Teeth had been brushed, stories were read, and nightlights turned on. It was 8:00 on a Sunday night, and my husband was still at work (where he’d been all weekend). I was exhausted. The baby in my arms squirmed and cried, anxious to be put to bed. My stomach growled, and I realized I’d forgotten to give myself dinner; cooking for and feeding three kids was apparently my maximum number.
I told my 6-year-old, a little more firmly this time, “I need you to lie down so I can kiss you goodnight. It’s time for sleep.” He did a forward roll to the end of his bed and smiled at me, “I think I just need one more sip of water first,” he giggled.
I snapped. I saw red. “Why can’t you go to bed? Just do what I tell you for once! No water. Nothing. Get in bed and be quiet!” I was screaming at him. As soon as the words left my mouth, I had no idea to whom they belonged. I apologized profusely, but the damage had been done. One minute he felt safe, and the next, he was being shamed.
When I was trying to get my kids through their routines and tucked into bed, all I could think about was the list of things that still needed my attention downstairs: the sink full of dirty dishes, the dining room floor full of crumbs, the lunches and snacks to be packed, the toys all over the floor. But once they were all finally asleep, my mind was wracked with guilt. I could see my sweet boy’s face, oblivious to my exhaustion, only wanting to play a little longer.
I visualize his therapist’s office 25 years in the future. Will he remember our board game marathon of that weekend or the fort we built? Or will he only remember how I yelled at him when I decided the weekend was over? I don’t know. I only hope that his therapist is a mom, so she can explain that my outburst was only about me and not him.
I know I am not alone and that our experiences in motherhood are so universal. Every mother reading this knows the frustration of wishing your kid would Just. Be. Quiet. And. Put. Your. Shoes. On. And every mother knows how it feels when you regret what you said or how you reacted so deeply you would give anything to take it back.