Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's Okay To Be Grumpy

When I was in the depths of the Great Barren Wasteland, when I thought I would never get to be a parent, I promised the gods and all the forces of the universe that if I had a child, I would cherish that child and always be grateful and never be cross or angry or thoughtless.

What a dumb promise that was.

Not that I regret making it, not for a minute. It was heartfelt, and I did not have my fingers crossed behind my back. It's just that it was a promise impossible to keep.

Last weekend was tough. My darling miracle children were acting like wee demons, intent on pummeling me and each other. They were whiny, destructive, heedless little savages. I lost my cool. I screamed at them. I put the little one in time out and took toys away when he threw them, which make him even madder, so he threw more toys, which I also took away, until there was a great big pile of taken-away toys on a high shelf. I threatened to throw away all playthings not put away by the time I counted to some arbitrary number. And then I called a friend and committed the unforgivable sin: I joked about putting my darlings up for sale on Craigslist, or perhaps offering them to a traveling circus.

Oh, how I hated people who did that! How I swore I would never ever ever . . .

I cowered in fear that some vengeful deity would hurl a well deserved bolt of lightning at me and my progeny.

And then I realized something.

All parents go through this. All children have days when they work their parents' last nerve. The tantrums of the much-wanted, cherished child are no less terrible than those of the child conceived without much thought or purpose. The yearned-for child kicks just as hard, screams just as loudly, poops just as often as any other.

Similarly, my difficulty conceiving my children did not make me a perfect mother. Far from it. It may have made me a bit more patient, a smidge more grateful, a tad more affectionate than I would have been otherwise, but a parent who never screams at her kids is a parent who is either (a) wealthy enough to have a full-time childcare staff; (b) Buddha; or (c) on some serious drugs.