Monday, April 30, 2012

Quality versus quantity

Once upon a time I met a Mom recently who had more kids than she could handle.  And she yelled at them all day, yet she didn't know that she was yelling.  I think that she was shocked at my shock.  I tried to hide my wide eyes but her loud, booming, threatening, grating, mean-toned, voice shook me.

And it made me scared...because that is how I have sounded to my own children.  I have never heard a yeller like this mother, and it made me realize the power of the voice.  I don't use that voice as much as I used to...but I have used it.  The "mean mom" voice.  Like, when you are so burned out and overwhelmed that it's either a yell, a cry, or a banshee shriek that are the sounds left available to come out of your mouth.

I am worried that I used that voice far too often with my sweet Dalton.  

Garrett was with me and this mother's voice scared him.  I looked at her little ones running all around her, and felt sorry for them.  This is when I would usually say, "Who do I think I am?" cause it's not like I haven't screamed at my kids before.  But now I can see how easy it is to melt down with little kids.  How easy it is to just always have the mean voice as your voice, with the hope that somehow it will bring some sanity in to your house.  How easy it is to just switch over to the auto-pilot where the mean voice comes out way too often.

You think that people know that your voice isn't the real's just your coping let your kids know you mean business...but sometimes they don't know.  How would they?  They can't read your mind.  The voice of this overwhelmed mom made me sad for the overwhelmed mom that I have been for many years that I have been a mother.  

I was mad at this mom, but maybe just because it held a mirror up to my own shortcomings.  Why do we think that having kids, and sometimes having lots of kids, makes us a good mother?  Mothering has almost nothing to do with the act of just producing a kid.  If that were the case rats and mice would be moms of the year.  It's parenting that makes you a good mother.  It's caring about your kids individually.  It's having the time and the patience and the concern for not just what they'll be like when they are chubby faced and darling at the age of 3 when the definition of being a good mother is sticking a nipple in their face, keeping their butt dry, and pasting a giant bow on their head, but also being equally concerned over who they have the potential to be when they are 18 or 35 or 70.  It's truly wanting to bring another human on to the Earth who is going to positively impact this world and be someone who you want in your life for eternity.

I had my kids about 4 years apart.  It kind of made it so that each of them was the only baby when they were the baby.  That being said, I still was nuts when my babies were babies and I had an older one who was a four year old.  I did kind of know that I was nuts, so I always tried to surround myself with kind people that could be there for my children when I emotionally could not.  

I remember the girl that I had helping me in Boston, when Shelby was a new baby.  Her name was Yumi, and she will always be an angel to me.  She really saved my life.  I thought that I was hiring her to help with Shelby, but instead she became the surrogate mother to Dalton.  She was kind and steady and young and loving.  She would walk him to his preschool and take him by the toy store on the way home.  All day long I was like a zombie...covered in breast milk that didn't seem to want to come at the rate that Shelby needed it, unshowered, depressed, overwhelmed.  

I didn't have near the love or the patience that my little preschooler needed.  And so I would snap.  I would be impatient.  I would be controlling.  To be honest, I was not a good mother.  I am not going to beat myself up over this, because I have done that for years, and it doesn't really do any good.  I have apologized to Dalton over and over for this, and again, it's pretty ineffective.  The only recourse that I have is to try to be a really loving, patient, calm, kind mother now.  I was young.  Too young to have my opinion.  My control of my children probably had a lot to do with me trying to regain control over the young adult period that I had lost out on.  Or I was just chemically imbalanced.  Both are a likely possibility.

Morgan was my angel here in Utah when Garrett was a newborn and Shelby was the preschooler who needed a solid, loving, kind, interested mother.  Thank god, literally, for Yumi and Morgan.  Without them, Dalton and Shelby would have been like little islands floating on their mom's sea of emotional instability.  Now with Garrett, I finally get it.  I finally get how to be kind to your kid, and love them and be the Mom that they need.

It's hard for me to see Moms now who have three kids under the age of four because I think that all their kids are all babies.  Yet, how can you parent three babies at the same time?  So by default the eldest becomes the "big brother" or the "big kid" and is expected to act much older than he is.  He is held to higher standards.  

I think that the screamer mom's kids were darling.  I hope that they make it.  I hope that my kids make it.  After a past soccer game where I overreacted big time at Shelby for not having a good attitude (ironic, I know), we made up a sign where she makes an L with her hand when I need to cool down.  The L doesn't stand for Looser, but for Loosing it.  I wish that we all had this system in place.  

Here's to seeing the timidness of the little ones that we speak to, and how fragile their little sense of self worth is.

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