This is a letter for when you are much older and have small children of your own (and obviously will have already completed graduate school, payed off your loans, and will be living independently but nearby so we can see our glorious and perfect grandchildren). This is a letter for when your children whine, cry, bite, don’t listen, play in the toilet, write on the walls, and throw lengthy public tantrums. This is a letter for when I look at you with shock and tell you that you never did those things when you were little.
My parents swear I never had a tantrum when I was little. Granny says the same thing about Daddy. She even describes two year-old Demetri as “very sensible.” It’s the same with the parents of all my friends. “Well,” they say to us, “You never behaved like that at this age!” Then they smile (a little smugly) because we turned out mostly okay and because they have been given the beautiful gift of grandchildren. And, most importantly, they smile because they are getting older and are clearly suffering from MEMORY LOSS.
I was talking on the phone to a friend this morning. Last night, her child was behaving so horridly that her husband turned to my friend and said, “Why does she have to be such a witch?” This warmed my heart. Yes! I thought. Yes! Sometimes they are little witches! And I’m not the only one who thinks this! (Side note: last night we had a 25 minute battle with you over washing your hands. Washing. Your. Hands. An activity that takes 30 seconds or less. Tears, screaming, door slamming, stomping, the whole shabang.)
So, here’s what I want you to know: you had many tantrums. At home and in public. Once you wrapped your body around the security gates at the library and blocked the door. You bit my toe. You drew on the walls of your bedroom and you drew on the couch with marker. You cried over ridiculous things: the existence of pants, a piece of broccoli on your plate, the weather, the fact that I needed to cook dinner instead of play, the color of the toilet, Santa Claus, sliced turkey, a single pea falling on the floor, bath time, brushing your teeth, the cat looking at you, the color of your pajamas. I could go on. And on. So I will.
You stomped your feet when you didn’t get your way. You threw your entire body on the floor and screamed for a variety of reasons–some of which I still don’t understand. You slammed the door in my face. You yelled that you hated me. Sometimes you whispered it, which was somehow worse. You didn’t listen.
Getting out the door in the morning was painful and difficult and made me want to claw my eyes out. It took you 15 minutes to put on a pair of socks. When you finally had your shoes on, you declared you wanted to change your pants. You didn’t eat your breakfast. You pushed the limits and my buttons. You whined. Oh. My. God. The whining! You pouted with your arms folded and your eyes narrowed. You barricaded yourself in the bathroom. You threw stuff: food, blocks, books, toys, and once, a chair. You stuffed the bathroom sink with toilet paper. You got a rubber lizard tail stuck up your nose. You tested our patience.
And sometimes we lost it. We yelled (mostly me, not so much Daddy). I threw my hands up and stomped out of the room to go cry in my closet. I rolled my eyes behind your back. I called you bad names under my breath while eating chocolate chips directly out of the bag. I called you bad names on the phone with my friends – “ratbag” on especially awful days. The year you were three, I’m quite sure I made some very specific hand gestures behind your back. Sometimes I didn’t like being in the same room with you. Sometimes I couldn’t be in the same room with you. Sometimes I wanted to turn in my Mommy Card–at least for a few hours.
I’m not telling you all this to make you feel bad. I’m telling you this to make you feel better. Because you will do all this too. There will be moments when you don’t like your kid and you don’t like being a mom. There will be moments when you are at the end of your rope. And moments when you let go and are in free fall. Your kid will bite and cry and not listen and do all the things you did. You will cry, too. You will wonder if you are a bad parent. You are not. You are the most wonderful, loving, kind parent. I already know I am proud of you.
Please know that no matter how bad it got, and it does get bad, I would do it all a thousand times over. I would clean up puke, wipe your butt, and ask you to wash your hands until my head explodes, just to continue being your mom. Because it’s worth it. And becasue I have never loved anyone as completely as I love you.
So when I try and tell you that you never behaved like that, know that I am lying. Know that you, too, will survive parenting and will look back on these difficult years with joy, love, and a bit of sadness that it’s all over. Also know that what goes around comes around. You, my amazing daughter, are currently paying your dues. And I am just around the corner to help whenever you need it.
What about you? What do you want to tell your child about being a parent?