Wednesday, July 27, 2011

good mom. bad mom.

i frequent a message board (thebump) and came across a post this morning that made me think.

basically, one mother was defending her questionable parenting choices & several other mothers were attempting to educate her on why said methods might not be the best idea.

in this specific case i wouldn't say the original poster was being "judged" for her choices. as i stated, her methods are very questionable & frankly, borderline abusive.

i won't mince words- she's doing it wrong.

and a few ladies let her know this, very nicely i might add, and suggested ways to perhaps make her life a little easier.
they didn't jump down her throat & tell her she was a bad mom- instead they sympathized with her situation & let her know they know what she's going through.

now- i'm usually a "live & let live" type of person. stay out of my business & i'll stay out of yours. you do your thing & i'll do mine. agree to disagree. etc etc.

but i've found myself stepping out of my comfort zone every now & again.

i recall a time when i was working at McDonald's (be jealous of my employment under the golden arches) and a mother (who was around my age) came in with her child & ordered lunch. a happy meal of some sort.

i think the kid was probably around 2. he was zooming around the room and the mother looked...frazzled. meh. whatever. i was 20 & couldn't care less.
i think i probably mentally judged her for allowing herself to get knocked up so young.

about 5 minutes into their meal i could hear her shouting from the dining room. i peeked around the corner & witnessed what can only be described as a total breakdown.

she wanted him to eat. he didn't want to eat. he wants to play. he's 2. she's tired. she's upset. she has no idea what she's doing (?).

"eat please."
"NO! TOY! DOWN!" (he throws throws half the content of his tray onto the floor)

she procedes to snatch the toy out of his hand, smack him on the hand & stuff a few fries in his mouth.
of course now he starts crying.

she tells him to be quiet.
then he starts choking.
now scared herself, she tells him to stop crying & he'll stop choking.
then she starts crying.


i look around the dining room- people are staring but doing nothing. i do see a mother with a couple older kids at another table start to get up- but my feet had already propelled themselves into action.

i'm 20. i have no kids. no clue how hard it is & honestly, i'm more concerned with paying my rent & finishing up a paper that's due in 24 hours.
but i did know that something was wrong.
this woman was losing her effing mind & no one was going to do a damn thing.

i ran over just in time to pound the kid on the back & watch him vomit up the contents of his stomach. all over himself, the table & the floor.

i watched as his gagging turned to sobs & then sniffles as his mother sat there, literally, frozen.
not moving. not talking. just watching me.

i asked him if he was ok? yes. did he want a new toy? yes. some juice? yes.

by now another mother (who was there with her own children) had come over to assist me.
we wiped him up & stripped him down to a diaper. a diaper that needed to be changed.
the woman took the boy into the bathroom to change him.

let me remind you that his own mother is still sitting there saying nothing. she's just crying.

once the other mother took the kid into the bathroom i sat down in his seat across from her.

so there i sat, in all of my 20 year old glory, mouth open- ready to ask her wtf her problem was when she looked up at me & said, in the most pitiful voice i've ever heard,
"i am so sorry. you must think i'm the worst mother in the world, don't you?"

and i just stopped.

oh my God. what do you say to that?

i looked at her & actually saw her (this may or may not have had something to do with the Psychology class i was currently taking)

young. tired. scared. broken. horrified with herself. the same age as me.

who the eff am i to judge her? i know nothing about her (except that fact that she likes extra onions on her burger which is despicable). i have no idea what it's like to be in her shoes.

"No. i don't. you're one is perfect."

tears. sniffles.

