You FAIL, Mom!

28 Nov

“You’re mean, Daddy!” my daughter shouted as we walked into the house from the garage. I had just picked her up at a birthday party.

“Why?” he asked, understandably perplexed at being accused of meanery when he hadn’t seen the child in nearly two hours.

“You thought you were supposed to pick me up at 5 and you were supposed to get me at 4:30, so I was the last one there!” She bounded up the stairs with her party goodie bag, no longer angry since she’d laid her grievance at her father’s feet.

“We failed,” I said to my husband in that “what else is new tone” we’ve developed for discussing our parental deficiencies.

“Again!” our daughter yelled from her room at the top of the steps.

Of course, she’s right. My husband and I have failed numerous times in our parenting escapades. I have a friend who insists that you don’t have to be a good parent; you just have to be a good enough parent. Intellectually, I know she’s right. Childishly, I think, “Yeah, she doesn’t have any kids!”

My son likes to remind me of the time I left him in the car on a hot summer day while my daughter and I went shopping. It’s not as bad as it sounds. He was 13 and it really wasn’t all that hot. And it is every bit as bad as it sounds. I forgot he was in the car.

We had gone to the library, the three of us. My son chose to stay in the car while my daughter and I returned our books and got new ones. We had a good time picking out our books. We were having such a good time that I thought we could extend it with a little shoe shopping, as my daughter needed shoes.  So, we left the library, holding hands.

We went to the shoe store; she picked out two pairs. The afternoon was so nice and sunny, we decided to top it off with a trip to the candy store. Ours is a real, old-fashioned candy store where they make their own fudge and caramel corn. We picked our treats and started back to the car. I was in one of those mellow moods you get when you’re with your child and everything is peaceful and calm. Then we reached the car. I saw my son hanging out of the window. “Oh, shit!” I thought.

“Where have you been!?” he screamed. Then he saw the shoe bag.

“You went shoe shopping!” he screamed. Then he saw the candy.

“You went to the candy store!” he screamed. “You left your son in a hot car in the middle of summer while you took your daughter shopping for shoes and candy?!”

I did the first thing that came to my mind. I blamed him.

“Well, you chose to stay in the car,” I said as calmly as a guilt-ridden soul will allow.

“Because you were going to the library!” he screamed. “You didn’t tell me you were going shopping!”

“You didn’t have to stay in the car. You could have come in the library.”

“But you weren’t in the library, were you?” he asked. “You were shopping! For shoes! And candy! While I was waiting in the hot car!”

“You’re 13,” I shot back. “You could have gotten out of the car any time you liked. And it’s not that hot out anyway.”

By then, I had gotten the packages and bag of library books into the trunk of the car. My daughter and I were buckling in. It was silent for a few heartbeats.

“You forgot me, didn’t you?” my son said, an eerie calm in his voice. He knew the answer and he knew he could use it to his advantage again and again and again.

“I am done with this conversation,” I said and drove home. My son, however, was not done with the incident. He still isn’t done with the incident. Anytime he needs a little parental guilt to help him get his way, he merely needs to say, “Car” and he’s well on his way to winning any battle.

Most of my failures are far less spectacular. My daughter whines more than we’d like because we will do anything she wants to make her stop. She eats too much candy and doesn’t wash her hair enough. Our son has more failing grades than I care to admit. While I realize that the grade is, in the end, his responsibility, I feel responsible. Also my fault are his lackadaisical approach to practicing scales and his enthusiastic embrace of video games. Did I mention both of their rooms are hazmat sites?

I asked my husband if he ever felt like a parental failure. He related an incident with our daughter. He had tucked her in; she got out of bed for some tremendously important reason. He tucked her back in. She popped out again. He refused to tuck her in a third time, it being far past her bedtime. She looked him in the eye and said, “Most daddies like putting their daughters to bed and tucking them in,” then sobbed into her pillow. I consider this incident a resounding parental success. The girl had already had two tuckings, for crying out loud.

I took a break from writing this just a few minutes ago. My daughter was downstairs having a snack. Apparently, the dinner I prepared failed to fill her sufficiently. I snagged a chip from her, dunked it into salsa and popped it in my mouth. She asked me to sit and play with her for a while. “I have to work,” I said. Not looking at me, she said, “Well, you could go back to work or you could eat chips and salsa with your daughter like a real mom.” I sat and had the chips and salsa.

If I were a better mother, my children would be earning medals and trophies. They would be captains of teams and presidents of clubs. They would volunteer their time helping the elderly and feeding the starving. They’d win scholarships to Harvard and Julliard. But I’m not that mother. Instead, my kids are pretty health, fairly happy and completely loved. I’m a good enough mom and that’s usually good enough.

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12 Responses to “You FAIL, Mom!”

  1. the waiting November 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    This reminds me so much of that scene in Home Alone when Catherine O’Hara is in the back of the Uhaul with John Candy and John Candy talks about the time he accidentally left his child at a morgue or a funeral parlor or something overnight. The point is that we are all doing as best we can; when love is at the center, those mishaps are put in relief and made even sweeter 😉 I love the way you write!

    • jmlindy422 November 28, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

      Thanks so much! I would so totally love to have left my kid at a funeral parlor! He would have loved it, too. He’s that kind of kid. I’m pretty partial to your writing, too.

  2. Janelle Allee Baker November 28, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    The good enough mom IS the perfect mom…all those SEEMINGLY perfect moms…well, they arent good enough. Watch out for them i say!

    • jmlindy422 November 28, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

      Some day I’m going to blog about all the kinds of moms there are. Should be a hoot! Thanks for dropping by.

  3. scribblechic November 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    I could line up my errors like little tin soldiers and march into battle. Love the humor and humility behind your honesty.

    • Janice Lindegard November 28, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

      Thanks, scribblechic! I like the idea of marching the errors into battle.

  4. philosophermouseofthehedge November 28, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    Always go for the chips and salsa – the work will always be there. Nice post

    • Janice Lindegard November 28, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

      Thanks! I generally go for the pecan pie, but the chips and salsa were right there.

  5. readingrisa November 30, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

    Love this post, too. My kids are now grown and I’m feeling much better about my parenting failures since they aren’t drug addicts or criminals and have decent friends (and actually are healthy, happy, and decently adjusted). I think we all feel inept from time to time, and kids seem to have an uncanny radar for detecting our vulnerabilities (even when we don’t confess them). I completely forgot to show up when my son had a “presentation” for parents in early elementary. I beat myself up for months but when I brought it up the other day (why would I torture myself like that?) he said he didn’t really remember it. Keep loving your kids. You’re clearly doing well.

  6. sukanya December 2, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    Delurking after finding you on Freshly Pressed. Your humble post has just made me realise that it is absolutely all right to be a ‘good enough’ parent. so thank you. your writing is striking.
    PS: we share the same WP theme.

    • jmlindy422 December 2, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

      Thank you so much. Checked out your blog and loved the post about the woman who got RIFd. Sounds like you have rewarding work. And yes, don’t we have a great WP theme?

  7. natasha devalia December 5, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    This reminds me of the times I’ve bought one twin a toy or fruit or balloon…….the reaction is to ask for one for the other twin. Most of the times I hadn’t even thought of getting one for the other child. Anyway, tonnes of stories….
    great post!

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