I lost my cool this morning.
It's not the first time I've ever lost my cool as a mother. It probably won't be the last time.
I'm not proud of it, but at least I have the courage to admit it.
Today was the first day back to school after the wonderfully long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, so I expected a bit of chaos. I expected a bit of scrambling to get out the door.
Really. I should know better.
Nonetheless, one of my sons couldn't find his school shoes. But it's not like we have designated cubbies just for shoes. A coat was missing. But it's not like we have designated hooks just for kids' coats in the mudroom. A lunchbox couldn't be found. But it's not like we have a refrigerator in which to keep lunchboxes.
I looked at one of my boys and said, "You forgot to put your belt on today. Where is it?"
"Did you look in your top dresser drawer?"
"Was it there?"
The belt is a required part of the school uniform. Without it, he most likely will get a demerit, as he has been warned by his teacher (who I adore and fully support) several times not to forget to wear a belt.
I took a deep breath and continued, "If you forget your belt, you'll probably get a demerit, you know. She's already given you enough warnings."
He shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well I looked and I couldn't find it. So write me a note or something."
Feeling uber-frustrated, I marched up the stairs to grab my cell phone. In the privacy of my bedroom, I vented to Bill. "UGH! What is it with these kids? NOBODY ever knows where anything is, because they just expect me to find it for them! Now I'm supposed to write a note to protect him from getting a demerit? I don't think so! Let him get a demerit! Then he'll learn!"
I was full of righteous indignation, and my thought process as I stomped upstairs to turn off the bedroom lights that my children NEVER remember to turn off was something along the lines of, "As if I'm going to help him find his stinkin' belt! Again! Like I do at least 3 times a week! Ha! Hope he likes that demerit, and the corresponding punishment that goes along with it! That'll show him!"
There was NO WAY I was going to look for his belt.
"Mooooooommmmmm!!! I can't find my coat!" another one of my children whined to me from the lower level of my home.
Just breathe, Clare. Breathe.
As I continued walking from room to room turning off lights, I was in my son's bedroom and I decided to look in his top dresser drawer. Nestled among his socks, in plain sight, was his belt.
My blood pressure was rising as I descended the stairs. "Look what I found?" I said as I dangled the belt in front of my boy's eyes.
"Oh. Yeah. My belt," he said, as nonchalantly as possible.
"Did you even look in your drawer?" I questioned, somehow knowing exactly what his response would be.
"Yep. It wasn't there. Thanks Mom."
Before I could even process what had just happened, another son looked at me and stated simply, "Mom, I can't find my backpack."
It was at that moment that I felt like I was failing my children in a crucial area. Responsibility. As in, they have no idea what it is.
Yes, they are kind children who are generally well-behaved, (save for the occasional flatulence incidence in the car) and most of the time they exercise good manners. They care about others. But when it comes to being responsible, and remembering where they have put their things?
Where have I gone wrong?
Well, I know exactly where I have gone wrong, but I'll get to that in a minute.
Back to the moment wherein my little boy innocently stated that he did not know the whereabouts of his backpack.
My limit had been reached.
I. just. couldn't. take. another. request.
As I stood in the mudroom, I spun on my heel to face my children. I stomped my foot. "REALLY?!?" I shouted. "WHY AM I THE ONLY PERSON WHO EVER KNOWS WHERE ANYTHING IS AROUND HERE?"
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Bill standing nearby, as he was helping with backpack and shoe retrieval. I may have mentioned it a time or twenty, but Bill is the Zen Master of parenting. He is rarely rattled. He would never stomp his foot in the mudroom and have a tantrum. He reminds me frequently to breathe and slow down. I love him for it.
The look Bill shot me as I began my tantrum was all, "Dude, Clare. Breathe. Chill out. It's just a backpack." But the look I shot back at him was all, "Dude, Bill. I'm going to tantrum. Because I'm fed up. So mind your own biz."
I know it's illogical, but tantrums are illogical. And everyone else around here (except for the Zen Master himself) has tantrums, so can't I have one every once in a blue moon?
Don't judge me, non-tantrum-havers. I don't need your smugness. Every Mom loses her cool every so often, and I'm still learning.
I plowed forward with my diatribe, "LIKE I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TO AROUND HERE AS IT IS! NOW I HAVE TO FIND ALL YOUR STUFF FOR YOU?!?! NONE OF YOU ARE BABIES ANYMORE! YOU SHOULD KNOW WHERE YOUR STUFF IS! AND IF YOU CAN'T FIND IT, THEN IT'S YOUR OWN FAULT!"
Aaaand Scene. Tantrum over.
I love my children. I love being their mother. I love my job as a stay-at-home mom. But I struggle with where my hand-holding ends and their personal responsibility begins. I don't want my boy to get a demerit, so I find his belt for him. I don't want them to be without a lunchbox, so I chase my husband's car full of children as it pulls out of the driveway, waving the lunchbox in the air. I don't want their Nintendo DS to remain missing, so I search through the house with them, as they cry, "My DS is gooooooone!"
After my tantrum ended, I felt guilty. It's not that I felt bad about what I said, rather, I was disappointed in how I said it.
I am a work in progress.
When we were all in the car and driving to school, I finally spoke. "I'm sorry, you guys. I shouldn't yell. I'm always telling you guys not to yell, yet, there I was, yelling. But what I said was true. You have to take better care of your stuff. Dad and I can't do everything for you. You have to learn to be more responsible."
Responsible. The Word of the Day.
"Okay, Mom," was the general consensus of the kids.
"Okay, Mom," is a phrase also known around these parts as, "Yeah Mom. Whatever you just said went in one ear and out the other. But it sounded important, so we're just nodding and saying, 'Okay, Mom,' so that we can end your lecture."
As I drove the route to school, with the kids singing along to Christmas music on the radio, I suddenly realized that I was very cold. Freezing cold. Then it hit me. I forgot to wear my coat. The outside temperature registered in the 20s, yet I was wearing nothing but a sweater.
I forgot to put on my coat.
How irresponsible of me.
Man, I hate it when irony slaps me in the face.