It’s In The Middle That I Falter (Or The Critical Face)

Lately, I hear myself saying things like:

Take your hands out of your nose.

Don’t wipe your hands on your shirt.

Stop clicking your tongue.

Focus please.

Why are you under the table?

Why are you screaming like you’ve been stabbed with a dull knife?

Don’t say “butt hole” when you’re standing three feet from your principal.

Are you clicking your tongue again?

Speak. Clearly. Please.

Stop the potty talk.

You’re clicking again!

Stop mumbling.

Why are you hitting the car with a plastic cup?

Calm down.

Is it possible for you to eat your cereal with a spoon instead of your fingers?

Why are you running in a parking lot?

Please. Stop. Clicking.

I could go on.

I’ve come to the unfortunate realization that my child has transformed into something akin to a pet peeve.  My pet peeve.  Sometimes.  Okay, a lot of the time.  I spend a good part of each day preparing myself for afternoon carpool – for the moment when after several hours void of tongue clicking, potty talking and mumbling, I’ll be reunited with this (gulp) annoying little person.

Ugh.  Did I just write that?

He and I are both a perfect match and a paradox.  He’s my son and my love and my light, but…  He’s a boy.  And I’m not.  He’s six.  And I’m not.  He’s making his own way, and he doesn’t want my help, except for all the times when he does, which is awfully confusing.  And, oh, he’s an emotional creature!  His feelings are raw, extreme, and often surprising, and his way of processing the world is vastly different from mine.  I don’t know what it’s like to stand in his shoes any more than he does mine.  I sometimes marvel at how different we are given that he once lived inside of me.

I begin each day giving him a gentle good morning hug, and I end each night giving him a tender good night kiss.  It’s in the middle that I falter.  It’s in the middle that I forget he’s a young boy trying to figure out who he is, a kid working out the kinks.   It’s in the middle that I hear myself saying things like:

If you sit like that, the chair will fall backwards.

Why are you laughing like that?

What happened to please and thank you?

Stop clicking your tongue. 

I worry that I’m too hard on him.  That he feels judged.  That he feels criticized.  That my constant attempts to mold him – even if they come from a deep place of caring and love – will, in the end, only serve to make him believe he isn’t good enough.

I imagine him all grown up with thick layers of disappointment, loss, and self-doubt on his skin.  It’s inevitable that life will thrust these feelings upon him.  It happens to all of us.  But the last thing in the world I want is for any of those layers to be there because of me.

I woke up early in the morning thinking about something Toni Morrison once said on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”   She said, “When your child walks into a room, does your face light up?”

“When my children used to walk in the room, when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up.  You think your affection and your deep love is on display because you’re caring for them. It’s not. When they see you, they see the critical face. But if you let your face speak what’s in your heart…because when they walked in the room, I was glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see.”

– Toni Morrison  

I thought about the critical face – my critical face – as I drank a hot cup of coffee in the dark and quiet house.  (Grateful Mama.)  When it was time to wake him, I did so gently and lovingly, as I always do, and then I kept my mouth shut and let my face do the talking.


Filed under aha moment, Grateful Mama, motherhood, Oprah

7 responses to “It’s In The Middle That I Falter (Or The Critical Face)

  1. Nice piece. I really like the Toni Morrison quote.


  2. Great read. I have so many of these thoughts myself sometimes, and though I didn’t see that Oprah, I have started to think about which battles are really worth fighting; I am a perfectionist, and it’s tough for me to let some things slide… but I am constantly recognizing and working on it! So appeciative of your writing! Take care!


  3. Reblogged this on La Güera Pecosa and commented:
    I know there are so many parents who can relate!! ~ LAB


  4. Teacher2mum

    Aww, can relate to those ‘in between’ feelings with my almost three year old boy. He is baffling and exhaustingly active. Difficult to know if all our energy is moulding him in good stead for life, but someone has to tame the wildness, right?


  5. I often feel precisely the same way. My daughter is almost nine and I’m still waiting for those “warm and fuzzy” mommy moments! We have so many exhausting moments that I forget to stop and enjoy the sweet stuff. I’m not sure if you have time but, if you do, take a peek at some similar thoughts I expressed here:


  6. I, too, worry that my constant “critical” comments (which are meant to help my kids grow into better, less annoying little people) are just wearing them down. But where’s the line? Some days I think I’m helping, other days I think I’m destroying their tender little selves.


  7. I feel the same, though my son is only 2 and a half, and I can totally identify with how confusing it is to have this little person not want your help for anything, except when he does.


Leave a Reply to La Güera Pecosa Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s