Category Archives: guilt

The Million Dollar Mistake

“The Million Dollar Fuck-Up” is probably a better title.

Spoiler alert: This story doesn’t have a very happy ending.

The weather in northern New Jersey has officially shifted from fall to winter. Chilly mornings and sunny afternoons have given way to bitter cold, cloudy, and windy days with occasional snow flurries. In other words, it’s time to wear pants.

At bedtime last night, I told my sensory sensitive seven-year-old son who hates nothing more than wearing pants that he would have to wear them to school in the morning.

“Will you pay me six thousand dollars?” His blue eyes sparkled with mischief.

I loved games. “Yes!”

“Will you pay me a million dollars?”

“Of course! I’ll write you a check!”

I didn’t anticipate how easily he would get dressed (in pants!) the next morning. I also didn’t anticipate that he would believe the printable check for kids I found on the Internet was real.

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Like, really real. Like, he couldn’t wait to brag to his friends. Like, he thought we’d go to the bank after school, deposit the check (“like Mommy does”), and receive a million dollars in cold hard cash (like Mommy does?!). Like, for real.

It seemed like such a good idea the night before. That morning, not so much. When I confessed that the check was fake, my son was heartbroken. He was Lloyd Dobbler in “Say Anything” when Diane broke up with him and gave him a pen.

I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.

I gave my son a fake check. I gave him a fucking pen.

Needless to say, things got worse before they got NOT BETTER AT ALL. I apologized for inadvertently hurting his feelings and tricking him. Tears squirted from his eyes, he threatened to take the pants off, and he wouldn’t budge from the staircase. Our surprisingly easy morning turned into a shit show, complete with a stand-off, irrational negotiations, and some miserable but necessary tough love.

Outside, the wind whipped. I was desperate. “If you keep your pants on, I’ll take you to the toy store after school.”

“I’m wearing shorts and you’re taking me to the toy store because you lied to me!” Ouch.

This grueling back and forth went on for a long while. In the end, he kept his pants on, but we were late for school and he refused to hold my hand on the walk from the car to the main office, which was his way of giving me a pen (and stabbing me in the heart with it and twisting it in both directions).

Did he need to wear appropriate clothing for the weather? Yes. Did I inadvertently lie and hurt his feelings? Also yes. Did I take him to the toy store after school? You betcha. Guilt is expensive, and for the record, I paid with cash, not a check.

The lessons in this cautionary tale require bullet points.

  • Kids are literal thinkers. Don’t forget this important nugget. Ever.
  • Don’t write checks you can’t afford.
  • Never break someone’s heart and then give them a pen.
  • Don’t judge parents. We’re all doing our best, especially on Monday mornings.

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Filed under guilt, motherhood, parenting, school, sensory processing disorder

The night we didn’t lose the dog and I failed as a mother.

We were at the park when I asked Riley to hold Gertie’s leash so I could help Dylan with his shoelaces. He wrapped the leash around his body and pretended he was tied up.  “Be careful,” I said.  Moments later, Gertie’s harness slipped over her head from the pulling. All of a sudden, she was loose and running in circles. The sun was setting and there were dense patches of wooded areas in every direction.

My heart leapt out of my chest thinking of all the different ways she could’ve disappeared forever. It took about thirty frenzied seconds to catch her, but it felt like 30 years, and the clumsy, chaotic process caused me to almost hurt her (I had to grab her hind legs) and her to almost hurt me (she tried to bite me when I grabbed her legs).

Partly, I was furious. Riley was irresponsible with the leash. We’ve talked about leash responsibility many times. Mostly, I was terrified. What if we had lost her?

I put Gertie back in her harness, knelt down at eye level with Riley, pointed my finger in his face and said in a quiet and harsh voice, “If we lost her, it would’ve been on you.”

Can you believe I said that to my five-year-old son? In one sentence – in just nine words – I destroyed him, even if momentarily. And what if it wasn’t fleeting? What if it’s a memory permanently imbedded in his brain (and heart), one to be replayed over and over again about the night I blamed him through clenched teeth for the (almost) loss of our darling puppy loved so dearly in part because she embodies the spirit of our beloved Harry. Call me melodramatic, but Riley occasionally reminds me of the time when he was three and caught me crying on the toilet, so there’s a pretty good chance this one will stick.

There was absolutely a lesson to be learned in the park. If you hold the leash, you’re responsible for the dog’s safety, but the way I handled it was shameful. Glennon Doyle Melton from Momastery would say it was brutiful. She’d reassure me that exposing my flaws teaches my kids that perfection is a lie and that there’s beauty in my messy authenticity, but the thought of my enraged words and the image of my finger in his face feel simply brutal.

After my rant, Riley’s eyes welled up, but he didn’t cry. The fact that he didn’t melt into a puddle of tears after my inappropriate outburst, but instead stood tall and prepared to shoulder the responsibility for something that didn’t even happen made my actions even more unforgivable. Yet, he looked up at me and said softly, “Mommy, I’m sorry.”

