Written last night before bed

            Sometimes at night, I suddenly miss my child.  We have been together all day, we have driven each other up and down the walls of this godforsakenbeigetemporaryapartment forty-seven times, he has whined, I have yelled, and 7:45 has come as a relief all around.  But then, hours later, lying in my bed, I ache for him so strongly I almost get out of bed and go hold him.

            I never feel like this about Benjamin.  Cuddly though he is, I never feel like I must have him in my arms right away.  I am happy for us to be apart for the night and come together in the morning.  No, this is a feeling reserved for Zachary.

            It is not that I love Zachary more.  It is that I fail him more egregiously.  Part of that is because we are so similar, and part of it is that he needs more from me.  More patience, more understanding, more sympathy.  And lately, he hasn’t been getting it.

            There is a fine line between discipline and bullying.  A fine but bright neon line that pulses dangerously between setting strict limits and pushing a kid around.  It is a line I am not crossing – yet.  But I am close enough to feel its heat.

             I expect too much of my little man.  He is so good in so many ways, but so difficult in others.  He is so grown up, and so I expect him to be all grown up sometimes.  And, the truth is, when you tell a three-almost-four-year-old to put on his shoes, sometimes he gets distracted with a toy instead.  At 8:30 AM, I get that.  At 7:00 PM, when I need to take out the trash because my husband is not coming home again (work, not another woman) and the trash is too far away from the apartment to do it once the kids are in bed, I lose my temper.  I yell at him.  I tell him I need his full cooperation when Daddy isn’t there to help.

              But it’s not their damned fault that Daddy isn’t here.  It’s not their fault that Benjamin wakes up in the morning and says “Daddy working, Mommy right there.”  It’s not their fault that we are in a temporary apartment where the garage and trash are so far away I have to put Benjamin in a stroller to get there.  It’s not their fault the garbage disposal and stove went out at the same time.  It’s not their damned fault.

               I must back away from the line, a retreat mothers the world over know only too well.  I must remind myself that he is only little, despite his enormous vocabulary and outlandish math skills and serious little demeanor.  I must remember that he gets picked on enough by the big kids in the school play yard and bitten enough by his brother (although who starts it, kiddo?).  I tell Benjamin that if he wants to bite someone, he should bite himself.  I must take my own advice.

               And so, at night, I do not creep in there.  It is not his job to assuage my guilt in his sleep.  But, tomorrow afternoon, as we creep through to dinner-time and I start to wonder how the hell I will ever handle three kids, I will do better.

              Tomorrow, my sweet child, tomorrow we will do better.

22 responses to “Written last night before bed

  1. ah. I have been struggling with this lately as well. Not enough patience and coming dangerously close to crossing that line. I yell a lot more than I would like. Like it’s her fault her father works 60 hrs. a week and is barely home? And Monkey is only 12 months. But she’s stubborn and hard-headed and so, so, so needy. I often don’t have much left to give. I couldn’t imagine how I’d deal with another, plus a third on the way. That takes a lot more than I’m afraid I have sometimes. I can only hope I will deal half as well as you seem to when the next one comes along….

  2. Oh, boy. I feel you. I so, so do.

    All we can do is the best we can do, and make tomorrow a better day.

    I don’t always know whether it’s easier or harder that no matter how snappish and irritable my mood, in seconds, Bean is holding up his arms for a hug and saying “Aye Mommy” in that plaintive voice that says “let’s make up”.

  3. Oh this is so touching and well written. I know that doesnt’ help you a lick, but I sympathize with you! I’ve suffered a lot of guilt over my daughter bearing the brunt of things that just were not her fault or responsibilty. Ahh. It’s really hard. I hope today is MUCH better.

  4. I know this so well. Last year and the first half of this one I was thisclose to that line … well, more than I want to recall. She and I were alone and napless and friendless and family-less, we were all we had and there were days when I wanted to just have an easy day and she just – couldn’t.

    Because, as you say, despite the articulate vocabulary, she is just little and learning.

    It is so hard when you are in transition and your partner is helplessly sucked into his work.

    I hope your day is brighter and better today, Emily.

  5. My middle child creates this same guilt with me. At night the guilt is the worst, when they are sleeping there, and the silence just emphasizes all the ways I have failed him that day. He is 8, going on 9, and I still have these days.

