I wrote the following post a few months ago, then chickened out when it came time to post. Re-reading it now, I smile at that...because don't we all pretend, even just a little bit, in our blogs? That we're always crafty, that our houses are pretty, that our child never wear a second-hand shirt with a (gasp!) Nike symbol on it. That we never give our kids McDonald's fries when out shopping because we didn't have the time/energy to pack a healthy snack. That our kids don't watch too many movies on days when we just want a break. Why do we do it? What are we afraid of? Read on, dear readers...this mama is months down the road from when this post was written, and although I haven't arrived yet, I'm working on it...
Women are so good at pretending.
We pretend to love playing "I Spy" in the van when actually, we'd like our kids to give us 5 minutes of peace. We pretend that we're in the mood at 11 o'clock at night, even if all we can think about is sleep, because we don't want our husbands to feel rejected. When we know company is coming we frantically clean our houses and pretend that it always looks this nice. We smile when we're sad, resist shouting when we're full of rage, and pretend that every moment of raising these demanding little souls we call our children is delightful.
I had one of those days. After spending 40 minutes gathering up library books, getting the kids dressed/combed, packing the diaper bag, and buckling all three of them into the van in the pouring rain, I couldn't find the keys. Moments like this make me feel like the top of my head might explode, like Old Faithful...a geyser of frustration and "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD" disbelief spewing up to heaven. After tearing the downstairs apart, dumping my purse three times, and scouring under the seats of the van, I conceded defeat and brought three very disappointed children back into the house.
Jude was a real pain in the neck today. After being sent to his room several times, he announced that he was going to punch me in the face if I kept "talking to him like that". My eyes almost bulged out of my head but I managed to act calm. Then I overheard him telling Violet, "If mommy tells you to do something, just punch her in the face".
If your alarm bells are going off, please note: Jude has never witnessed anyone punch anyone in the face...punching mommy in the face is not a regular practice at the Knitty Gritty Homestead.
So, while I was upset by his words, I took a few deep breaths, and thought about what the mama I'd like to be would do. I tried to be objective, and prepared myself for calm intervention. When he came near me again, I reached out to him to draw him into a hug to discuss what he was feeling today that made him so angry. He mistook my hands on his arms for me restraining him and took a swing, just barely connecting with my chin...
(Yes, dear reader, at this point feel free to be appalled, and gasp in horror)...
Usually, this would make me fly into a rage. I'd yell and send him to his room. I know this is ineffective, but I'm kind of out of tricks these days. I don't know what else to do, and feel guilty and ineffectual pretty much every day.
Instead, I started to cry. And then to bawl. It alarmed my child right out of his nasty mood, and then he started to cry, too. I told him to go into the other room, and I let it out...all the pretending.
Pretending to be calm.
Pretending to be super mom.
Pretending to know what I'm doing.
It felt good to let it out. Heck, it felt GREAT. But, I had to pull it together again when the girls started asking for stories. Deep breath, a talk with Jude (where he cried and cried with regret at upsetting me so)...
After this difficult morning, I cleaned my entire downstairs, collected and washed the eggs, sorted the laundry, cleaned the bathroom, styled my hair, and put on makeup in preparation for a visit from my in-laws, with their friends visiting from England.
Once again, I pretended: that my house is clean, that I effortlessly look nice, that my children are always happy and sweet, that our life is rurally idyllic and peaceful.
Because the reality of it is that my son always misses the toilet, and the pee runs down the sides and pools at the bottom where it dries into little crusty yellow circles. My kitchen table is used more often for crafts than for meal time, and my front doormat usually has blobs of straw mixed with chicken poop on it. My hair is usually in a ponytail, and I spent the morning yelling at my kids and crying in my kitchen.
But when everyone arrived, I looked lovely, my house was clean, my kids looked adorable and were on their best behaviour. I poured the wine, served homemade coconut milk ice cream, and listened attentively to the conversations around me.
Why do we pretend?
I can't answer for you. For me, the reasons are plenty. I pretend so that my kids will think I'm the best mommy ever! I pretend so that I don't hurt my husband's feelings. I pretend so that others won't think I'm too opinionated. Wow. Writing this post did more for me than 10 years in therapy could. I'm off to take some steps towards expressing myself more authentically, while digging a little deeper into this concern about what everyone else thinks (at the cost of my own feelings).
Are you, like me, a Great Pretender? Why do YOU do it? Does it make you happy, in the end?
PS You'll be pleased to know that after the above incident with my son, he has been much gentler in his words and actions; I think my tears shocked him so much! Manipulating your child through false emotions is not kind. However, expressing genuine distress with tears is probably the best thing I've (inadvertently) done in recent months. Things have been much, much easier since then.