Some Days, ‘I Love You’ Must Be Enough

The morning game of getting dressed begins with a kiss, a smile, and quickly dissolves into tears, fussing, and a mad rush for the right pants. “What’s wrong with these pants or these?” I say, flinging pairs from my daughter’s drawer. Those pinch, those won’t stay up, never mind that she’s been wearing them for three months and chooses this morning with exactly 27 minutes until departure to boycott all of her clothes. She wants the dirty black pair from the laundry room. Fine. Wear stinky clothes. Anything. Come on, come on, come on!

Finally downstairs, the morning didn’t start like anyone intended. Over breakfast, we sneak a peek at each other. I wink—a truce. I won’t send her out into the world holding a grudge over pants.

Mornings aren’t always smooth in this house, but with raccoon eyes and cereal breath, I plant a kiss on the kids’ heads before they bury them in my soft robe, then run out the door.

After school isn’t much better. In two seconds they undo everything I’ve spent the day doing. They toss backpacks, jackets, and muddy shoes on the floor—and I just swept. The contents of their backpacks spill out, covering the entryway like debris from a natural disaster. “Where do our coats go? Please bring me your lunchboxes! Stop pushing your sister! We have three bathrooms! Stop fighting over that one!” Less than a minute in, I’m exhausted and cranky. I try to remedy it by asking about their day.

afterschool mess

Hurricane Kid, after school.

Every week it’s the same rut, never perfection.

I yell. When I’m busy, I only half listen and mm-hmm in all the right places when stories go on for ten minutes too long. Sometimes I’m the mean girl I want my kids to stay away from. I mention that that outfit doesn’t match or that habit of talking like a baby extremely annoys me. I don’t try to be hurtful. In the seconds after it slips from my lips, I wonder if that statement will be the one to give my child a complex for life. I apologize quickly.

After four farts at the dinner table, I’m not amused. Can’t we just eat for once? My dad and I had this same scenario thirty years ago. I excused myself and he hollered, “There ain’t no excuse for it!” I giggle at the story even now. One day my son will tell our stories and laugh at how they angered me. He’ll describe that instant when my face transformed from the sweet mother who tucked him in at night to mean mommy and back again. Why, when early morning around here is a free-for-all and my kids once dubbed me “Fart Powder” after a book they found?

When girl drama rears its ugly second-grade head, I have little patience. It takes me too long to realize hugs cure a lot. When hobbit adventures and Star Wars battles unfold for repeats, I’m quick to interrupt and fast-forward to the ending. I slam cabinet doors when I’ve had enough bickering. Some days I’m just a terrible mother. Some days start out well enough, but in an instant, I ruin it.

I’m not a perfect mother. My list of flaws could cover our driveway written in tiny childlike script. If mothers were required to fill out applications, I’m not sure I ever would have been qualified. So many others seem to do it better. But the one thing I do get right, always, is letting my kids know I love them no matter what ugly thing may go down. A bad day is just a bad day.

Whether we argue over homework or wearing shorts when it’s 30 degrees out, I still hug my kids, kiss their cheek, and tell them I love them because they should know there is nothing they could do that would ever make me not. I just hope they’ll always love me back. And if they happen to be too cold, well, that’s their own damn fault.



Filed under Everyday Life

53 responses to “Some Days, ‘I Love You’ Must Be Enough

  1. I love your second to last paragraph! Me too. The one thing I do get right in this mom job is letting my kids know in the deepest recesses of their beings that they are unconditionally loved by me, their dad, and by God.

  2. you sound like every good mother i know. we’re just human and our kids, even though we’d die for them, can be extremely annoying on any average day. i worry when i go from sweet mommy to mean mommy, but sometimes there must be order, or someone who listens to something i say. sweet mommy is always there ready to hug and forget and move on, but we all need to pull a Miss Nelson every once in a while.

  3. Sounds as if we could switch girls and not know the difference. I get the feeling sometimes they withhold gas expulsion so as to have the most power at the dinner table. Really guys? Oh, wait. That’s just my girls.

    I often exclaim to my husband that the hour in the morning and the hour in the evening should result in some sort of hazard pay. He disagrees, so I play tennis twice a week instead.

    • I have a feeling dinnertime gas is just paybacks for mine as a child. My dad used to get so mad at me. Of course, I was totally being a wiseass. 😉

      • hungergameslover101

        Compared to me, you’re LUCKY your kids fart! My brother belches and slams his face into the food – WHILE FARTING. -_- Very amusing, Nicholas.

  4. Oh, how I feel your situation. I feel it deeeeeply.

    And that was a pitch-perfect last sentence, may I add. I laughed out loud. Excellent.

