The week before last with my kids was a sh*t show.
I say that lovingly, because we had a lot of fun and I love them to pieces…but it was a sh*t show, nonetheless. We had most of the week to ourselves, without many scheduled anythings, so it was our opportunity to do whatever we wanted.
We went to barbecues, we went to the pool, we visited friends, we played for hours at the park. There was extra TV while getting ready for an entire day away, which is great in the short term but tends to make my son’s behavior worse in the long term. There were pushed-off naps for the baby because I wanted her to sleep in the car. And bedtime? Do I even need to go there?
Now, I am fully aware that good-day hangovers are a real thing, so I was giving my son some leeway for crankiness. Hell, I was exhausted, so I can only imagine how he felt.
So when I picked him up after his lone morning at camp and he didn’t want to go out for lunch, I didn’t push it, even though I really didn’t feel like cooking and we barely had anything in the fridge. What we did have? Ingredients for s’mores, and I’d promised that we’d make them…after lunch. So I made him a sandwich, and I ordered myself some Chinese food. He finished up just as the doorbell rang with my food.
I explained that I was going to have lunch first and then we’d make the s’mores, but he was…persistent. After the fifth no and redirection, I said, “You know that mommies have to eat, too, right? You wouldn’t want Mommy to be hungry, would you?”
“Yes, I want you to be hungry. I want s’mores NOW.”
Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. That nonsense was getting shut down right then and there.
Now that I’m a mom, I tend to put my needs on the back burner. We all do. The shower gets postponed for three days until it’s absolutely necessary. You eat your kid’s PB&J crusts because you don’t have a minute to make yourself a sandwich. You stay up way too late doing laundry or work because you don’t want to take time away from being with your kids. We all seem to have a resigned acceptance about the whole thing because how else will everything get done?
We all seem to have a resigned acceptance about the whole thing because how else will everything get done?
Years ago, way before my children were born, I remember seeing Teri Hatcher making the rounds for her book, Burnt Toast: And Other Philosophies of Life. I never actually read it, but its premise always stuck with me: that moms take care of everyone else first and themselves last. They take the leftovers and make do. And here I was, still taking the burnt toast—literally when my son wouldn’t eat toast that was too brown and figuratively all the damn time.
That attitude took over gradually and silently, and this is where it had led me. And suddenly, I was worried. I didn’t want my daughter doing this to herself someday or becoming an entitled brat. And I certainly didn’t want my son to think this is just what women did.
It was time to fix my bad attitude.
I took a breath and got down on my son’s level.
“Buddy, what you just said about wanting Mommy to be hungry wasn’t kind. Mommy is a person, just like you, who needs food and rest and to take care of herself.”
Silence. Super-grumpy face. I plowed ahead.
“I need you to think about what you said. How would you feel if said I didn’t care if you were hungry?”
“Right. And what you said made Mommy feel really sad. I know you’re a good boy and I want you to be happy, but I’m not raising you to be a good boy—I’m raising you to be a good man. So right now I have to do something for myself. I’m hungry, and I’m going to eat.”
“OK, Mom. I’m sorry. But later, can we make s’mores?”
And we did, and it was great.