Mommy, Be a Big Girl

My Big GirlI did all the right things. I spoke sweetly and slowly. I knelt down to look into her eyes. I had every confidence that my 5-year-old would cooperate, happily and without reservation. She stood in her Gi, eager to practice Cross Kata and “Be a big girl.”

“I’ll be back in ten minutes. I just need to pick up your brother.” I had scheduled myself into a corner: karate class drop-off, drive across town, drumming class pick-up, return for karate pick-up. It was the exact sort of ridiculous “the kids must have it all!” sort of life I had always sworn to scoff at, not make my own.

My anxiety about rushing to my next stop transferred to my youngest. “But Mommy, I want you.” I smiled small, and held her gently by the shoulders. I should have known I wasn’t fooling either one of us. “I’ll be right back, sweetheart. You won’t even know I’m gone.” Brown eyes blinked, bottom lip pouted. “I want you, Mommy.”

Too soon, I scolded inside. I should have waited for class to start. Then she would have been fine. But no, I had to be half-way across town. Not a moment to waste! My other child is waiting. It’s already dark. And raining. Why can’t this child just understand that she must do what I want? Deep breath.

“Honey, I’ll be right back. You’re a big girl. You love karate. And when I come back your brother and I will both watch your class and be so proud.” Tight smile, firmly rubbing her arms. She Must Comply.

Her face buried in my shoulder, embarrassed tears, mumbles of Mommy, I want you, more tears. And where a kind mother would have softened, I became angry. This child was upsetting my perfectly planned schedule. This child was turning everything upside down. This child, this 5-year-old, should just do what her mother wants.

“Fine. We’re leaving. Get your shoes.” People were looking, sympathetically, I think. The only reason there was any sympathy, if it was sympathy, is because I was reining in my anger. Once my sweet girl had put on her shoes and bundled herself up in her jacket, once we had swept out of the dojo, I got nasty.

“Now we’re going to be late. Your brother is probably waiting in the rain. Why can’t you just be a big girl? I would have been back in ten minutes.” I knew deep inside that I was scolding myself. And yet, SLAM! went the car door. Down came 5-year-old tears. They fell all across town.

It was only when we three returned home, fifteen minutes to spare thanks to one less karate class, that I felt my shame uncomfortably soften my anger. And my beautiful little girl with the big brown eyes hugged my legs and said, “Mommy, I’m sorry.”

“No, my love, Mommy’s sorry. I’m sorry.” The hug was deep and strong and warm and full of love. And the mingled tears forgave the shame.

About That Unique* Weblog

Adjusting to car culture, dealing with leaving a career I loved, and spouting off along the way. Do The Most Good.
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44 Responses to Mommy, Be a Big Girl

  1. Oh, I don’t know what to say. I guess I’ll settle on don’t beat yourself up, but strive to do better next time. Moms don’t always make the perfect decisions.

  2. az says:

    Uh! I so can relate. This brought tears to my eyes, too. Thanks for your honest account of the daily struggle! You are doing great, Kristin. HUGS!

    • I think it’s a very common occurrence, and when doing a quick search for a follow-up, I saw there is SO much advice. But in the middle of a (self-created) stressful situation, advice doesn’t seem to count for much. Thank you!

  3. Emily says:

    You captured it perfectly. Been there and done that SO many times, recognized the range of emotions and behaviors well. Thank you for the honest recounting and sharing the beautiful resolution!

  4. That is one serious face on that child. 🙂
    Sigh. I have nothing to offer except a hug and support. It feel like a really lonely road, but I know you know just how many of us have been on there with you.

  5. Oh if that just doesn’t hit me in the gut. Totally been here too. I’ve gotten much, much better over the past year I think- by nature I am impatient and always in a hurry. But they don’t have our sense of urgency. They can’t ‘just do it’ when we ask. We NEED. But you’re a good mom- saying you’re sorry is huge. My mother never apologized to me after the fact- which I have not forgotten.

  6. Samantha S says:

    Ugh! I feel you. Beautifully written.

  7. been there. done that. 😦

  8. kimpugliano says:

    Damn. As if I don’t cry enough. That’s what my Noah used to say and it broke my heart.

  9. Killing me with your honesty. Sometimes as I’m racing across town to make a kid’s activity I notice the rising panic and my irritation boils over. Later, when I’m clear-eyed, I think “Jesus. It’s taekwondo. No one is hurt or bleeding.” I’ve been thinking about reassessing all the things.

  10. Matthew says:

    All parents snap at one time or another. All parents get will eventually inappropriately angry at their children for not behaving perfectly in the grand scheme of the parents overly chaotic days. All parents will do it. That’s a promise.

    Welcome to that club. I’m the one greeting you at the door. 🙂

    Good parents say “I’m sorry.” Good parents allow their children to see the parents learn from their mistakes.

    You’re a good parent.

  11. wcdameron says:

    None of us are perfect parents. There are about a dozen things that I still remember doing that fill me with shame, but my kids don’t remember them at all. My guess is that this will be the same.

  12. outlawmama says:

    Ugh. I’ve had this afternoon and it sucked. Oh, it breaks my heart to remember my anger going to the wrong place. I’m the one who set the schedule and left zero minutes to spare. I’ve so be there.

  13. Oh I could so relate. This brought tears to my eyes when you both apologized. We can’t always be our best. No one can and children should learn that. What we can do is set the example and by holding yourself accountable and apologizing you showed her that. Great post.

  14. Stacie says:

    Awww. I remember that age when they’d just say, “I want you.” We have all been there. Very sweet ending though. She’ll remember the hugs more than anything else.

  15. Christina says:

    oh the honesty here. we’ve all snapped at our children. ALL OF US. it’s what you do after that’s more important. and you apologized, which was what was most important here. i’m so sorry you guys had to feel all that.

  16. I don’t have kids yet, but I can imagine that some days are just like this, and all any of us can do is just know deeply that we are doing the very best we can, and then wake up and try again tomorrow. I am in love with the picture at the top. She is fierce.

  17. Wow that definitely tugged at my heart. I was internally “awww”-ing as I read the entire post. Your little girl sounds so amazing and sweet, and no matter what, you are her world (not that I know anything about raising kids).

  18. Joe Owens says:

    I have been there and it is a humbling thing when you make your child cry. i made my son cry on his thirteenth birthday and I may never forget that. We get so caught up in making it everywhere on time and in the scheme of things it really does not matter so much if we are a few moments late.

  19. I don’t think it’s always possible to be the bigger person. As parents, we’re so often tasked with surrendering our emotions to the irrational tyrrany of childhood whim – and most of the time, we love it. But we’re human, with our own whims. We cannot be what we are not, and good on you for getting it right most of the time! 🙂

  20. Tina says:

    I do this more often than I would like to admit, and my son is a saint for putting up with me. He’s teaching me patience, you know…

  21. Linda Roy says:

    Oh, when I think of those moments when I’ve lost it – when my sweet kids were just being sweet kids and I was being a stressed out, irritated adult… But we’re human and we catch ourselves and we let them know that we didn’t mean it and they love us unconditionally.

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