In the parenting world, we are continually made aware of all the things we should and shouldn’t be doing. There is an overwhelming amount of information available to us via the media, books, articles, and of course “friendly” advice from other parents, directing us towards the right way to discipline, provide nutrition, entertain, educate, and toilet-train our children. While I make every effort to better myself as a parent, especially in terms of providing optimum nutrition (limiting sugar), discipline (Love and Logic), and quality time (technology-free?) with my children, I have certain shortcomings/personality quirks that I may never overcome.  I think there is something to be said for admitting our personal vulnerabilities, and despite my Protestant upbringing, I find confession to be a cathartic experience, so here goes:
My level-headed helper

1.       I tend to overreact. Perhaps catastrophizing is a more appropriate term for what I do. For example, one morning my six year old informed me that she had inadvertently locked her baby sister inside her bedroom. Horrified, I ran into the hallway where I discovered that the bedroom door was indeed locked and my ten month old was inside, crying inconsolably. I mentally reviewed my options: a) call my husband, as he is so fond of hearing from me when I am hysterical over a non-emergency that he can do absolutely nothing about, b) call 911 c) call a locksmith. None of these seemed particularly appropriate, and I remembered seeing Shawn open a locked door with a coin once upon a time. I dashed frantically about the house in search of a coin, heart pounding, cursing under my breath. I retuned triumphantly to the top of the stairs, clutching a penny and praying that my infant had not discovered how to climb up on the toybox and pry open the window, when my daughter casually informed me, “No problem. I opened it,” brandishing a pair of plastic baby sunglasses she had used to MacGyver-it unlocked. To say that I felt sheepish was a gross understatement.

2.       I swear.I am not a smoker, an alcoholic, a drug-user, nor do I binge on chocolate (often). Profanity is my vice. Certainly I make every attempt not to insert epithets into my daily conversation with my daughters, but when I am injured, spill something, or am just overly flustered, I tend to fall back on “S” and “GD”. I can’t help it- they just fly out of my mouth in a crisis. In spite of my less than gallant efforts to shield her from swearing, Izzy doesn’t seem to have experimented with profanity any more than the next kid, and she doesn’t do it at all anymore, likely because she associates such words with times when Mommy is not happy.

Sure, there was the time when she was a year and a half that she invented a little game  that involved throwing herself to the ground and then muttering, “Shit, “ over and over, while Shawn and I spied on her with a combination of horror and amusement. Then there was the time we were driving home (from a parenting class, no less!) and she commented casually, “Oh, Christ, I forgot to wear my bunny shirt.” I have been especially successful not using the f-word around her, but perhaps the most legendary Izzy-swearing story involves that particular word.  Izzy was four years old, and attached to a special pair of pants that she wanted to wear all the time. On this occasion, she had asked where they were, and I told her I thought they were in the washing machine, but we could go downstairs to check. Discovering them in the machine, I called out to her in the hallway, “Sorry, kiddo, they are still wet from the washing machine.” Without throwing a tantrum, Izzy responded in a matter of fact tone.  “Well,” she began thoughtfully, “I guess I’ll just have to wait for fuckin’ morning.” I was terribly grateful she was in the hallway and couldn’t see the look on my face, though I somehow managed to remain calm. “What did you say,” I inquired conversationally. Without missing a beat, she replied, “I guess I’ll just have to wait til crummy morning.” She never said it again.

While I agree that my language and overall short fuse may not be my finest trait, I have decided there are worse problems to have. I think there are some positives to children learning that these are adult words that are not appropriate for them to repeat. I also believe that it would be a terrible hassle to eliminate this habit that often provides me with a satisfying outlet. To quote The Lord: “I Am Who I Am.” See also: tendency towards blaspheming.

The aforementioned bunny shirt

3.       I am neurotic about dumb things. I recently took both my kids to the Children’s Museum sans husband. Izzy pointed eagerly at the exhibit where children can create a rocketship out of paper and tape and then launch it using a fancy button. Easy enough right? Wrong. I took one look at the hundreds of paper rockets, the plain piece of white paper in front of me, and became flooded with anxiety. You see, while possessing intelligence in a number of useful areas, I am simply incompetent with spatial skills or mechanical reasoning.  Panic-stricken, I attempted to gauge how excited Izzy was about this activity: the answer-very. I glanced furtively at the other parents, hoping to glimpse a) an aerospace engineer whose work I could copy, or b)another dumbass incapable of building a paper rocketship.  In the end, I felt that we had constructed an adequate prototype and proceeded confidently to the launching station. It sucked. Unable to make eye contact with the uber-capable science dad next to me, I quickly ushered my children to the veterinarian exhibit, filled with shame.

The preschool whistle-blower
4.       I occasionally enjoy dining at McDonald’s. I know, I know, Supersize Me and all that. I get that it is a repugnant place to dine and that there is a serious fast food epidemic in our country. I generally pursue well-balanced nutrition with great enthusiasm. But every once in awhile…I just love to eat there. And I don’t order a chicken salad and fruit and yogurt parfait either. I get a Number One Extra Value Meal, or to you food puritans, a Big Mac, fries, and a Coke.  My husband will have no part in The OMD, as I like to call it. (Doesn’t everyone’s child refer to it as Old McDonalds?) When Izzy was three, she informed her entire preschool class that Old McDonald’s gave Daddy diarrhea.  She also informed them that there was a baby in my tummy when there wasn’t, but she got the McDonald’s facts right. Perhaps that seems like an inappropriate topic for a three year old to be sharing, but hey, she learned this information from someone.
On occasion, I am fun.
5.       I do not enjoy playing. This fact in particular brings me more guilt than nearly any of my other inadequacies.  Snuggling, I can do. Singing, rocking, reading, going places, grocery shopping, cooking together- these are all activities I enjoy doing with my children. But hold up two dolls and ask who I want to be and I find myself popping Tums and sweating. I seriously hate engaging in imaginative play. Once in a blue moon, a silly whim will possess me and I will be able to run around giggling and talking in a strange voice, but it is not a daily occurrence.  My husband is awesome at this and doesn’t appear to resent being asked to play. Possibly it has something to do with the fact that most (all?) of the nail-clipping, sunscreening, bottom wiping, ointment application and meal preparation falls to me, leaving me with little energy for playing with princesses.
But not as fun as this guy.
So there you have it: the best of my worst traits. If perchance any of these admissions make you feel better about your own maternal failings, I am happy to be of service; perhaps it will inspire you to reveal some of your own mommy anxieties.  Maybe my next post will be titled, “5 Reasons I am a Fabulous Mother.” Stay tuned.
*Feeling brave? I dare you to share some of your own qualities you are not proud of…
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