A Laptop Naptime Mama

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Shoes that Broke the Camel's Back

A while ago, a mum friend of mine recounted how she “completely lost it” over a pair of child size sparkly silver shoes. Her husband was off at a wedding in California for the weekend while she stayed home with her immensely loveable yet abundantly lively three year old twins. Her son and daughter kept my friend on her “temporarily-single-parent” toes for most of the weekend with their differing demands and their uncoordinated highs and lows (for those of you who have twins, let me say, I am in awe. How do you do it?).

Anyway, my friend was surviving… just about. But on Sunday afternoon her daughter took off her sparkly shoes just at the moment when the trio were about to leave the house – after a good half an hour of preparing for the departure, finding coats, getting on shoes, hunting for lost toys. That was when my friend “lost it.” That was when she bawled, red-cheeked, at her little girl sending both wide-eyed and startled kids into floods of tears.

As much as we don’t like to admit it, those of us who look after little ‘uns have probably all been there. The moment when we can endure no more the whines, the cries, the “no’s,” the flailing arms, the rigid refusing little bodies, or the mischievous runs and jumps in the exact opposite direction we want our child to go. It’s the moment where we loose our rag, our twig snaps, and the anger bubble rises up and pops. Harsh words escape our mouths, our eyes narrow, our cheeks flame, our nostrils flare, and sometimes we stomp out of the room.

I don’t loose it too often. Benny is a pretty easy going kid; I’m pretty easy going too. But, yep, I admit it, there have been times. Only the other day it happened and, funnily enough, it was also over a pair of shoes. Not sparkly in my case, but a similarly child-sized and innocent-looking pair of red sneakers.

For a while now, Benny has been a real home body. He loves nothing more than to be in our apartment, cozy in his pajamas, playing with his trains, or his magnetic letters, or tapping away on his computer. But staying in all days drives me a little bonkers and also when Benny does get out, he always loves the park or playgroup or library or whatever adventure I take him on.

However, he never remembers this at the moment when I say, “We have to go now, Benny.” He puts up fierce resistance regarding getting dressed, going to the bathroom, having his hair brushed, and putting his coat on. First, he tries the sweet “Let’s go later, mama.” Then, his tries the impish running away, laughing and hiding. When that doesn’t work, he starts to whine as I manhandle him into his clothes while telling him I understand he doesn’t want to leave his trains but he will soon be having fun at the library/playground/whatever.

The other day we were going through this familiar routine and just as I managed to tie up the second and final shoe onto Benny’s resistant foot, he somehow managed to kick off the first shoe. Looking back I don’t think he did it on purpose. But at that moment, after minutes of struggling and pleading with reluctant Benny, it really seemed he’d done it to infuriate me. My annoyance, which was already simmering, bubbled over into fury. I yelled at him in a voice I hardly ever, almost never, use. I kicked his shoe against the door. My pulse raced.

But, then, as I turned to face Benny, I saw his eyes sparkling with tears. “Don’t shout,” he said in a beseeching and frightened whispers. Guilt stabbed immediately, deep and hard. Before I knew it, I was hugging him tight and apologizing for raising my voice. If Benny hadn’t said, “That’s okay, Mama,” in a sweet and joking voice, making me laugh, I might have shed a tear too.

Thankfully, kids seem to forget and forgive pretty damn fast. Only a little while later, Benny was happily skipping through the library and then snuggling on my lap to read books. My guilt, however, lasted all day.

It’s understandable that we loose it sometimes. Kids certainly test us to our limits. It’s also understandable that its often innocuous looking shoes which are the trigger. After all, getting those darn little shoes on kicking feet is often the last in a long line of tiring battles we’ve had when trying to get our kids ready and out of the door.

Yet, however understandable or common amongst parents these moments of fury are, the guilt always seems to follow and the memory of our kids shocked faces lingers. Perhaps it leaves us feeling uneasy mostly because, in those moments, we are confronted with our humanness, our volatility and unexpectedness, and the fact we’re not so different from our passionate, indignant, and temperamental little charges.

Check out Benny’s blog at http://theworldaccordingtobenny.blogspot.com/ and my own Naptime Writer blog at http://joannerendell.blogspot.com/


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