rider said...

By the way and just in case you hadn't thought of this yourself, have you noticed how many comments you get and how engaged people are with you. You are interesting. You write well and insightfully and dialogue with you is always worth while.

sarah said...

you know what I think shattered? I think you are an awesome mom. I have felt like you too....that my kids would be better with someone else but that's not true and friends remind me we all as moms do crazy stuff....taking out our tiredness, frustrations etc on our kids. We're human. Something that I've struggled with. You can't be perfect. You can only be you. You are a gift to your daughter....know that. Forgive yourself. Please. Sarah

Shattered said...

Ruth, you know, there's a lot to what you said in your last comment. There is a distinct difference between knowing you are loved and feeling loved. I hadn't really thought about it before but once you mentioned it, a lot more made sense.

I talked to my daughter when she got home and explained how sorry I was, that I make mistakes like everyone does and that I will always try my best to control my temper. She stopped me short and told me that she knows that I love her and that she knows that everyone messes up. The rest of the day went well.

As I began thinking about your point of knowing love and feeling love I started trying to think of ways to demonstrate this to my daughter. She loves having her nails painted; I am not that person so I rarely do it for her. So after her shower, I got out the nail polish and let her pick her color. I painted her fingernails, let her read me a book, and she went to bed the happiest kid.

I think I get it. :)

Shattered said...

ER, I hadn't really noticed but I guess you have a point. It's a little embarassing but thank you for the compliment. :)

Shattered said...

Sarah, thank you for sharing that it's not just me who struggles with this. It helps to know that I'm not the only one. You are a gift to your kids as well...

Friko said...

sorry I am so late in commenting, the week hasn't been easy.

See how easy it is to say sorry for having been less than perfect?
As most people have pointed out, your striving for perfectionism is not worth the effort. Mums and daughters row, kids sass (just wait till she's a teenager!), she will one day (many days) during a row tell you she hates you. She won't mean that anymore than you meant to leave her.
It's normal but you don't know normal so you beat yourself up.

What ER said is true; I've made a special effort to come over and leave a comment in spite of a difficult week; can you take pride and comfort in that?

I wish you a peaceful and happy festive season. Much love, Friko

Shattered said...

Friko, thank you so much for taking time to visit here. I am seeing how far an apology can go. Thank you for your encouragement as well.