On Wednesday, Bennett had a meltdown. Shortly after that, I had a breakdown.
It was fun.
On the way to school, Ben asked if we could stop at McDonalds since the cinnamon roll I gave him wasn't exactly a healthy breakfast. I wasn't sure whether or not I should be more ashamed of the fact that he was aware that his mother had not given him a healthy breakfast or the fact that he saw McDonalds as a healthy alternative.
While at school, the aide in his classroom came out to tell me he had a stomach ache because "his mom gave him a cinnamon roll for breakfast and it made him not feel well." For the record, he had fruit and milk, too. But whatever.
A few minutes later, the aide brought him out to me and said he still wasn't feeling well. It was only 30 minutes before class was over, so I just decided to pack up and take him home. He had been up with nightmares the night before, so my guess was just that he was tired.
This is where it all blew up in my face.
"I DON'T WANT TO GO HOME!" He kicked and screamed. He tried to run away. Several times, I sat him on the couch to tried and reason with him (because, of course, 4-year-olds are very rational, especially when they're running on little sleep). Ultimately, I had to gather all of my belongings and carry my flailing child out of the building.
I'm not even sure how to appropriately describe the level of noise coming out of my blessed child's mouth. I'm fairly certain the teachers were ready to go into lockdown mode, because surely there was a student being attacked in the hall.
As I'm carrying him out of the church, he starts yelling, "YOU'RE HURTING ME ON PURPOSE! YOU'RE HURTING ME ON PURPOSE!" Um, what?! I cannot explain to you how happy I was that I was in a safe place with people who know that I do not purposely hurt my children and not, say, the Target parking lot.
I'm so proud to say that throughout this whole thing, I totally kept my cool, was emotionally stable and handled everything with grace.
I did keep my cool, but I was fighting back tears the entire time. As soon as he started yelling, "You're hurting me on purpose!" I was weeping. Like, ugly sobbing right there in the parking lot. I was humiliated, frustrated and unsure of how to handle the situation. I was grateful that the preschool director and classroom aide were carrying my stuff for me so I didn't have to go back in.
Why do I tell this fairly typical story about fatigued preschooler behavior? I'm getting to it . . .
The next day, I dropped Jack at school, and took Ben and Claire with me on a full day of errands. We went to Ann Arbor and stopped at Trader Joe's, the mall, The Treehouse, McDonalds (for a healthy lunch, of course), and then a stop to browse at The Toy House while we waited until Jack was done at school. It was a FULL day.
It was also a GREAT day. They were both so well behaved, Claire napped in the car on our way home from Ann Arbor, and we all had fun. Every time I asked them to do something, they responded with "OK, Mama" and every time they were frustrated, they used their words and we worked it out. If you were to have followed me all day, you'd think I had perfect kids, and that I was up for the award of Perfect Parent.
On two occasions during our outing there were older couples who stopped and commented on how well behaved my children were and how nice it was to see how they used their manners. I couldn't help but laugh, because you know if these same people had witnessed the episode the previous day, they'd be muttering under their breath about the lousy mother who needs to get her child under control.
So this is where I get to the point: Judging a parent based on the little slice of life that I happen to see that day is just not fair. I can't know if the mom I'm envying, who seems like she might have memorized the script from a love and logic instructional video, was crying in a parking lot yesterday because her son was throwing the mother of all tantrums. And the kid I see throwing a royal fit for his parents, who seem like they don't have a clue? It might be because they're all exhausted from nightmares that woke them up the whole night before (combined with the fact that his well-meaning mom wanted to give her kids a special treat for breakfast).
You just never know.
The fact is that I'm a good mom. And so are the other moms I encounter. To the best of my knowledge, I've never met a mom who refuses to feed her kids or who locks her kids in a closet while she goes to buy drugs, or who abuses her kids. The moms I know aren't perfect, but they're really good at what they do. We're all doing better than we think we are at this whole parenting gig.