Remember when you were in the passenger seat and your mom had to slam on the breaks (because she didn’t notice the car in front of you had stopped while she was yelling at you or one of your siblings in back)? Before you could smack your cute, little face into the dash, Mom had reached her arm across you. Like a human airbag. That’s “momming.”
I’m pretty sure the only time my mom reached across the car at me was the time she gave me a bloody nose. I don’t remember what I was doing, but I remember is was annoying. She’d just picked us up from my grandmother’s after her second job. It was dark, but I wasn’t tired. I was full of energy and excited to see my mother after being cooped up under grandma’s rules all day.
I don’t know what kind of day she’d had. I know, now, that it was long. She worked in a mail room 8am-4pm, and in a high-end boutique 5pm-9pm. Most days. I didn’t think then to ask her how her day was. It wasn’t my job to ask her how her day was. I was a kid. But, I think now, that she needed someone to ask her how her day was. Someone to listen to her and care about her as much as she cared about us. Someone to rub her feet and tell her to take a nap. But, she never had that person, as far as I can tell, and she took that out on us. Not in a way I’d call typically abusive. More, in the way a person who looses balance next to a rushing stream might grab out at the nearest bystander. Even if she doesn’t pull you in with her, you’re at least going to get wet from the splash.
It wasn’t her best parenting moment. I heard her crying next to me. I’m not sure if it was guilt about hurting me or just the release she needed after her day. It wasn’t her worst parenting moment, either.
My daughter will be two in May. I have it a lot easier than my mother did. My husband and I are together. He has a good job. We make enough money to pay the rent. I stay home with our daughter who goes to daycare three days a week while I work online and try to catch up on cooking, cleaning and sanity. So, why am I having such a hard time being a better mom? Why do I have so much anxiety that I can see my daughter is about to trip over a toy but my body is frozen and won’t let me catch her or yell out? Why do I get so angry at her for emptying out the spoons all over the floor thatI yell slam the drawer shut loudly before picking her up with hate in my grasp and fear in my heart before dropping to the couch with her to cry in shame? Why do I feel like I’m floating outside myself watching my body angrily shush her at 3am when she’s crying again instead of holding her close and rocking her back to sleep? It’s like I know how to be a better parent but my body is possessed by my mother’s rage, fatigue and loneliness from my childhood.
I’m worried that when it really matters I won’t have that instinct to throw out my arm to save my daughter. I’m worried that I’ll end up crying next to her in the dark while her nose bleeds down her shirt.