"Oh my God. is he ok? oh my God. i'm so sorry Dylan! oh my God..."
"He's fine. just...he's all pukey. kinda gross. i gave him a new toy & he's getting changed."

by now the dining room has cleared out. but out of the corner of my eye i see the cops pull up.
she sees it too.
she literally crumples up. in on herself. making herself as small as she can. she starts crying again.

i tell her it's ok. i'll explain.
the other mother comes out. the girl's son & her own 3 kids in tow.

he sees his mom & comes running over. she scoops him up & he hugs her. she tells him she's so sorry. she loves him.

he tells her he has a new toy. and that he "frowed up!"

she thanks the other mother who smiles & tells her it's ok. she knows how it is (gesturing to her own 3 kids)

the cops come in. more tears. time to explain.
the other mother stays put & rubs the girl's back.

the kids run around the dining room.
i hear things like, "CPS. need help...programs. have you done this before? it's ok. i have 2 boys...."

in the end the cops give her a stern lecture about disturbing the peace & the need to control herself. they take her info & tell her there will be a follow up with a Social Worker.

she looks relieved by this.
the other mother stays the whole time.

i clean up the floor (freaking nasty) and keep an eye on the kids.

the girl thanks me. tells me i have no idea how much she appreciates everything.
the other mother gathers up her own kids & walks out with the girl & her son.
i watch them exchange info & get kids loaded into cars.
they drive away.

good bye. good grief. wtf just happened here?

i'm not going to say this was some big turning point for me. i quickly put the whole mess out of my mind & went on turn 21 & then 22 & then 23 & then get married & etc etc.

i still did my share of eye rolling & stating "that will NEVER when i have kids....!!!"
you know the deal.

and then i had alex. and then she turned 1. and then she had her very first tantrum.

and as the husband & i stood there, with mouths agape, watching our child kick & scream & spit (yes, spit)- the above memory exploded upwards and out from the deep recesses of my brain.

oh my God.

and then as she had more tantrums. and more. and more. and then i had brynn. and then i juggled 2 babies. and then alex started hitting & kicking & saying "NO!" & throwing food & wanting popsicles for breakfast, lunch & dinner...i got it.

this is so hard. and i have no idea what i'm doing. and i might lose my mind.

i want to point out that if the above McD's scenario had happened in the privacy of her own home, no one would have been the wiser. but because her breakdown happened in public- she never stood a chance.

we have ALL done things in the privacy of our own homes that we wouldn't dream of admitting to people. things that we might think of later on & feel pretty damn guilty about.

and so far as a mother i have said & done things i'm not proud of. i've had many a moment of weakness when alex is screaming for no apparent reason & brynn wants to be held.
when i haven't slept in days & there is laundry to be folded, groceries to be purchased & the dogs have peed on the floor AGAIN!!!

i've yelled back. i've screamed. i've cried.

i've thrown a toy across the room. i've slammed a door. i've seen red. i've lost it.

i've watched alex hit her sister even after i've said no. i've watched her get up from the chair i've sat her in, walk over, and smack her again. i silently remind myself that smacking her back isn't going to get my point across. is it?

she just hit brynn. i said no. how can i now hit her? how would that even...?!

and at my wits end, after watching her kick brynn in the face (for the 3rd time) i've found myself tapping her on the hand & shouting "OH MY GOD ALEX! KNOCK IT OFF!"

and in those moments i'm pretty sure that if anyone saw me they'd be horrified. perhaps even thinking that i'm a bad mom.
how could i yell at my kid? how could i throw my own tantrum? how could i just say,
"FINE! do whatever you want!!! here's a marshmallow! just give me 5 minutes PLEASE!!!"

i'm being honest here. and all i can say is try to be honest with yourself. if you see something that makes you want to judge, take a step back & put yourself in their shoes (if you even can).

if you're a parent- you. have. been. there.

instead of putting on your self righteous suit, try to help. try to be understanding. try to remember what it felt like when you were losing control.

wether it be online or in real life.

i'm not in any way condoning violence or abuse. both are wrong & should never happen. if it is happening, it should be reported.

i'm talking about the times where we all lose our cool & need a gentle reminder that we're human & it's ok to make mistakes. but that we need to learn from those mistakes & work on ways to make sure they don't happen again.

we need to stop pointing fingers and labeling others as a "bad mom" because that simply isn't our place.
on the same token, we need to admit to our faults & not take offense when given a suggestion on how to avoid certain situations.
plugging our ears to good advice & staying stuck in a rut won't do us any favours. amen?

so now when i see a mother at Target, with her kid screaming at the top of his lungs because he can't have his way, and i watch her either give in or ignore his wails- i don't roll my eyes or tsk tsk anymore- because oh my God, i was just there 5 minutes ago.
and now my kid, although tear streaked, is happily playing with a toy i told her she couldn't have.

go figure.

i feel your pain. i really do.

p.s. you're a good mom. remember that.
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Susan said...


