Anatomy of a bad parenting day.

On Sunday morning my twins woke me up at 5 am. It wasn't a day I had to go to work or a day they were required to be at school. There were no religious events to attend and no family meals to prepare and no company coming over. They slammed doors and turned the volume of the computer up until it shook the windows and opened and closed and opened and closed the refrigerator door searching for something to eat. Then they knocked on my door. BANG BANG BANG, looking for me. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom? Mom? MOM. MOM? MOM? MOMMY? MOMMY? Mom. MOM!

I could tell it was going to be a no good, terrible, horrible, awful, very bad day.

At seven am I prepared breakfast. They wanted pancakes. I did not have eggs for pancakes. They wanted bacon. I did not have bacon. They wanted sausage. I did not have sausage. They wanted french toast but not the yucky gross kind made with the healthy whole grain bread that I like to eat but with the squishy yummy white wheat bread that is comprised mostly of corn syrup, fairy dust and glittery rainbows. I did not have the squishy white wheat bread.

It was a no good, terrible, horrible, awful, very bad day.

At nine am I was drinking my third cup of coffee, exhaustedly composing Monday's blog post, when one of my twins settled himself next to me. MOM, he beckoned. Did I know that bellybuttons are really just scabs and there's a new Super Smash Brothers game coming out for the Wii and could I buy more poster board and scotch tape so he can make a Transformer costume and why did Jake get to be on the computer when he hasn't even had a turn yet and that totally isn't fair, and did I want to hear him recite his multiplication tables because he TOTALLY could do it and what were we going to have for lunch? The words swam on my computer screen. My left eyelid began to twitch. I could feel my blood pressure start to rise.

It was a no good, terrible, horrible, awful, very bad day.

At twelve I took one of my twins to the grocery store. The stimulation of passing shoppers and Christmas displays would distract him, I hoped. I wheeled the cart through the store and realized I had forgotten my list. I wanted honeycrisp apples but the store was out of honeycrisp apples and I wanted yellow raisins but there were no yellow raisins and my boy wanted to look at toys but I didn't have money for toys. "Why not, Mom?" he asked. Were we broke? I bought him and his brother a toy each. Every check-out line was blocked by an extreme couponer arguing over that week's price on mustard.

It was a no good, terrible, horrible, awful, very bad day.

At one-fifteen I arrived home. I blearily unloaded the groceries into the house. My daughter, who was still in bed, had to be at her lacrosse game across town in forty-five minutes. I dimly realized that my kids hadn't eaten lunch. I made sandwiches out of the yucky bread. I was a failure as a mom. While putting away the mayonnaise I accidentally knocked my boy's Lego helmet off the counter and it smashed onto the floor into million pieces and my boy howled in protest and when he came into the kitchen to assess the damage the dog climbed onto the dining room table and began to feast on his sandwich and when I tried to chase him away, he bit me.

I lost it. I said the F word. (I have never, ever cursed in front of my children before.) I yanked the dog by the nape and threw him outside. I yelled at my boy for leaving Legos in the kitchen. I yelled at my daughter for not knowing where her cleats were. I yelled at my other boy for not finishing his lunch yet. I huffed and puffed and stomped and raged.

It was a no good, terrible, horrible, awful, very bad day.

Every mom has bad days, and some bad days are worse than others. These are days when you raise your voice a bit more than necessary, can't seem to get a handle on the kids' behavior, and are not as compassionate as you could be. These are days when you overreact, when you overheat, when you say things you know you shouldn't have. The days you get into bed at night and just feel like crap. For whatever reason, these days happen. They happen to all of us. We don't like to think about them, but they do. Sometimes you get into a not so great cycle and they happen, or they just happen out of the blue.

I had rough days when I was married, and now experience rough days as a single parent. I know I'm not the only one going through this. More and more moms are finding themselves left without a spouse and handling all the responsibility of raising a family. A recent news report stated that the number of single-parent households has actually doubled in just the last 20 years. For most single mothers, that means working a job full-time and parenting full-time. That's quite a load, to say the least.

As I sat in the car, driving my traumatized kids to the lacrosse field, I felt terrible. I was a Bad Mom. I had lost my temper, sworn in front of my children, and lost control over my emotions. I hated myself. So I did the only thing that I could think to do: I apologized. I know some parents might not agree with his decision. In their opinion, admitting even the most horrible mistake sounds like parental heresy. It would have implied weakness, or diluted authority. But I think that the three most beautiful words may not be "I love you." When warranted, they may be, "I was wrong." I think that saying sorry tells children that they are more than beloved, they're considered people of integrity by their parents, who want them to go into the world respecting authority, but respecting themselves more.

I told them that the way I acted was wrong. I didn't let my twins off the hook for waking me up before the sun rose, though, as that's not acceptable behavior in my house. I explained that most people do not function well on less than six hours of sleep. I told them, over and over, that I loved them. I suggested that we buy a clock for the their room so they understand to stay there playing quietly or reading if they wake before 8 am. I promised I would work harder at controlling my emotions when I felt myself becoming overwhelmed.

Amazingly, they forgave me. And I'm working on forgiving myself. No parent (or person) is perfect. Everyone has bad days. The best we can do is learn from them and move on


  1. This is so true. If and when I lose my cool with my kids (ages 5, 4, and 2) I apologize when wrong. It helps them to understand that they are important. They deserve that.

    I love your post. You are finding your way one step and one day at a time.

  2. Oh, yes. We've all had those days. *hugs* I used to grab "Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day" at story time when I was having one myself. It always seemed to help.


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