And you know what, dear readers? I did not care. I did not feel bad for her. I’m not sure I would go so far as to say that she deserved it, but that’s because I’ve had a little time to decompress. If you went back in time to this morning and asked the version of me that was standing in the doorway watching her trip over my foot and hit the floor, that version of me, a much less nice version of this current version of me (which is still struggling to feel nice), that version of me would definitely have said she deserved it. Actually, now that I’m writing this down, my current version of me has changed his mind and has decided he will actually go so far as to say she really did deserve it, because I told her to wait a moment until we were all ready to go to the car, I made myself clear, and she disobeyed and defied me and there are reasons I do the things I do as a parent, damn it. So yeah: that’s what you get.
I drove her to daycare in silence. She quit crying by the time the car was backed out, and when we got to daycare, she seemed to have completely forgotten about it. But I hadn’t; I was still pissed. So when she tried to run out into the parking lot, I grabbed her arm and snapped at her. When she dropped her bag several times walking to the front door, I had no patience. And then when she clung to my leg in her classroom, even though I was now running late for work, I did not have the kindness and compassion to hug her goodbye. I handed her to her teacher and left. And it’s been rough ever since.
Man, what an ugly place to be. But I don’t think it’s that unusual as a parent to be in this place. I named this blog “Shaken Parent Syndrome” because in my very first post I found myself wrestling with the ways I feel shaken and unsettled by my own fears of being emotionally absent or abusive to my child. It started when she was an infant and just cried nonstop for no reason. But now it’s a different concern: she’s willful and determined and will hurt herself. Let me be clear: regardless of my terrible mood this morning, I was a responsible, appropriate parent. I didn’t feel like hitting her and I didn’t yell at her. But inside, it feels like I might as well have.
It’s both frighteningly new and terribly familiar terrain. This is one of the many burdens of being a parent. Some mornings just suck. Some evenings just suck. I’ve noticed that I have far less patience in the morning than my spouse does, but in the evenings, it’s her mother that loses patience far quicker. And then there are the moments we both run out of patience, with her and with each other. Thankfully, our two-year-old daughter has a far faster reset button than we do, and I find myself jealous of her emotional resilience in bouncing back from a bad mood.
I’m just barely good enough some days. You know how some days you wake up ready to face the world, full of optimism and determination and gratitude for being so blessed as to participate in the great sacred endeavors of life in this world? Yeah, I am not having that day today. Some days, the only reason I get out of bed is so I can drink some coffee. But I suppose that as long as I get out of bed in enough time to get everyone where they need to go, then that is good enough. As in, barely good enough is still good enough. Thank goodness for that, because it’s all I got right now.
When I finally find the time to step back from this foul mood and get into a better headspace, I will remind myself that being good enough is actually more than just good enough; it is exactly what is called for. No child needs (or even always wants, I believe) to have a perfect parent. Never mind that the perfect parent does not exist. If he did exist, he would do damage to his child. Children need parents who are only good enough. Children need to see that their parents are flawed, that mommies and daddies lose their patience and have bad days and then recover and still love their children. Bad moods will not destroy us or our love for our children. Bad moods can be inhabited without resorting to abuse or violence while still feeling yucky and crummy. It’s okay to have bad days and it’s okay to fail a little every now and then. I can still cling to “good enough,” even if I’m barely dangling on the edge with a few desperate fingers. This is all part of learning to live life in this world.
That’s what I’ll tell myself when I’m in a better headspace: good for you for being good enough. But right now, all I can think is: I’m trying to do my best, damn it.