I made my daughter cry today. I raised my voice at my 3-year-old Saoirse (some would say yelled), at close proximity, at a decibel sustained for entirely too long, and made her cry. I shouldn’t have yelled at her. There was no reason to get that angry.
We’d just gotten back from the grocery store. It’d started out as a good day. SK had her swim lesson this morning, and we were flying high on the pride that comes from swimming on your own, without help, for a whopping three seconds without drowning (Going into swim lessons, I heard: “I loooove Coach Mike!” Leaving swim lessons: “I don’t liiike going underwater. Let’s not do that again.”). We desperately needed some kid-appropriate food in the house (you know, fresh fruit, yogurt, lollipops), so I decided to hedge my bets and duck into the store while the girls were in a good mood. We grabbed an early lunch at the in-store cafe, and I figured that a full belly should hold the kids off for the hour (I was feeling optimistic) I needed.
But as anyone with wee ones knows, even the best of days can flip on a dime. And an hour ago, that day found me, standing over my cowering daughter in the bathroom, yelling at her while her kid sister kept trying to crawl into the room to see what the big fuss was about.
I’m ashamed to tell you this. And you know that if I ever, ever knew of somebody else treating my girl this way, I’d be all over him like a tiger gone rabid (I’m wondering if any of those moves I do in that kickboxing class I take would be effective. The class’s catchphrase is “Stay for the Fight,” after all. No? Still, though, don’t mess with my kid). But that’s not the point.
I made my daughter cry. I yelled at her because she’d emptied all of her toothpaste into the sink while trying to brush her teeth, had basically destroyed half the bathroom in the process, and, really, because I was absolutely terrified that she’d swallowed most of the tube’s contents and poisoned herself. So I frightened her because I was scared. But I also yelled at her because she’d thrown a tantrum in the check-out line of the store, and then started screaming because she couldn’t have candy. I yelled because today would’ve been my dad’s 74th birthday, but he’s dead and I miss him terribly. I yelled because the cashier put the bread in the bottom of the bag and smushed it. And because I don’t get enough sleep. And because it’s hot out. And because sometimes I just don’t know how to communicate with a 3-year-old who acts on instinct and not common sense.
After the tootpaste fiasco, I walked out of the bathroom to change Quinn’s diaper, during which the baby just kept trying to place her hands on each side of my face and give my nose a bunch of her big, smiley, wet kisses (“Look, ma! We’re just kids! See how absolutely precious we are?!”). After I’d put her in her crib for a nap, I found Saoirse in her room, tucking herself into bed. “Mom,” she said. She was looking up at me, eyes still wet, skin all blotchy from crying. “I brushed my teeth because I was trying to help you.”
Saoirse, you may read this one day (you’re pretty darned smart, so it may be sooner than later). I’m sorry for yelling at you, kid. I don’t know why we often treat the ones we love most in the world worse than we would strangers on the street, but we shouldn’t. So remember, that, okay? When it’s your turn, walk away if you need to. Take a deep breath. Remember that it’s no fun to feel small, so we shouldn’t make others feel that way, either. My love for you is higher than the sky and deeper than the ocean, as we say, but my patience isn’t quite as big. This parenting thing is a work in progress, and you, as first-born, are the test subject in this particular experiment. Bear with me. And no, you still may not have that candy, because you really did misbehave in the store. But we might be reading extra stories before bed tonight. I think we both need it today.