Mom is Not Your Punching Bag
I have a rant. When do I not?
And it goes a little something like this:
I was on Instagram the other day, because these days I'm always on Instagram (by the way, did you know NYAM is on Instagram? We post every day there. Well, I do. Go say hi). Letting people know you're out there apparently takes a million years and the time to take photos of everything all day --neither of which I have -- but I'm trying. Anyway.
As I scroll through my feed, I see this cheerful pink graphic that said...well, let me just show you:
I had this weird moment where I saved it, but I didn't know why. I kept coming back to it to read it, and I didn't know why. By my third read-through, I could at least tell that I was reading over it because I was irritated. And then I finally came to settle on why this bothered me, about the same time that my two-year-old screeched in my face for the 70-billionth time.
This might be an unpopular opinion, but oh well. It's simple: you aren't a "bad mother" if you refuse to be your child's emotional punching bag.
I'm sure some people are probably ready to fight me on this, but hold that thought.
I get that children are much less able to control their emotions than adults. Clearly. I also get that we're models for our kids, that we're supposed to be the ones to show them that taking your shoe off and throwing it as someone is only applicable if you're my Abuela (God rest her soul). Or Cardi B. That's right. I threw out a pop culture reference. But I digress. I do that a lot.
We're our kids' models for behavior, and screaming back is a bad way to go. This is true.
We aren't pillows or beanbags or any other such inanimate objects meant for people to punch when they're mad. We're not here to "absorb" abuse. We are allowed to have our feelings hurt, to feel angry or exasperated or exhausted right back. And, according to my personal opinion, we're allowed to show it in healthy ways.
There was a day where my daughter screamed at me from the moment she woke to the moment she went to bed. She only wanted her father and her brother, and she'd decided that my mere existence was an affront to hers. I tried asking her what was wrong, I tried comforting her, and I tried giving her medication in case her molars were coming in. Nothing seemed to be working. It got so bad that I was using any excuse I could to put distance between us, because whether she's two or 22, being told to "GO AWAY" and being screamed at over and over and over again is just a smidge emotionally exhausting.
So finally, this all came to a head when the kid hit me. She's two and her coordination isn't great so she mostly missed me and it kind of felt more like someone hitting me with a clump of feathers, but the intent was there. She'd wanted to strike me, and she'd wanted me to feel her anger at whatever it was that was bothering her.
So I finally allowed myself to feel it.
I sat her down and told her to "take a minute," and I sat off by myself while she wailed and screamed her anger out. After she'd released all of her rage like a little balloon, she stood up, walked up to me, and asked for a hug.
I honestly felt like there was no energy left in my muscles. I felt like I'd been punched 100 times in the face. And frankly, I was hurt and angry. I wasn't ready to hug her yet. So, I went against what every "Good Mommy" book tells me, and I fought down the surge of Mom Guilt, and I did something else: I was honest.
"Mommy loves you, but she doesn't want to hug you right now. You really hurt her feelings today, and she's not ready to give you a hug at the moment. When I'm feeling better I can give you a hug later if you still want it."
I waited for the screams or the wails of pain. I waited to see if the sparkle would leave her eyes and I'd witness the moment I set my daughter on the path to becoming a serial killer, but it didn't happen. In fact, to my surprise, she nodded as if she understood, said "OK," and walked off. Shock and awe.
I'm not saying this will work for every kid out there, but I did learn something in that moment. Emotional immaturity calls for our teaching, yes, but this utter crap that they teach us --that "unconditional love" can only be communicated by soft, dulcet tones and acceptance of whatever our children do to us -- is damaging. We can love our children and be annoyed or upset. We can love them and not want to love on them at their beck and call. They are the ones who're here to absorb. We are the ones who are here to teach.
And I personally want to teach my children that I have feelings and emotions just like they do. That does mean that they'll realize a lot faster that I don't actually have eyes in the back of my head. They'll probably figure out a lot faster that I'm no superhero, that I'm human.
But hey, for me? That's an even trade.