Kim said...

Oh my goodness. I'm not a big crier, but I'm all weepy right now.

I obviously can't address everything you said, that would be a post itself, but I totally agree with what you've said! You don't know until you're there, you just don't. Wisdom does indeed come from age AND experience.

And I will say, that discipline is NOT a bad thing. We all live and learn from that, too. The kids and the parents, alike. And when it gets a little rough and we do things we might not do if we were of sounder mind at the time? Regret means we're still alright. The regret, the guilt? Good parent to the core. The people that do it and don't feel remorse? The ones that take it WAY too far. They'll get their punishment one way or another...

Meg said...

Wow. This post actually made me tear up. I really needed to read this today. I've been so judgemental of other moms lately, and I needed a reminder myself that nobody is perfect & no mother intends to hurt her child.
Thank you!! You have no idea how much I needed to read this!

Michelle said...

Beautifully said! My son is 22 months (I think he was born on within a day or two of Alex actually). I normally never comment, (eh, sorry, trying to change that), but I do read your blog a lot. I always said that this would never be me, my son would never scream in restaurants or throw tantrums in the grocery store. But he does. And sometimes I do whatever I can to get him to quiet down, including giving in to whatever he wants. I will never judge again. Thanks for putting into words what I haven't been able to say. I'm going to link this on my next blog post for others to read!!

SWV said...

Dude, You made me cry. Well said, and so, so true.

Janelle said...

I don't comment a lot on blogs, but I do read yours and this has to be the best post ever. seriously. well done. you are amazing! thank you!

Jen said...

This is so ridiculously TRUE & so well put.

Abbey said...

So, so very true!! I deff needed to read this. Thank you.

Laura said...

Thank you for writing this. Before I had my son I would totally do the eye roll & side eye. And now, all I have is compassion,....because now I KNOW.

It is a great to reminded that we are all human, make mistakes and it is up to us to learn from them. That we have all been there, lost our cool, yelled,...cried.

You found such a great way to put into words, in what I think, many many mothers feel. Thank you so much for writing this. It is exactly what I needed to read this morning.

Sarah-Anne said...

amen. you are a GREAT mom, trina, and i hope you're taking your own little PS into consideration...because it's true. you are awesome, and i want to be like you when i become a mom. :)

Laura said...

Oh and P.S. You acted so gracefully in that situation in McDonalds. Such composure!!

Mary said...

Thank you! SO true, so needed. I've linked to this on FB. I hope that's okay.

BA said...

this. is. amazing.

Good job, momma.

Momma Wilson said...

beautifully said! you are a great mama:)

Carol said...

Never read truer words, T. When I listen to that Lady Gaga song "on the edge" I always think of the times that I've literally been on the edge. The times when I've needed a Mommy Time Out and all I can do is curl up in a ball and go to my happy place.

I've had moments that I'm not proud of...I think we all will at some point. But - we don't go over the edge.

Your story really hit home, I feel like tweeting this...if I can figure out how.

This is the best post I've read in a looong time.

Bekah said...

totally agree. There are some things that you just DONT understand until you are there, and your kid is screaming and you are exhausted and it all falls apart.

We all fall apart. We do. That doesn't make us bad mothers, it makes us humans.

Aly said...

I have had to totally back away from message boards because the level of judgment on everything from formula feeding to car seats is overwhelming. Not to mention the hard/important topics like spanking, etc get ripped to shreds. I have never been a judgmental person as I have plenty to worry about with my own self, but to be judged by a bunch of strangers when quite frankly, we're all in the same boat trying to learn our way as we parent, just plain sucks. Thanks for writing this. Hopefully those judgy judgersons will read and learn something too.

Anonymous said...

