It was the corn dog that did me in.
The morning hadn’t started on the best note. When I woke J for school last week, I asked her if she was excited about her teacher’s plans for a day of puzzles and bubbles. She snapped at me, thinking I was asking whether it was puzzle and bubble day: “Do you even know where the paper I gave you is? If you did, you’d know!”
I was annoyed, but didn’t rise to the bait. The children bickered all morning as we got ready for our day. I asked the girls to grab their backpacks, and we all piled into the car. I was backing out when M squealed, “My backpack!”
I pulled back into the driveway, unlocked the door and let her in. “It’s all J’s fault,” she grumbled as I opened the car door for her on her return.
Then I saw it. The 6-day-old corn dog lying on the back seat, next to M’s car seat.
“How long have I been telling you to put that disgusting corn dog on the trash?” I screamed.
Both kids began to cry and M leapt to dispose of the nasty leftovers. And I just kept yelling, all my frustration over their inability or refusal to take care of their things boiling over. I tried to drive to school, but I was so angry I had to pull over. The children were in tears as we arrived at school, and I felt horrible.
As soon as arrived home, I emailed the school counselor:
I hope that you’re well and looking forward to the summer.
I’m sure your hands are full this time of year, and M and J are generally doing fine. However, if you have a free moment to check in on them … or if one or both come to talk to you, I just wanted to let you know what was going on.
I lost my temper with them this morning. I realize that that’s a relatively small thing in the grand scheme, but it’s very much out of the norm for us. I haven’t been taking good enough care of myself (sleep, food, etc.) and I let myself lose control. I know that it scared both the girls.
M, in particular, has been really struggling with the end of the school year. As you probably know, she doesn’t cope well with transitions. She’s been short-tempered, easily overwhelmed, and self-pitying. I’ve been patient with her, but this morning things came to a head and I yelled at both her and J. The girls are not used to me yelling. Ever.
M’s negativity, both girls’ whining, and my struggles to get them to clean up after themselves just pushed me over the edge. (The final straw was a corn dog M left in the car that I’ve been asking her to put in the trash twice a day for 6 days, plus J being uncharacteristically combative first thing this morning.)
Thanks for all you do for all the kiddos.
I am not proud of losing my cool. Not even close. I am glad, though, that the other adults in my children’s lives provide stability and reason when I do not. I am glad that I took the time to get to know not only the children’s teachers, but the office staff, counselors and school nurse.
The counselor wrote back to me within 90 minutes:
Of course I can check on the girls! Thanks for the heads up and I hope things improve. I can also talk with them about their roles at home and things that they can do to help out, etc.
When I picked the children up that afternoon, the first thing they said was that they were sorry.
“But mom,” J said, concerned, after we had all apologized to each other, “do you really think we’re filthy?”
“Well, honey, leaving dirty socks on the floor is really gross. Plus leaving dirty dishes all over. So, yes, I do think that at times you both make filthy choices. I also need to work on being neater.”
And I need to continue to ask for help, because parents have limits too.
What pushes you over the edge? Who do you turn to?
Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.