I failed at being a mom today. And yesterday, too, if we’re keeping track. Goodness knows I’m always keeping track.
The day started fine. I got my girls ready for dance class. We headed there. My 2.5-year-old participated minimally and insisted I stay with her the whole time. My 5-year-old was self-sufficient and used her tablet during her sister’s class, and then she enjoyed and participated in her own class, independently. I walked my 2.5-year-old around outside, in the stifling heat and humidity, in order to keep her distracted and prevent her from running amuck during her sister’s class. And then we left.
They wanted McDonald’s for lunch. They always want McDonald’s for lunch. Today I relented (as I do on many days, if I’m being honest) and we headed to our local McDonald’s for chicken nuggets and plain cheeseburgers, accompanied by fries, apple slices, and a small piece of plastic they each adored for exactly 3 minutes and 35 seconds before being was tossed on the floor of my van and forgotten forever.
On the short trip, my 2.5-year-old suggested a car wash. She must have heard my 5-year-old mention it, because I’m not sure she truly knew what she was requesting. I said yes, and we headed to the car wash after picking up lunch. Immediately after paying, my 2.5-year-old decided the car wash was the worst place in the entire universe and began screaming and crying at the top of her lungs.
I ignored her, thinking she would settle once she saw and experienced the innocuous and somewhat fun adventure that a car wash truly is. What was supposed to be a quick seven-minute car wash began to feel like an eternity the moment the suds hit the car. She didn’t relent, and her cries became even more hysterical.
In an attempt to distract her, I popped the movie screen down (I love my minivan) and began playing my girls’ most recent favorite movie, “The Son of Bigfoot.” She didn’t stop. Not for a second. Instead, her cries and screams grew louder. I tried breathing to calm myself while the scrubbers released the dirt from the sides of my minivan. And then my 5-year-old added to the chaos.
My 5-year-old is a little bit anxious and hates missing any part of a movie. Well, throughout the chaos of the crying, screaming, and car-washing, she missed a part and wanted me to rewind the film to start it again for her. There are times when I comply; other times I try to get her comfortable with her discomfort of having missed a part (of a movie she’s seen 30,000 times). For some reason, on this day, I decided that because I was uncomfortable, she could be too.
So she started crying. And then screaming. Pleading with me to restart the movie (which was literally only seven minutes in by this point). All while the other one was still crying. And screaming. About the car wash that was never ending. And then it happened.
I whipped my head around and screamed back.
I told them to stop crying. I told them we would never go to the car wash again. That I would never take them out again. That I didn’t care that they were upset. That I was upset too. And my heart dropped. And my eyes filled with tears. And I felt like a failure.
I drove the 10 minutes back to my home with “The Son of Bigfoot” still playing, my two daughters whimpering softly, and tears streaming down my face, feeling like a total failure.
There are days when I succeed. There are days when I am able to quell a tantrum with a hug, or a kiss, or some steady breathing. There are days when I am unable to quell the tantrum, but I don’t fall into it head first with them. And then there was today. Today, I failed as a mom.