Even before I was pregnant, when my darling daughter was just a gleam in my eye, I knew the type of mother I wanted to be. I wouln't yell or scream or berate her. I would be kind and loving; like Marmee in Little Women, I would guide my child with a gentle firmness. We would always always see eye-to-eye. We would never never fight. And, she would love and respect — dare I say, revere — me.
Dream on, Mamacita! (Can someone please invent blog sound effects so I can audibly slam on the brakes or scratch a record here?)
It started out well. I don't think I ever raised my voice when she was a baby or even a toddler. There was no reason to, really. My daughter was even-tempered and compliant. We rarely had to say the word "No." And, despite some opinions to the contrary, it's not because we were spoiling her. She was just a super easy child. That, and the fact that she was in full-time daycare while I worked, meant that the few hours we had together each day were invariably sweet.
But, she grew up as children are wont to do. These days, we are at odds more often than evens. And, the other night ... I lost it. I mean, LOST it.
I will try to relay the story without sounding too defensive. It was nearly 10:00 and I was still at my desk, trying to hit not one but two deadlines (I told the clients EOD, "end of day" — obviously, my day hadn't ended yet). Meanwhile, my daughter sent an email with a chirpy note "Proof & print!!!" and an attached Word document. It was her two-page movie review assignment for eighth grade English.
So, being a concerned mother, I stopped writing my client's 19-page brochure and took a look at the homework. My daughter came up, eager to collect the proofed and printed paper.
"There are just a couple of typos," I told her. "See here, I think you mean 'lose' not 'loose.'"
She stared blankly at me, so I continued, "I mean, the character is going to lose his family, right? Not unleash them and set them loose in the woods or something." She shrugged 'whatever' so I changed it and went on.
"You have practically the same sentence in here three times ..." I started to point to the redundant phrases on the screen. She barked at me.
"No! Mrs. B likes that part! Leave it alone! Will you just print it already?!?"
That's when I lost it. In fact, I didn't just lose it, I cut loose with a loud shriek ...
Her eyes went wide, like one of those felt reindeer when they see Rudolf's nose glow for the first time. She caught her breath, "What?"
"PLEASE! CAN'T YOU EVER SAY THE WORD PLEASE!?!?!?!?!?!?"
I sounded like Mommy Dearest when she found the wire hangers in Christina's closet. Or maybe it was more like the Dark One speaking through pre-exorcised Linda Blair. Regardless, it was not my finest maternal moment.
My daughter rolled her eyes and said "Sorry."
You probably think the word 'sorry' has two syllables, right? Well, when my daughter says it, she uses three. "Soh-aw-ree." This translates to: "I'm saying 'sorry' because you want me to although I'm not at all sorry because there's really nothing to be sorry about." She grabbed her paper and left my office.
Suddenly I felt pain. (Not remorse, mind you, pain.) Not only had I made a superhuman (or maybe it was subhuman) noise when I exploded at her, but the whole thing bubbled up from so deep inside me so fast and furious that I had bitten the side of my tongue. So, there I was, still sitting at my desk, still working, an object of my child's disdain, and feeling real physical discomfort.
Did I already mention that this wasn't my finest moment?
A little later, I knew my daughter was getting ready for bed, so I left my work (still not quite finished) and went down to say "good night." And to apologize. I firmly believe that parents are not always right simply because they are the parents. Yes, my daughter needs to say "Please," but I don't need to bite her head off. It's not her fault that it was late and I was tired. It's not even her fault that I was so stressed out. Well, maybe partly her fault, but not entirely.
"Sorry," I told her in two syllables. "I'm exhausted and feeling very unappreciated right now." She nodded. "Can we please try to treat each other with respect?" She nodded again. "And courtesy? Y'know: please and thank you." She nodded a final time.
The next morning, we were back to usual. It was nearly impossible to get her out of bed. But, she was somehow dressed and fed and out on time. I don't think she even remembered my explosion. But I remembered it.
And my tongue still hurts.