Remember that conversation with my son that I told you about recently? The one where I took the high road and told my son to shut his piehole, while he took the low road and told me I was “the nicest mom in the world”?
I’ve been thinking about that a lot, because his response was such a funny, unexpected reaction. I didn’t quite know what to make of it. My first thought was that he was being sarcastic. Would the nicest mom in the world ever use the word “piehole” anywhere near her seven-year-old’s delicate ears? No, no, she would not.
But later, I had a stunning realization. What if he actually meant it?
Right after he said I was the nicest mom in the world, I laughed and said, “Oh, I don’t think so.”
“Well, who’s a nicer mom than you?” he says with utterly sincere incredulity.
“Lots of people.” And I start naming them. Whole legions of nicer moms. “I’m cranky. And irritable. But I do love you a lot.”
And he hugged me.
And it occurred to me in a flash of blinding, glorious insight days later that my son doesn’t love me despite the fact that I’m cranky and irritable. He loves me partly because I am those things. The word “piehole” is just inherently funny. So is a mom who tells you to shut yours. Most people don’t get to have moms who say shit like that. If you’re lucky, you get a mom who is kind and loving and cuts the crusts off your PB&J and smiles at you warmly while you fart in her lap.
And if you’re really, really lucky, you get a mom who is a bit rude and inappropriate, tells you to make your own lunch some mornings, and flies off the handle sometimes when you ask her to wipe your nearly-eight-year-old butt. And loves you insanely muchly.
The scene: little dude and I are lying in his bed earlier tonight, lights off, and I’m getting exasperated because he won’t be still or quiet while I’m singing him his usual lullabies.
Finally, feeling 80% irritated, 20% joking around, I say, “Liam. Shut. Your. Piehole.”
Peals of giggles from his side of the bed. He replies, 80% sincere, 20% teasing: “Mommy, you’re the nicest mom in the whole wide world.” And then I got a kiss.
And he shut his piehole.
I’m just going to say this right off the bat: I am a terrible mother.
All right, actually I’m a pretty amazing mother in some very specific ways: I am funny and imaginative and in a weird sort of way I get kids and I take them seriously in ways that most adults don’t.
But with very little provocation, I can also be as mean as a snake. And even less patient. I feel terrible about it mere seconds later, but by then, the damage is already done.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not abusive. In fact, one of the reasons that I’m writing this blog is that I suspect a lot of you fellow parents out there know exactly what I’m talking about, and you’re thankful to know someone else who will admit to it.
Welcome; stick around. Let’s be asshole parents together. Asshole parents who love our kids but sometimes wish we could send them off to Hogwarts so we could have the whole Dursley house to ourselves.
* * *
I used to be a historian by trade, so I will usually speak by way of example.
Let’s take Mother’s Day. It was yesterday, and it was one of the worst days I’ve had in a long time.
Things started beautifully enough. A few days beforehand, my son (who’s 7) brought home the most amazingly sweet Mother’s Day card, filled with such charming sentiments as this (the teacher’s prompts are in bold, my son’s responses in plain text):
- I like it when my Mom sings, it fills my heart with love.
- I’d like to tell my Mom how much I love her, which is to much for me to explain.
- My Mom has a pretty smile! I like to make her smile by saying “I’m sexy & I know it.”
Adorable, right? Funny and sincere and utterly tear-worthy. I wept. Which pleased him.
Then on Saturday, he had a sleepover at a friend’s house. I got to go see a movie and go out for a cocktail with my husband. They had squirt-gun fights and stayed up late.
And it’s that last thing that turned the whole of Mother’s Day on its ear. The boy was about five hours short of his usual sleep quota when he came home that morning. A good mother would recognize this and dial up her patience meter to 11. A perceptive but bad mother like me would recognize this but still fly off the handle when her 7-year-old son comes butt-naked into her home office, says he needs his ass wiped, and then proceeds to sit down on her office chair.
In his defense, he says, as I angrily wipe poop stains off my office chair, “you’ve never really taught me how to wipe. So it’s not my fault.”
Yeah. It all went downhill from there. An hour later, when my husband returned from church, we were both seething and Mother’s Day brunch wasn’t going to be happening.
* * *
It got better. Later.
But my point — in this first blog post — is this: motherhood is some seriously exhausting shit that will never completely wipe off of your office chair, no matter how much you scrub it and spray it with Febreze. There are profoundly redeeming qualities to being a parent, but those gorgeous moments we experience with our kids also come at great cost.
I’m done with pretending it’s all sweetness and light. It is bittersweet — a flavor that frankly is less cloying.