  6. The next day, making it better. It’s all we can do at the end of a long day like that. We have many of those here.

    This drove right to the pit of my stomach: ” I tell Benjamin that if he wants to bite someone, he should bite himself. I must take my own advice.”

    I hope today is a better day for you. For all of us, and our children.

  7. ” There is a fine line between discipline and bullying. A fine but bright neon line that pulses dangerously between setting strict limits and pushing a kid around. It is a line I am not crossing – yet. But I am close enough to feel its heat.”

    oh… i know this. you’ve said it so well.

    good luck

  8. Same, same, same . . .

    That’s all I can say.

    Our firstborns, are the same . . . .

    And our guilt is the same . . .

    Today, will be better . . . .

    Yes, it will! 🙂

  9. I just read this post to my husband. He commented, “It’s almost too painful to listen to”– not painful b/c of you, painful b/c of US. We know this well.

    We feel like we push & push & push one of our guys, not physically, of course, but in every other way. He’s so complex; he can be so loving, so needy, so infuriating. He’s somewhat of a mystery to us & I swear, we are on his back constantly about reading all the time when we tell him to get dressed, get in the bath, put on his coat, eat breakfast, whatever. A lovely problem to have, I know, but it is so hard to get things done, to remain patient, kind & understanding. We often feel like we need classes on how to parent this one son, not general parenting classes, but parenting a sweet, sweet boy who is frighteningly bright and sensitive to the -nth degree.

    Ohhh, the line about discipline & bullying…

  10. yes, yes, yes. i do the same with ben. the expectations heaped on the firstborn, to be more mature, more thoughtful, more respectful, more obedient…


    try to cut yourself some slack, though. you are going through a VERY stressful time.

  11. You do not fail him, you don’t.

  12. Oh yes, that failing feeling. It doesn’t go away.

  13. I am in this place too. As all the pressures of the cross-country move mount, and I can do less physically, and husband is less available (and more tired) — I have no tolerance for the child. And as the pressure continues to mount, and 2 more babies enter the picture, and husband starts a whole new job — I fear I will cross that line.

    All you can do is try your best each day. And shower them with love in the moments you are able. You will have better days, and you ARE a good mom.

  14. OK – this must be universal…I feel the same way.

    by sharing we prepare for a better day…and yes, it will be better.

    thanks for sharing

  15. Thank you for writing about this and for provoking so many comments from other moms. It is one of those things that many of us go through, and we all feel guilty. So then, it isn’t talked about.

    I know this feeling too well, even though we only have one child. It isn’t his fault that we both have to work to keep our heads above water. Yet my frustration at the crazy schedule does spill over.

    Not physicially, but like you, in lack of patience…

  16. Oh, I hear this, Emily. I hear you. I’ve so often walked that line and also crossed over sometimes into the bullying side. It’s a terrible feeling.

    I love that you are writing about this, because I’m guessing it helps you feel better, and I know it helps all of us to read that we’re not alone in these feelings sometimes.

    And… I LOVE your advice about biting (if you must, bite yourself). Cracked me up.

  17. Thank you for being honest.

  18. We all fail; we all fall over our own efforts to do everything, and be everything and live up to those lofty ideals we painted for ourselves on the sky. It happens every. single. day in small ways and big ones.


    They know you love them. They KNOW you love them. And that is the success that is so huge it swallows up all the little failures that happen along the way.

  19. E – you are such a good mom. I can tell from reading about your love of your children. Every once in a while, even the best slip up. It’s seeing it that is important, because it means that you will do your best to watch it next time. When I slip up, I apologize to my girls and let them know that even I am not perfect and hope they will forgive me. And I promise to work harder at it. But i too can understand your pain of laying in bed feeling guilty. Hang in there, tomorrow can be a better day!!!

  20. All I can really say to this is that once I caught myself snapping at my four-year-old son, ‘Don’t be so childish!!’ That pretty much says it all about my state of mind that day! Know that there is no worse kind of mother than a perfect mother. You teach him more about the world by being unfair and unreasonable sometimes, and still loving him very much, than you do by behaving perfectly. You’re helping him adapt to reality, not to some lovely illusion.

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