I don't comment too much, but I also know what post you are referring to on the message board and I stayed out of it, quite saddened on all sides. This is a lovely, true story that makes us all think. Thanks for writing about it. And reminding us, that we are good moms, and even good moms have their moments.

Abby said...

Great post! The last 24 hours on there have sure been eye-opening... You are right..its is easy to judge..(and clearly I am guilty since she specifically called me out). I just hope that she seeks help...and that when I have my first breakdown about my child's behavior, that there are people as compassionate as you around.

MarMat said...

oh my.. I cried.
I'm always amazed on how you handle things.
2 kids, working mom + cooking + blogging a perfect story about being a parent = WIN
Thanks for sharing T.

Beckie said...

Best post ever.

Holly said...

phenomenal post.

yarnslinger said...

Wow Trina - every new mom on the planet needs to read this. No matter how great a kid you have, it is so hard. I remember when Cindi was little and I got divorced, I got to be the parent she "expressed herself" with. My brother explained that I should feel honored, because it meant that I was the parent she felt most comfortable to be herself with. Really?? And I distinctly remember one night when she was pushing every possible button, and I locked myself in my room and said "Mommy needs a time out" and as I sat against my bedroom door, I had this revelation as to why child abuse happens - because I had the skills to step back, calm myself and control my own anger. And in that moment I understood just how hard it is. In no way do I condone child abuse, just saying that I got it.

You and that other mother did that poor overwhelmed mom a great service - I was also teared up.

You ARE a good mom!!!

Allison said...

What a great, great post. I couldn't agree more.

And thank you--I needed to hear that I'm a good mom right now. I have a daughter right around Alex's age and it's such a tough age. Well, you know.

Peeper said...

Damn, woman. Did you strike a nerve here or what?

It's probably because in our hearts we have all been the good mom AND the bad mom. I was such an asshole in my twenties - just so judgmental. I didn't get it and I didn't care to. I am so ashamed of that now. I've also been the bad mom who screamed at her kid. It was just 2 days after a D&C - I could tell that I had really hurt her and, my God, did I feel like the worst mother alive.

Now that all the growing up shook me out and softened me I can give that mom-with-a-screaming-toddler in Target a wink and a nod telling her, "it's cool. he won't perish without a freshly peeled banana - hold on, sister! And if you can't, well, that's OK too." And when people give my screaming toddler the side eye I have no problem telling them to kiss my ass - she's two and they acted the same way at that age. I am a good mother. No, wait, I am a fucking GREAT mother. And so are you. And quite likely so are the other 24 women who have commented so far.

P.S. I loved your comment on Dip's pregnancy announcement.

Leigh said...

This post is the reason that I read your blog. THANK YOU!

Sarah said...

Crap, now you have me all teary eyed and I'm at work! Great post, very true words.

end said...

Thank you for writing this.

J. Casteel said...

This is the best post I've seen in a while. Thanks T.

Jay said...

I ran across this when my wife facebooked it. If it were possible to give a standing ovation to a blog post- you'd have it. Absolutely beautiful in every sense. Its often tough to remember that just because we become parents, we're still human too....and even harder to remember the same thing about others. You just reminded us.

Elissa said...

Thank you so much for writing this. I have a daughter who is turning two next month, and the past couple of months have been difficult to say the least. It makes me feel better that I'm not alone on those days where I just need to take a time out and cry.

Open Roads Mama said...

just an awesome post, THANK YOU!

t.bird said...

big smiles!

Anonymous said...

So very true! Thank you for sharing your thoughts! You're a great mom too!

Jessica@The Southern Belle Baby said...

This was amazing. It's so easy to judge before we really see someone. We're all fighting our own battles, and it is darn hard to be a mother. We all make mistakes, but that's how we grow. I'm certainly not perfect, but I'm still a good mom- and so are you!!

jenn said...

OMG i love you!
thank you for this post!

Beth said...

Thanks for this post. My son is only 8 months old, but I know it's coming. I'm terrified.

M said...


Mary said...

I know you have heard it already, but Awesome truth-telling.