I think I’m turning into Mrs. Wolowitz. (If you don’t know who I’m talking about, she’s the Jewish mother on The Big Bang Theory. You never actually see her, as her primary mode of communication involves yelling guilt-inducing rants from the other room.)
Just last night, I found myself in the kitchen, loudly and firmly “announcing” (ahem) to my daughters in the living room that if I had to come in there one more time, there would be no TV show tonight. Yes, I do dangle the possibility of 20 minutes with Olivia or Caillou (gag) over my daughters’ little heads on a regular basis. I’m ok with that; we all need to learn that our actions have consequences and that Mommy can take away your fun if you take away hers. In this case, the girls needed to figure out how to share the latest American Girl Doll magazine (I haven’t yet introduced them to the idea of the catalog, a magazine from which things can actually be purchased). From the way they were managing it, you’d think I’d asked two starving orphans to split the last morsel of bread.
So there I am in the kitchen, stirring the noodles, yelling into another part of the house. It’s not as dramatic as it sounds; our house is so small that a loud whisper is sufficient to communicate between floors. But I’m not using a loud whisper, I’m raising my voice. And as the words are coming out of my mouth, all I can think is, “When did I become a yeller? Why the hell am I yelling? This is so not the parent I want to be.” And then I keep yelling. (In our house we call it “snapping,” which sounds much more genteel, if you ask me.)
Eventually, I get the food on the table, and the girls’ first reaction is to point out all of the things they’re not going to eat, thank you very much (except without the thank you very much, of course). Usually I ignore their protestations and remind them that this is dinner, and if they don’t want to eat it they don’t have to, but there won’t be any other food, either. Yet for the first time last night, I found myself responding with, “You know, that isn’t very nice. I worked hard to make this meal for you, and the first thing you say is that you don’t want it.”
I would hope that there are those among you who have read my previous writing immediately noted the first morsel of guilt-wrapped BS I served up to my children–that I had worked hard on their meal. I’m not a cook, and I simply do not work hard on meals, especially now that I have become aware of the inverse relationship between how much time and energy I spend on a meal and the likelihood my daughters will consume it. But they don’t know that, and that’s not really the point. The point is that the words came spilling out of my mouth so quickly and easily that I can only assume I was temporarily possessed by some sort of demonic Jewish mother from beyond.
The truth is, I probably was. Possessed, that is. I think I’m a pretty good mother most of the time, fairly patient, mostly reasonable and kind, willing to read books and provide snuggles on request. But then the late afternoon rolls around, and one or two nights each week, I turn into a psychotic version of Mrs. Wolowitz. (Except she eats Oreos in the bathtub. Sadly, I am not doing that.) Perhaps it’s because the girls aren’t at their best either, perhaps it’s because I’m tired, perhaps the plan to hop myself up on sugar and caffeine right before I pick them up from daycare and preschool isn’t actually as effective as I like to tell myself.
I know that some amount of yelling is normal; my friends tell me this, as do the endless ranting tweets that flood my Twitter feed between 4-6 p.m. each day. (Also, it must be true because I read it in the New York Times fashion section a couple of years ago.) Yes, I am bothered by those times when I raise my voice; it’s not how I want to parent my girls, and it’s not how I want to teach them to interact with others. I constantly work on snapping less, and I am getting better. But no matter how well I am doing, the girls and I inevitably have a rough night, and I come up against the bitch of it all: