You know that wall between the parents we are and the parents we want to be? Last night I slammed into it. Hard.
For the 11th time I demanded that Zoey brush her teeth. She turned to me, her little face tight with frustration and eyes glassy with tears, and wailed, “But I just want a hug!”
As I gave her a hug she whispered into my neck, “Mommy, why do you always have to be so angry?”
At first, I just pushed away her comment. “I don’t always get angry.”
Zoey grabbed me a bit tighter and I could feel her ribs under the flannel of her pink nightgown. She took a shaky breath. “Yes, you do. Every morning and every night.”
I blinked back tears. Part of me wanted to say, “Yes, I get angry when it takes you 17 minutes to put on a sock and we needed to leave five minutes ago and I have a meeting to get to. I get angry because I have to ask you to do the same thing over and over again — instead of doing what you are supposed to do, you hide behind the bathroom door or do cartwheels in the living room or sit under the kitchen table and make up a song about guinea pigs. Sometimes I get angry because you don’t answer when I speak to you.”
The list could go on. But really, all of that is just blaming her for something that’s my problem. Sure, some of the stuff she does makes me want to CLAW MY EYES OUT. But it’s my choice to react that way. I do get angry. And I don’t like myself very much when I do. Being a mom sometimes makes me feel useless and pointless and small. I almost always feel like I’m doing it wrong. I get angry because I want things to be just a little easier. I don’t want to fight every night over getting Zoey to set the table. I don’t want to have to remind her to chew her food as she zones out watching TV in the morning before school. I don’t want to always have to make her hurry hurry hurry.
I want to be that mom who is always put together and always patient. The mom who knows how to get her child to brush her teeth without counting (or yelling or threatening to take stories away). The mom who is funny and silly. The mom who can actually apply the lessons of yoga to everyday life.
But of course that mom is a mythical creature. She doesn’t really exist. At least not all the time. Sometimes I am that mom. I show extraordinary patience and restraint. I tell the funniest knock-knock jokes. I practice a little pranayama so my head doesn’t explode. I hold dance parties in the living room. My daughter looks at me with joy and wonder.
The thing is, I’m never going to get it totally right. Zoey is not going to see the best of me all the time. And that fills me with pain. So today, like every day, I’m doing what parents do: We get up. We do it all again. And we try to do it just a little bit better.