    • I could write a post on the shorts in winter alone. I make them wear pants (with much arguing) when it gets below 40s. Other days, they go outside and say, “Man, it sure is nice out. It feels great out here. I’m even hot.” Meanwhile, I am wearing a winter coat and shivering in my fleece-lined boots. I am a mean mom when I hope every day that they will shiver in their shorts. I admit it. And I feel defeated when they come bouncing out of school without their jackets on. I could scream!

  5. Amy

    I absolutely relate to this lovely post. Thanks so much for this. More parents need to admit that we just don’t know what we’re doing but we love our kids and we make sure they know it.

  6. Brilliant – many of us can relate!

  7. You just described my household, my life, me–right down to the farts at the dinner table, the racooon-eyed send-off, the infuriated flinging of pants from dresser drawers, and the ultimately surrender to outfits pulled from the hamper. Ugh. (Sometimes I can’t take it and tell her that I simply can’t let her leave the house looking like a hobo child anymore.) Then I feel bad. You know what I mean. I can tell you know what I mean. Part of me wants to go out and start scrawling on the sidewalk a list of all my flaws now. The kids would get a kick out of it….

    • Sounds like we are all normal then! I think the kids do get a kick out of knowing I have faults. If we didn’t, they would feel like they could never live up to our expectations or never be good enough.

  8. I suffer from the “mean mommy” syndrome too. I am currently dealing with second grade girl drama and the terrible toddler years. I snap, I hush . . . I am inevitably reduced to bad cop on most week nights. But, someone has to get these kids to bed, right?
    But, like you, I always tell my kids I love them and there is NOTHING in the world that can undo my love. I also tell them that mommy isn’t perfect and doesn’t have all the answers. The admission of wrongdoing seems to make me more accessible to my kids.

    • I think you’re right. It does make us more accessible. It makes us easier to talk to. If I can admit that I mess up, I think my kids are more willing to talk to me when they mess up. I’m seeing them open up a lot more now and apologize more quickly when they do something. Then we just move on. And isn’t second grade the worst? Thank goodness my youngest is going through it now and it will soon be over.

    • hungergameslover101

      My mom does that too. I forgive her. 😉

  9. So funny and so true! The mad morning scramble, the clothes argument, the chaos the instant they return home, the farts at dinner (with my boys lately its vomit humor) – I can relate to all of it. Especially feeling like I ruin things the instant I lose my patience. But then I remember that we’re all human and a good mother doesn’t have to be perfect. She just has to keep trying. Great essay.

    • Thanks, Tori. I guess I’m not all bad because I still get invited to play basketball after school or for impromptu reading assessments in my daughter’s room. Thank goodness, right?

  10. I feel exactly the same way with my kids and scarily, I think you just described my mon thru fri.

    • Well thank goodness the weekend is here! For the record, today, no disaster zone at the front door and I didn’t sweep until after they came home. Maybe that’s the secret.

  11. Lisa

    Hmm, “fart powder” – I really like that one. Can I use it? I like the post too.

  12. Thanks for sharing this! I swear everyday I wake up with my mommy game on and then after a few good mornings and subtle kisses, I become something I so said I would not be the day before and the day before. You are right…all that matters is that our chidlren love us and we love them. I remind them often that mommy is a person too. If anything, it’s not that we are not doing it as well as others, it’s that we are admitting to (okay not really) showing our true colors – our imperfections and striving to improve each day! Love the “comment that leads to a complex” line – I wonder that constatntly. LOL!

    • When my kids are grown and they tell me what I did wrong, I’m sure I’ll say, “I KNEW it!” Oh well. I tried. 😉

      • I laughingly used to tell my kids that they could send me their adult therapy bills. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be the kind of parent I had so I read books, listened to theories and tried my best. There was a lot of push and pull but we get along very well now and, with the youngest about to turn 20, I’ve yet to see a therapist bill. Your kids feel free to struggle against you BECAUSE they know your love is unconditional. That makes you their perfect Mom.

      • I was just talking about this with a friend over the weekend. We were talking about how our kids don’t ever act like this at school and came to the conclusion that’s a good thing. They’re comfortable here because they know we love them. Although we could do without some craziness now and then. 😉 Thanks for the encouragement. Much needed.

  13. I always appreciate the raw honesty you infuse into your writing. I’m sure all the mothers who read your posts breathe a sigh of relief to know they’re in good company.

    • Thanks, Traci. I often hesitate to hit that publish button. I really do fear sometimes that I am alone and people are going to say, “God, she’s mean!” It’s really hard when you blog though and only write snippets about your life. I really wish the kids would give me some material though. They’ve been really boring lately. 😉

  14. I think every mother is like this at times. The ones that seem like they do mothering better only seem that way because you don’t see those less flattering moments that usually occur at home when no one else is watching. But losing your temper with your kids doesn’t make you a bad mom. It’s probably good for kids to have someone snap at them when they get too annoying so that they can learn to be less annoying and how to interpret social cues long before a person reaches the point of snapping at them. Better they learn it from their mother than from someone that doesn’t love them and doesn’t have their best interests at heart.

