Dry shampoo. Toothpaste. Travel-sized face wash…..
I had accidentally left my shopping list at home on the counter, so remembering all of the items I need before I leave town this week had to come straight from my brain. My poor, exhausted, stressed out brain. It didn’t look good for my list. I’m sure I’ll be back tomorrow to pick up what I’ll inevitably forget today, I thought.
As we traversed our local Target (something we could all do in our sleep by now), My daughter took her customary spot, perched on the edge of the cart, hanging on as I pushed. My one-year-old son was sitting in front of me, chewing on my keychain. We had just come from the gym and had a few more stops on our way before going home. It was a boring, but necessary, string of errands.
To be honest, it’s been a long week. Downright difficult, actually. The days have all melted together as my husband’s insane work schedule has kept him away from breakfast to well after we’re all in bed for most of the week. Because of the oppressive southern heat, park days have been few and far between, so the kids have been bursting with pent-up energy. Teething and sleep regressions have made for some frustrating afternoons and nights. My after-bedtime workload has been piling up, as have my mountains of dishes and laundry.
To put it lightly, I have felt like a mom who has way too many tabs open in the ol’ noggin… or at least one who has her hands in too many things to accomplish any one well.
The week culminated in one of the worst meltdowns in my daughter’s four-year history. She lost her most beloved toy dog at the gym, and despite all of my searching and crawling through ball pits and tubes and netting, digging through every bin and corner, we couldn’t find it. We had no choice but to leave without it; it was dinnertime and both kids were getting hungry and tired.
This figurine is more than just a toy for her; it’s a constant companion. She sleeps with it tucked into her arms every night. My daughter, being one of the most particular children I’ve ever come across, needs everything in her routine to be meticulous and consistent. It’s relaxing and soothing to her to know what comes next, especially at an increasingly anxious time such as bedtime. With her dog being misplaced, that was derailed.
She begged me from the back seat to please turn around, please go get Duke. I tried to reason with her and explain that although we couldn’t find him, the cleaning crew might, and we could go get him tomorrow. Anyone who has tried to reason with a worked up preschooler knows that this is basically always futile; she was too far gone to accept this solution.
From the back seat, red in the face and choking on her tears, she screamed at me, “YOU ARE A MEAN, MEAN MOMMY!”, over and over again. Her tone was desperate and anxious.
Those words cut a bit like knives that evening. Not only was it the first time she’s ever called me mean, but in the middle of a week where I felt like I was just barely holding it together, where I felt insufficient, they sunk in.
Of course I was mentally aware that her words weren’t actually about me; that they were her expression of sadness, and fear of losing something precious to her. She had no control over what was happening. Her heartache broke me a little bit. After a rough week, I felt like a failure. A mean mommy.
So days later, as we worked our way through Target, collecting items that were none too exciting, I hear these words:
“You’re my best mommy.”
I look over and see my girl, hanging off of the side of the basket with a shy smile on her face. There was no prerequisite to her statement, and no request following. It stood alone and hung in the air as I looked at her and processed her compliment.
Not the best mommy, but her best mommy.
Sure, I may be the one who spills the whole box of cheerios all over the ground once per week, or forgets to pack the kids’ water bottles on an outing. I may turn on the television when days are long, or forget to pay preschool tuition on time. I’m not the best mommy.
But I’m the one who cradles and rocks my kids while I sing to them at night. I kiss boo-boos, say ‘yes’ just because, and remind them that I love them every single day. I cut grapes in half so they stay safe, role-play in silly voices in the middle of the grocery store, and sing ‘one more song’ when I’m asked.
I know I’ll be called mean a million more times before my children are moved out of my house. Regardless of what is said and felt in the heat of a tense and upsetting moment, my prayer is that they will always look back and say that, although I wasn’t perfect, I was their best mommy. That’ll always be enough.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.