Dear Mom Who Is Totally Screwing Up,

Today my six-year-old daughter screamed the whole way home because I would not buy her a pottery wheel. Today I lost my patience. I will lose my patience again tomorrow.

I sometimes clean up her messes, because I can’t deal with the potential meltdown or maintain the calm presence required to walk her through how to clean it on her own.

I let her watch kids’ shows with obnoxious characters who whine a lot and lack depth.

I tune her out after hours of nonstop talking. Lord knows what I have given her permission to do when answering with a vague, “Yeah, sure.”

Yesterday she informed me that she hates quesadillas, one of the five or so foods she has always willingly consumed. Eat chicken nuggets then. Whatever.

I catch myself whining at her in the same voice that enrages me when it comes from her mouth. I am failing by example.

I’ve read the articles; I know the current “rules” of being a great mother. I think most of those carefully curated “shoulds” were written by liars and people who have never been around children. At best, they are hopeful ideals.

I gave in to the tantrum because my brain was so loud, and it was the only way to filter out some of the noise.

I am not teaching her enough about empathy and equity and racism and compassion and feminism and and and…

I said it was time to go! Get your shoes on right now!

Kids need rules and structure and patience. Those things do not play well together. Probably because their mothers failed them.

I played on my phone. I played on my phone because I needed to escape, and if you just leave your kid at the park, people call CPS.

In a minute, I’m busy right now.

I’m busy not volunteering at school. Not reading enough books to her. Not not not.

Inside my head, there is a version of me sitting with my head between my knees and my hands over my ears. Inside my head, there’s a version of my kids tapping me on the shoulder, repeating, “Mommy, watch this. Mom. Mommy. Mom.” Because of course.

But I do know this. At the end of the day, she asks to cuddle. She shares her dinnertime candy with me because she “likes to do nice things for people.” She talks about the fun things I actually mustered up the energy to do, not as a way of saying how much better I could be, but as a way of saying how much “enough” I am. She sometimes mimics my worst but also mimics my best.

So maybe there is hope. Maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe there is always tomorrow.

Dear Mom Who Is Totally Screwing Up, I wish this could be one of those uplifting messages about how you’re really not. But maybe you are. How the hell would I know? All I have to offer you is solidarity and a glass of wine.

Maybe maybe will have to be enough.

Originally published Sept. 2016.

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