  15. I cant believe you wrote about my life thank you , you saved me time now I dont need to post this lol awesome.

  16. So honest and beautiful. You just painted the picture of a wonderful non-robot mother. Am sure your kids think you are the best mum in the world.

  17. I think it’s pretty much all about the love. Everything else will fall into place. I hope. Otherwise, I’m in big trouble.

  18. Lovely writing! My little princess is just 3 yet but I adore her to bits. All I have to deal with her not-so-bad tantrums is to give her a tight hug, loads of kisses and gently speak to her. She’s always ready to understand and cling to mummy. God bless these beloved souls, we mums live to love them and see them happy and prosperous.

  19. Wow, you must have been spying on my life! I think it’s acceptable to let the kids know when I’m angry or not having a good day, or just grumpy. It lets them know not to be afraid of having these emotions and it’s okay to let things out sometimes. And that learn that mom is NOT perfect–no one is. My parents certainly didn’t sugar coat things and I grew up with lots of respect for them. And love, of course.

    • Nope, no sugar-coating. Only on the candy. It’s funny. I find as they are getting older though that they are quick to point out when we do things wrong. I’m going to miss the days when they thought we were perfect.

  20. The ending was priceless.

    Kids drive you crazy — I think it is in their job descriptions. And yes, it’s ok for you to be grumpy because other people will be grumpy when they irritate or bore or whatever-them. They need to get it from a loving source.

    We’re all good mothers (or fathers). We’re all bad mothers (or fathers). We’re all human.

    But I swear, I went back to work when my son was in 3th grade, taking the early morning shift and letting my husband get him ready for school just so I didn’t have to say one more time — “put your shoes on NOW!” And the screen saver at my office computer when I arrived my first day had a hundred pictures of the LLBean untied boot!

    • That is great, Elyse. It’s always the shoes, isn’t it? I swear my daughter can drag it out for 15 minutes. She finally wedges her foot in and it just doesn’t feel right. I have shoe duty in the morning. My husband walks out and “warms up” the car. 😉

  21. Great post as always. This morning my husband and I were out for a leisurely breakfast. Two tables down, a mom was eating with two toddlers and a baby in a carseat (on the table). It was a little chaotic. The oldest, about three, kept repeating “Mommy, cut my pancakes,” as she barely held her plate about ten inches above three water glasses and a cup of coffee. I said to my husband, “I’m going to cry.” he asked why. “Do you hear that little girl, ‘Mommy cut my pancakes?’ I miss cutting pancakes.” I love how you seem to always be reflecting on how you are handling motherhood; I think it is a great thing not to take moments for granted – they do make a difference.

    • Of course right now I think, “Would they just cut their pancakes for crying out loud?!” But I see your point. I always love your perspective of having gone through this and helping me make sure I absorb it — because this will not last. Thank you.

      • So funny. Over dinner (again very quiet and leisurely), I told my husband about my comment on your blog. His reply, “Yeah, but back then all you wanted them to do was just cut their own pancakes.” Then he said, “I’m pretty sure Kelly would let you cut her pancake if you asked her.” Kelly is 22.

      • See! There are days when I tell myself, “They will be able to do it before they go to college. And if they don’t, someone will make fun of them and they will learn to do it very quickly.” You may have just inspired a blog post. 😉

  22. Exactly. So, so exactly my daughter and me. Flashes of temper. Hers or mine. We’re learning to apologize and start over. I once threw all of her dresses from her closet to her floor, still on their hangers, after too many minutes of arguing over clothes. Afterwards, she crawled into my lap, sniffling. Quiet. Then: “Mama, did you know that a sea anemone takes the clownfish into its tentacles, but to protect it, not to eat it?” Oh, child.

  23. Sounds just like a day in my house! You are surely not alone in the feeling like a bad mom department because I have the exact same battles. I loved how you describe yourself as sometimes being the mean girl you tell them to stay away from, I find myself telling my daughter all the time that she shouldn’t wear her hair a certain way or not so nice comments about outfit choices and then I resent myself for not appreciating her originality.

    • And it’s that originality that we’ll so love when they are older. I’m learning to keep my opinions to myself and let her figure out her identity. It will be a true test when she starts wearing short shorts or dyeing her hair black, but I’ll try to resist! 😉

  24. A perfect day is one in which we know that we love each other, and acknowledging that we’ll try to do better tomorrow.

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