When I started as a prison psychologist, I had to go to the same two-week training that the federal government makes all correctional workers go through. Among other things, I learned self defense, spent a lot of time on the firing range, had physical fitness tests, and learned lots about how to prevent and handle a “major disturbance,” which is prison staff lingo for a riot. I remember one instructor saying something like, “We have the control in our institutions because the inmates let us have control. There are way more of them than us, and they could take control at any time. We will always get it back, but don’t forget that they could take it.” I heard this idea several times in various trainings I went to over the years. I think the purpose of saying this was to stress to us that our control was fragile and we needed to exert it with respect, lest our residents decide they weren’t gonna take it anymore.
Fast forward seven-ish years to a day in the life of me, The Mom, the one with the “control,” and Miss, The Toddler, the one who generally goes along and lets me have control because life flows better that way. The one who decided yesterday that she wasn’t gonna take it anymore and went into all out riot mode. Yes folks. My 2’7″, 26-pound 2 year old brought me to my knees yesterday.
Remember my post from the other day when I said potty training was going so well? Remember how I said I firmly believe you can’t force a child to go to the bathroom? Well. My daughter firmly proved me right yesterday. And I never even tried to force her to go to the bathroom. I just tried to get her to not go on the floor. Or on her little chair in her room. Or on the couch. Yesterday was not my best day as Mommy, and Miss decided to seize control of things by controlling what she could – her bladder. Yes, potty training worked very well. Miss does know when she has to go and she is able to tell me. She had been doing this very well all week. One thing she had not been doing at all was napping. So after five days without a nap, we were both tired and a bit frayed. She had an accident yesterday because she did not tell me she had to go. Throughout the entire training process up to that point I had been super positive and upbeat, even with accidents. “Next time just make sure you tell Mommy when you have to go so we can keep those underwear dry, okay?” Well, yesterday I had a not-so-wonderful Mommy Moment and I scolded her for her accident. Nothing too awful, but I definitely used a stern voice and told her that she was supposed to tell me when she had to go and not pee-pee on the floor. I think I gave an exasperated sigh or two. I did manage to regroup fairly quickly and then in my more upbeat voice repeat the usual reminder to tell me when she has to go the next time. But apparently she was not all that forgiving of my moment of testiness. From that point forward, she was in control and letting me know it. She refused to go to the bathroom when I took her in to let her try. I never pushed the issue, but did try to get her to go a few times in an attempt to stop the madness that had begun. She wouldn’t even sit when I’d take her into the bathroom, but then would go moments later in a less favorable spot. She wasn’t giving an inch. Suffice it to say, she had many accidents throughout the afternoon. I was trying so hard not to get into a power struggle with her, which was ironic, given that I had absolutely no power with this issue at all.
Things did improve somewhat right before bed, but by that time I was a wreck. I was berating myself for being the most horrible mother ever, and thinking I had ruined all the hard work we had done on the potty training by scolding her and that I had perhaps scarred her for life as all sorts of Freudian theories came to mind. And yes, this is a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. Just ask my mom, who I called near tears while chugging a glass of wine within minutes of putting Miss to bed. Or my husband who wasn’t able to get home until late last night and came in to find me grumpy and tearful and asking him to go get me ice cream (he did).
Of course, at the end of the day, when your toddler takes you down, you just have to get back up. By the time I went to bed, with the help of my husband, my mom, some wine, and some ice cream, I was feeling much better. I went to bed hopeful that yesterday would just be a bump in the road and that today would be a huge improvement. And of course it was. Miss had only one accident. She was happy to go on her potty and glowed at the praise she received. I was going to leave her with our babysitter so I could go grocery shopping this afternoon. I desperately needed to get some groceries and had wanted to go yesterday after her non-nap, but she refused to go to the bathroom, and I wasn’t willing to take her out in public with a full bladder with the way things were going yesterday. So today I thought I’d just avoid any problems and let her stay with our babysitter, whom she loves. But as I was getting ready to go she said, “I want to go store too. Pwease Mommy. I not get my pants all wet.” Well, that just melted my heart and so of course I let her come along. We had a great time. And when we got back, wonder of wonders, Miss finally took a nap! Oh halle-freaking-lujiah!!! All the world looks so much brighter on this side of a nap.
There are days when being a Mom just kicks the crap out of you. I really believe that there isn’t any more important job. Therefore, when things don’t go right, when I screw up, my feelings of inadequacy and guilt are greatly magnified. I question myself and feel like a failure. No one can make a mother of a two-year-old feel more impotent than that two-year-old. But amazingly, even when she is being a stinker and I’m at the end of my rope, the girl is sweet and loving and brightens my world. Just when I feel like I want to go crawl under my covers and stay there, she will say something like this comment from yesterday, “Lass so sweet, Lass so cute,” and then when I ask her if she’s cute say, “No, I not cute. I pwetty.” My girls make me laugh. They make me smile. They make my heart swell until it feels like it’s going to burst. Sometimes they make me want to pull my hair out. Always they make me want to be a better Mom. Even yesterday. Hell, especially yesterday! I’m not perfect, and sometimes I totally suck at this Mom thing, but in the words of that instructor, I “always get it back.” I guess that’s just what moms do. We do our best for our kids and sometimes we totally lose it. But we always get it back.