He was sorry. I could feel it in my bones. I was sorry, too. I spent the rest of the night apologizing to him (and his brother). Over and over again. For my words. For my finger. For my blame. I was manic at the thought of losing Gertie, and I took it out on him. I was scared about what a tragedy like that would do to our family. What it would do to me. In a heartbeat, I placed an unfair burden of guilt on him that would’ve been inescapable had the worst-case scenario actually unfolded, and I did it because I wasn’t thinking about him. I was thinking about myself.

At moments like this, I wonder who the real me is. Am I the mother who panics, yells, and says explosive and regrettable things, but holds it together most of the time? Or, am I the mother who takes deep breaths, thinks before she speaks, and is mindful of the lasting effect of her words and actions, but occasionally loses her shit? I want to believe I’m the latter, but after a night like the one in the park when we didn’t lose the dog but I threw my five-year-old son under the bus anyway, I’m not so sure.

At its core, motherhood is about putting other people first, but eternal selflessness is as unattainable as perfection. When motherhood and humanity intersect, and especially when they collide head on at a high speed, the end result is a crapshoot. The only sure thing is that tomorrow is another opportunity to try again.

Editor’s note:

Don’t finish reading this and tell me not to be so hard on myself because I’m a good mother. That’s like telling a frazzled mom with a tantrumming toddler in the cereal aisle at the grocery store to enjoy every moment because it goes by fast. I know I’m a good mother, but sometimes good mothers fail.  If you want to make me feel better, tell me about a time when you failed, too.

 

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Filed under boys, guilt, Harry, motherhood, pets

It’s A Girl!

No, I’m not pregnant.  If you thought so, you’re either nuts or a new reader.  If it’s the latter, welcome to The Runaway Mama!  Where two kids are plenty!

I’m not having a baby, but I am a New Mama!  Introducing Gertrude Glenn (a.k.a. Gertie)!

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Gertrude was my girl name.  You know, the name I would’ve given a human girl.  I know what you’re thinking.  GERTRUDE?  It’s a grandmother’s name!  It’s dated!  It’s dreary!  For your information, I also love the name Agnes, and before we decided on Dylan, Oscar and Henry were on our short list for boys.  So there.  I’m an old-fashioned name kind of girl.  (Somehow, I ended up with a Dylan and a Riley – which I love, by the way – but such is life!)

As well as being classic and beautiful (if I do say so myself), Gertrude is also a family name (on both sides of the family), and Glenn is after my Great Aunt Glenna, a firecracker of a woman whose style, whit, sharp-tongue, and big heart I admired greatly.

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Gertie Glenn is teen-tiny bundle of deliciousness (and a peeing pooping mess!), and it was totally and completely love at first sight for the whole family.  Before we met her, I feared her presence would be a painful reminder of Harry.  I’m happy to report that it’s been just the opposite.  In fact, it feels a lot like Gertie was a gift from Harry.

I see so much of him in her.  Like when she twitches her front legs in her sleep or tries to drag a palm frond three time her size across the yard or chews grass with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.  In these moments, I feel like Harry is talking to me, and I’m a Grateful Mama for the connection.

Whereas my theme song was  “Say Something” by A Great Big World

Say something, I’m giving up on you

I’ll be the one, if you want me to

Anywhere I would’ve followed you

Say something, I’m giving up on you

…it’s now “You’ll Be Okay” by the same band…

You’ll be okay

You’ll be okay

The sun will rise

To better days

 

And change will come

It’s on its way

Just close your eyes

And let it rain

 

‘Cause you’re never alone

I will always be there

You just carry on

You will understand

After one full day with Gertrude Glenn a.k.a. Gertie Glenn a.k.a Flirty Gertie a.k.a. Gertie McShmertie, I’ve developed a highly complicated, uber-complex hypothesis about parenting human and canine babies: There’s little difference between the two.

Case in point, the following happened (or didn’t happen) during my first 24 hours with Gertie:

1. I forgot to eat.

2. I felt guilty.

3. I cried.

4. I accomplished one half of one task on my 50-item to do list.

5. I did the one half of one task during naptime.

6. I cleaned pee and poop all day.

7. I talked about pee and poop all day.

8. Because of the aforementioned pee and poop, I did a lot of laundry.

9. Exhaustion-induced clumsiness resulted in several bumps and bruises, including a doozy on my left leg that happened when I moved “baby equipment” (the crate) from the kitchen to the bathroom where…

10. I finally took a shower at 4:30pm.

Five o’clock has new meaning, my friends.  All over again.  And just like with human babies, this too shall pass.

A toast to New Mamas of all kinds!  Cheers!

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Filed under babies, Grateful Mama, guilt, Harry, list, motherhood, pets