Humbled. And perhaps, red faced. These are the only ways to describe how I am feeling as we hurtle headfirst into the choppy waters of 2 and a half. I am spellbound by Briar’s explosion of language acquisition
(Oh the stress of minding my ‘shits’ and ‘damnits’)
the death defying acts asserting her autonomy
(“I. Can. Get. It.” she grunts and growls as she scales a chair and then bookshelf to reach the coveted empty water bottle.)
and utterly heartbroken and aghast at the sudden and unprovoked
(“I have to be alone” or “No, mom. I have to go away.”)

How do you respond? Rationally I am all too aware of how critical it is that we lower the boom as her behavior escalates. I cannot forgive a fistful of dirt thrown, with startling accuracy, into my face on the heels of an admonition for throwing dirt at her sister.

When she not only wrenches the ride-on truck from her sister’s arms, but actually rides on and over her sister, there must be a consequence. Yet as I stand, exasperated and truly angry, I am torn. There is such remorse (sometimes) and such pain in her eyes. I wonder if maybe she already knows, if it’s really necessary to send her to the exile of the stairs, or worse still, her room. Then I remember the stories of people who have not followed through, who have raised children who simply do not recognize weight of their actions.

Your children need parents, not friends.

That hurts. It hurts just as much as the realization that it ain’t going to be perfect. We can make all the promises in the world, vow never to do this or to do that, but the reality is, we will err. Pre-kids, and even early days with Briar, my pat line was, “I won’t do or say anything I wouldn’t want repeated as a story later in life.” Right, sure was easy back there on that high horse, eh Amanda?

Last night we were on a walk. It was a lovely night, both girls were in high spirits and I felt like supermom with Avery on my chest in the Baby Bjorn and Briar walking beside me while holding my hand. We’d been going for about 20 minutes and Briar had started to wander, dropping my hand every now and again. We crossed a street and I led her to an expanse of grass, “Walk right here, honey. Mama doesn’t want you in the street.” Before I knew it she had scampered down the slope and hopped into the street. I grabbed her hand and exclaimed something frantically. I immediately saw myself through the eyes of the-not-yet-a-mom Amanda and boy was she a judgemental shrew.

I can’t believe she is screaming at her kid like that! And her hand, does she have to grab it like that? That poor kid! I would never talk to my child like that. And just look at the way the baby on her chest got yanked as she grabbed the little kid. What a mean, mean woman. That’s not the kind of mom I am going to be.

Now in some ways, not-yet-a-mom Amanda was right. I did sound mean, and I did speak harshly and grab forcefully, but this was my child. It’s her life. I need to impart the danger present in wandering into the street. Granted, it would be great to have her understand this all before we get into the street, before we are shattering the calm of a peaceful neighborhood with shrieks about safety. This is not the kind of mom I want to be either, but it’s what I have to be. It’s being a mom, not a friend. And I can honestly say to those not-yet-moms out there that it stinks.

And they probably don’t want to hear this, or don’t believe it applies to them, because of course, they aren’t going to be the kind of mom I am, but maybe they’ll listen. The next time you are at the grocery store, the park, or maybe just on your front porch and you see or hear a parent being harsh with their child, just take a minute. Before you slay them with an icy look or make a loud aside deriding their parenting skills, consider for a moment what they are doing. Is it bitching at a kid for wanting something or is it warning a child that they could get hurt? Chances are they are suffering as much if not more than the child.

I wish I could go back and cut those parents some slack. Hell, I wish I could cut myself some slack because today I am still suffering from having snapped at Briar, whether it was what I was supposed to do as a good parent or not. Truth is, I really wish I could just be her friend, but I love her too much for that.