Concrete stairs separate the two levels of our home. My very active toddler has always been good at navigating them, and (knock on wood) we haven’t had any accidents. But, still. They’re concrete. And so, there are rules.
He was perched on the middle step, which he knows he shouldn’t do.
“You need to go up or down. You can’t stand in the middle,” I said.
He pretended not to hear me.
“Make your choice, Russell,” I added, firmly.
He looked up and, with the most serious of expressions, responded:
I collected myself and instructed him to stand in time-out for a few seconds. He did, but kept looking back at me with a grin. A sneaky, sneaky grin.
My frustrated sigh caught my husband’s attention, and he came around the corner to help. As soon as Russell saw his father, he snapped back to the corner. Eyes glued to the wall. Because, apparently, Dad’s authority is far more important than mine.
This occurred after about a week of being sent home from day care with handwritten notes on his daily sheets: “Russell was not himself today.” “Russell was pushy today.” “Russell said ‘no’ to his teachers.” “Russell was mean to his friends.” “Russell didn’t listen today.”
The last thing I said before I fell asleep last night was, “I don’t know what to do. And, we’re just now scratching the surface of all this.”
It has piled up to create one monumental emotion: defeat.
It is exhausting. It’s embarrassing. It’s frustrating, scary, testing, stressful. And when those notes from day care and glares from strangers appear, it makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong.
It makes me feel like I’m failing. Like I’m not a good mother.
Then, I remember you, Mom.
I know I was a difficult child. Don’t think for a second that I didn’t discover the aptly titled book “Raising a Difficult Child” on your bookcase many years ago. The knowing grins of family when recollecting my previous escapades are another telltale indication. As is the fact that I still cringe at the smell of Softsoap.
I know that “strong willed” is a tame term when it comes to describing my youth. I’m fully aware that I was stubborn, sarcastic, and unafraid to talk back (not much has changed, huh?).
For that, I’m sorry.
Yet, somehow you survived all of that. Scarred, I’m sure. But, a survivor all the same. And I know without a doubt that there are countless people who would answer the question “Who is the best mother you know” with your name.
It makes me wonder: did I ever make you feel defeated? Did I ever make you believe you weren’t the rockstar mom you always were?
If so, you’ve been where I am. And you came out on the other side as a textbook example of a great mom. You may have felt like a failure as a result of my tantrums and strong will, but you never were.
So, I remember you.
The countless times I’ve had to say: “Dad, I need backup in here!”
The hundreds of times my husband and I have exchanged wide-eyed, silent stares. The what-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into glances. You know the ones.
The dozens of times I’ve closed my eyes, drawn in my breath, and muttered: “Lord, please help.”
The millions of head-shakes, sighs, and “I don’t know what’s gotten into hims.”
I remember you.
When it comes to how our children behave, the saying “what goes around, comes around” is certainly true. If I’m lucky, it will apply just as much to the grace we give them when the clouds clear.