Oh, boy. Confession time.
I went to an ex-students wedding on Saturday. Husband had to jet right after the ceremony to get to work…so I was left alone with Princess and Tank. Usually…and I now emphasize the word Usually as if it’s the most important word in the English language…Usually the kids are great. They’re not perfect angels, but they have manners. They’re well-behaved. They’re respectful and listen when I tell them to do something.
I prepared for the wedding as a “good mother” should. I brought cars, crayons, pads of paper, tic-tac-toe sheets, barbies, Nintendo DS and three games, Cheez-Its and Popcorn. Enough to keep the kids busy through Armageddon. Seriously.
They. Were. Not. Having. It.
The wedding went off without a hitch. Tank started to get squirmy so I took him outside. No biggie, right?
Within five minutes of the reception starting, things started to break down. Tank didn’t want any of the toys. He kept saying he was hungry…but not for the snacks I brought. He was beyond irritable. (Might’ve had something to do with him getting four shots two days prior…) He had an “accident”, spilled drinks all over the beautifully arranged table, played tag with a kid from the table over and proceeded to “tag” him in the back with a fork.
Oh, but it gets worse. Any time I tried to talk to him, to get him to calm down and stop running all over the joint like a madman, he screamed bloody murder and pulled away from me. Not normal for the boy who gets dejected when I discipline him by simply tell him “no” at home. Any of you out there who know Tank, know he is Mr. Mellow-Yellow. He’s quiet. Shy. Apparently not this night.
It gets worse. You see, I know my kid is acting up. I know he’s being a pain. I don’t need to be told by someone else.
A woman the next table over (with two boys my kids’ age who were acting like total angels) leaned over to me and said, “I brought toys for my kids. If you want, your son can play with some of these.” She handed me a plastic frog. Tank screamed. I said, “Oh no thanks. You see, I brought toys…and food. He’s just having a bad day or something. This isn’t normal and I’m not sure what’s going on with him.” She looked at me like I sprouted six heads. Like it was an excuse I’ve given a thousand times at a thousand different weddings.
I realized…I am THAT mother. The one with the child running rampant around a beautiful reception. Never in a million years would I have thought that to be me. I would have sat Tank in the car on a gazillion second time-out…but I couldn’t leave Princess alone in the hall. (I gave him three timeouts in the hall of the bathroom, though, where his scream echoed so loud I’m still deaf in one ear.) I would have left the reception completely…but I already told Princess we could stay for the beautiful Princess cake. She was so excited.
When I told her we had to leave because her brother was throwing a conniption-fit, she threw a conniption-fit like only a six year old girl knows how. Water works started. The bottom lip popped out. Her feet dragged the floor. She pleaded her case with everyone she saw on the way out. I was the evil step-mother tearing her away from the ball.
Picture this: I’m dragging a screaming three year old with one arm and holding the hand of a wailing six year old drama queen in the other who “Swears she’d be good enough for cake if I just let her stay!”
After they were buckled into the car and the crescendo escalated in the cab, I slouched against the side of the truck and took a deep breath.
I am that mother.
I was never going to be this mother.
The world has officially flipped on its head.
Then I came to the conclusion that all those other mothers might’ve been having a bad day too. Their kids might not be hellions every day. They might’ve just gotten shots. The mother might’ve been holding the fort all her own with no one to lend a helping hand. The kids might’ve been sleep-deprived. Hungry. Fussy.
I was so judgmental.
I apologize to all the mothers I’ve judged through the years for unruly children. I feel your pain. We all try our best…sometimes though, the worst days shadow our best efforts. We end up looking and feeling like failures in the process, but we have to remember: It’s a single day. One day.
And tomorrow’s a new one.
Today I’m going to take this lesson on perspective and apply it to my work-in-progress. So much hinges on whose perspective a scene is written. The scene at the wedding would have been completely different had it been from the bride’s perspective. Or from the woman offering up her son’s frog. Or from Tank.
Times like these help me remember that a scene needs to be written from the person who has the most to lose. That night, it was me. I lost my sanity. I’m only now getting it back one behaved child moment at a time.