I love Anne Lamott. I can’t say it enough: I love her. Love her! Love her!
The other night, we started the process of putting the kids to bed. I have talked to many a parent, and all agree that it is a “process.” It might be a five-minute process for some lucky souls. Fifteen minute for others. Half hour or hour for others. We are lumped into that group. So by the time we reach an hour of “processing” for bed, we are both shot. One false move by either kid may lead to a reaction that is overblown and far too intense based on the circumstances. But that is the result of a long day full of irritations, be it people or things. We can’t blow up on these people during our day because they are our bosses or clients or colleagues. So we blow up on our little munchos because they are with us late in the evening and they are needy and they can’t fire us.
And then we feel like crap. Like mutant beings.
I typically hit my final point when I have asked M&M five times to stop wrestling on our bed and to brush their teeth. I hear a crash and one of them crying. Then fighting. Then more crying. Then the crying one tattling on the other, and the other tattling about the crying one and how the crying one started it. And then the crying one hitting the other making the other cry. So now I have two crying kids and I want to smash my head against the wall. I yell and scream and occasionally throw a small object against the wall. I stomp around. I shake my head.
And then Maria walks up to me and wraps her arms around my legs. Or Mario says “I’m sorry, mom.” And typically my anger and frustration lower quite a few notches if not dissipates on the spot. I am thankful for their resilience and my ability to realize my demons.
When they are flat on back, tucked in and kissed goodnight, I open up Anne Lamott’s Plan B Further Thoughts on Faith. I read a passage where she describes blowing up at her son one night.
“What has helped me lately was to figure out that when we blow up at our kids, we think we’re going from zero to sixty in one second. Our surface and persona are so calm that when a problem begins, we sound in control when we say “Now, honey, stop that.” or “That’s enough.” But it’s only an illusion. In fact, all day we’ve been nursing anger toward the boss or boyfriend or mother, yet since we can’t get mad at nonkid people, we stuff it down…. It’s your child’s bedtime and all you want is for him to go to sleep so you can lie down and stare at the TV – and it starts up. “Mama, I need to talk to you.” It’s important.” So you go in and muster your patience, and you help him with his fears or his thirst, and you go back in to the living room and sink into your couch and then you hear “Mama? Please come here one more time.” You lumber in like you’re dragging a big dinosaur tail behind you, and you rub his back for a minute, his sharp angel shoulder blades. The third time he calls, you try to talk him out of needing you, but he seems to have this problem with self-absorption, and he can’t hear that you can’t be there for him. And you become wordless with rage. you try to breathe, you try everything, and then you blow. You scream, “Fucking dammit! What? What? What? Can’t you leave me alone for four seconds?” Good therapy helps. Good friends help. Pretending that we are doing better than we are doesn’t. Shame doesn’t. Being heard does…. I lay on the couch with my hands over my face, shocked by how hard it is to parent. And after a minute, Sam sidled out, still needing me, to snuggle with me, with mean me, needing to find me – like the baby spider pushing in through the furry black legs of the mother tarantula, knowing she’s in there somewhere.”
She manages with such ease to normalize this episode with M&M; to take a deep breath and know that I am trying my hardest. To talk to Jon. To admit my faults. And finally, to keep loving on my munchos even with my tail between my legs.