Just lately I have struggled with not being harsh with regard to my progeny. I had been on a rather zen, non-harsh Mama roll for months – even during our move and some not getting along with husband! – but lately it’s been a struggle. One can say it was the kid doing this-or-that but I believe real harshness resides within the parent and each of us knows if we have it in us or not. My body is flirting with anger right now; it’s residing within.
Today seemed to not go well from the get-go. Ralph and I are having a disagreement (ah… how much I’d like to vent, but I won’t). This is aggravation that stays with me, even though mostly I have put it on hold. This morning after busting my ass at home I got the kids et all loaded into bike trailer: shit! tire is flat. OK. I can deal. Drive to the Farmer’s Market for eggs (2 dozen fresh), then I’m going to take the kids to split a steamed milk, then to the park. The kids have been borderline; Nels has been a little naughty. It’s nothing I can’t handle when I’m at my “normal” self but right now I’m at my harsh-on-everybody-mostly-including-myself self.
While at the Market my kids are just looking at the pies – no touching – and an employee I’ve observed before (always, every time I’ve seen her, complaining about or gossiping to someone) with the kind of wrinkles around her mouth that indicate she maintains her puss at a sphincter factor of about 8, 24/7 – passes us by and in a bored, aggressive tone drones, “Don’t touch the pies please!” to my children who are looking at the saran-covered pies with their (clean, as it happens) mitts a full eighteen inches away from said pastry.
Well, she actually corrected the wrong kids today – or the kids of the wrong Mama. Instead of ignoring her rudeness and saying a prayer for her day (my gentlest self), or perhaps saying, “I’m sorry, but I’m watching the children. Don’t worry, they won’t be permitted.” (my more assertive form), I say flatly, “They weren’t. touching. the pies.” At my tone the [ hag ] woman snaps to attention and her attitude becomes more conciliatory to the point where she tries to “friendly”-like interrupt the conversation I’m having the cashier. Get how bitchy I am – I don’t even respond to this implicated olive branch. Fuck her. I continue talking to the cashier, pay for my eggs, and prepare to leave.
Sadly, my children take this exact moment to misbehave. My daughter starts wheedling that I’d pulled her hair (actually the clasp of my purse had snagged it) and my son, oddly, grabs a penny from the penny jar and (more oddly still) won’t put it back! By this time there are three employees sort of watching my scene. My scene isn’t that bad but I want to leave. I am so frustrated and in that moment I am *only* frustrated at the kids (who I know, even in my mind at that moment, aren’t being that bad).
I am outwardly calm and nice to my kids, prying the penny out of Nels’ hand and guiding Sophie out the door verbally. But inside I am so angry. I walk to the van, holding Nels very firmly by the hand and I’m making plans at “disciplining” them in the most assholian sense of the word. I envision putting them in their carseats and delivering each one a slap. Then I will tell them what they did wasn’t cool and why (p.s. – “what they did” includes a bit of other, earlier non-cooperation I haven’t written about). If you haven’t contemplated slapping your kids before, it’s quite a trip. Your rational mind knows, “Not a good plan”. Your body and your emotions say, “Do it! Goddamnit!”
By the time I get to the car, my knowing self has given it up. I am tired and sad, not angry. I put them in their seats. I tell them I won’t take them to the park and get the milk after all. They start crying (predictably), but not hysterically so. Sophie reasons with me, “I’d like one more chance!” she says. I say OK. I outline what this “one chance” will be – namely, they do A, B, and C in the library. If they do, we will go on the rest of our outings as planned. We are all clear-eyed and only slightly weary as we leave the parking lot.
We go to the library and they follow instructions perfectly; I take them for their milk and park visit. Our relating improves and I read to them – our afternoon turns sweetly.
Obviously, I am glad I didn’t slap them or raise my voice or be mean. I am not so sure I shouldn’t have slapped the market lady. Sure, it would have been unwarranted, inappropriate, and wrong. But in that moment it would have felt kind of good, don’t you think?