Holy Crap, Woman, Calm Down!


by Michelle X. Curran

Have you ever had one of those crappy parenting days when you thought to yourself, Jesus, I’ve finally gone and scarred my children for life? 

No? Well, hooray for you and your perfectness. You might as well just stop reading now before your virgin eyes are burned by my stories of piss poor parenting.

For those of you who have experienced your own episodes of PPP, you might know where I’m coming from, and you may know exactly how I’m feeling right now.

Guilty. Like tomorrow-I’ll-pack-them-cookies-and-donuts-for-lunch-and-buy-them-a-puppy guilty.

(Dear Mom, please refrain from commenting that I am the best mother in the world and allow me these few minutes of self-loathing.)

I came home from my 10-mile run feeling great and kinda sorta invincible. The boys were  running around our tiny house like a couple of drunk college students, high off an apparently epic game of knee-hockey with Dad. Cute. I mean personally I don’t get how a game of knee hockey can get people so jazzed, but, hey, to each their own. They were having fun and owning it.

But then my muscles started to tighten. A wave of nausea turned my stomach. And all the good vibes I ran home with began to disappear. My amusement at their antics slowly morphed into annoyance. And that’s when everything started to go downhill, I think.

Dinnertime came and the nonsense wouldn’t stop. Potty talk – complete with sound effects – at the dinner table. Boisterous laughter. Playing with their food. A general lack of decorum. I just wanted them to eat. their. dinner. I was looking forward to a calm and peaceful evening and an early bedtime, and I could see my vision was being shattered right before my eyes. Poor husband did what he could to fend off my impending bad mood, but when he left for his weekly pick-up hockey game, the slow slide downhill suddenly turned into more of a supersonic ice luge. And there was no way I was climbing my way back to the top of that.

When SOMEONE threw a ketchup-covered french-fry against the wall, I lost it.

I raised my voice (okay, I yelled – loudly) and told the offender to clean up his mess. Then I threw his dinner away and sort of nudged him into the bathroom. No. Nudged sounds sort of sweet and playful. It wasn’t a nudge. But it wasn’t a push either. Something sort of in between, I guess. Let’s just say he knew I wasn’t going to be running him a luxurious bubble bath. I turned the shower on, put him in it, and told him I’d be back in a few minutes.

To calm down, I decided to start to tackle the huge mound of dishes in the sink, because nothing creates inner peace like scrubbing two-day-old hamburger grease off indoor grill plates.

Ok, I can come back, I thought. I‘ve got this. French fry against the wall – no big deal. 

So I make my way to the bathroom and open the door to hear my four-year-old whining that he has soap in his eye. And no wonder! He’s pumped about half the colossal-sized bottle of California Baby Shampoo and Wash all over his head and body. Jesus Christ, the CALIFORNIA BABY SHAMPOO! The crap that costs about $20 a bottle! I am out of my mind that he has done this. Why couldn’t he just crush the cheap bar of Irish Spring right there in the plastic soap dish and fling the pieces at the bathroom ceiling like his brother used to? And I *know* it’s an overreaction, but I can’t stop shouting over his whining. Why did you do this? Why? Why? Why? This stuff costs $20!  I am interrogating him.

I yell out to my oldest child that he needs to to keep his little sister occupied because I’m going to be a while cleaning up slick rick in the shower. He responds, “Okay, no problem, Mom,” because he is trying to be the “good boy” now since his brother is in a sh*tload of trouble. Five minutes later, I emerge from the “Calm” scented bathroom to find my oldest practicing his recorder in the dining room while my toddler daughter is in her bedroom rubbing my Body Glide stick all over her face. Calm, my arse. This stuff is not meant for babies’ faces. It’s meant to be applied to my body parts that AREN’T supposed to rub together when I run, but do. Or, what my best friend refers to as “Chub rub.”

Oh. You thought Body Glide was something WAY more exciting, didn’t you? Sorry.

So I start raising my voice again. I start talking to (okay, yelling at) my son about responsibility and doing his part to help out around the house. But it’s all going over his head because all he really wants to do is play another round of Hot Crossed Buns on his recorder. I can tell because while I’m talking, he’s sneaking looks at the shiny Hohner out of the corner of his eye.

Everyone’s going to bed, I yell. No books. No snuggling. Bed. My voice sounds strangely German.

So now I’m on a rant about the potty talk and the french fry and the California Baby Shampoo and the Body Glide and Hot Crossed Buns. I’m so worked up that I’m not thinking straight. I’m so worked up that I’m not looking at my kids’ faces as I’m going on and on about crap that, in the grand scheme of things, really doesn’t matter – at all.

Realization starts to set it.

Holy crap, woman, calm down. This is what you signed up for. Not just the irresistible, sweet-smelling newborns that once looked up at you with great big eyes like saucers, content to be wrapped in a soft blanket on your lap. But also the 2-year-old who is mimicking everything you do, the 4-year-old who is still so innocent but learning right from wrong, and the 8-year-old who looks to you to model calm and rational behavior.

I’ve f’d up again, I think.

Not for the first time, I apologize to them for overracting. I’m tired. And human. And I make mistakes, just like you. I hug them and then put my daughter to bed and ask the boys to pick out one book. They bicker for a bit, but then climb up into my bed with “Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You,” by Nancy Tillman and I can’t help but wonder if they are trying to send me some sort of message.

We all snuggle in bed and I read them the story about a child who trails a string of stars – his mother’s love – in every picture. Wherever he goes, whatever he does, her love will find him. Maybe it’s an exhaustion-induced sentiment, but my eyes begin to well up while I’m reading. We finish the story and then I close the book and just lie there, the boys starting to get sleepy next to me. And I hope, despite my  shortcomings as a parent, despite my irrationality and periodic flareups and displays of anger, that my kids know that’s their absolute truth too. That wherever they go, whatever they do – throw french fries at the wall or use all the California Baby Shampoo –  my love will find them.

Michelle Xiarhos Curran is a freelance writer and mom of three in Newburyport.  Visit her website at www.pbjandchardonnay.com.