I was fifteen years old the first time I called my mother a bitch ($0.25). My own daughter returned the favor when she was just four.
It happened on a hectic morning after I had told Anna to put her gymnastics leotard on as I was getting into the shower. It was inside-out, so she took it downstairs to my husband, who didn’t understand why she had brought it downstairs and told her to put it away. Caught between two mis-communicating parents and too young to articulate to either of us that she was at an impasse, she began to melt down. Eventually my husband put her in Time Out for not listening and that set in motion a series of events that forever changed the way I view my daughters, myself and women in general.
Believing her Time Out to be a grave injustice, Anna flipped-the-fuck-out ($0.25). First, she dramatically flung herself onto the floor, limp-limbed and sobbing. We’re Love & Logic devotees and that rule book states that the next step is to calmly and sympathetically remove the offending child from the situation. My husband playfully threw her over his shoulder, carried her upstairs, unceremoniously deposited her in her room and shut the door. In response, she completely lost her shit ($0.25). She screamed. She kicked the door. She threw heavy objects. She shook with rage.
This cacophony was audible even from the shower, to the point that I turned off the water because it sounded for all the world like somebody was castrating a hyena in the hallway. I wrapped myself in a towel and ran into the hall, dripping wet with shampoo lather running down my face.
No hyena, just my husband standing at the top of the stairs watching the door to her room vibrate as Anna machine-gunned her heels into it. Then she began to throw things at her door – anything that wasn’t nailed down – and, when her ammunition exhausted, she put her face against the door and began to scream.
“DADDY! YOU GET BACK HERE RIGHT NOW!”
When we didn’t respond, she slapped and kicked the door and screamed:
“MOMMY! YOU STUPID BITCH ($0.25)! GET BACK HERE!”
… Ok, yes, she got that from me. A rude woman cut in front of me while driving and almost caused me to rear-end her, forcing me to articulate my disapproval of her driving strategy through the medium of losing my fucking ($0.25) mind and emitting an eight second string of gorgeous profanity. What can I say? I am an imperfect person.
My husband and I were both taken aback and realized that, at this point, Anna was just in a rage and probably didn’t even remember why. She had been misunderstood and, adding insult to injury, she then suffered an injustice in the form of a punishment because of it. Ladies, you and I know that being misunderstood and treated unfairly is more than enough to set even the most rational woman on the warpath.
I’m usually level-headed, calm, and reasonable, but I too am subject to flipping out when I am misunderstood or mistreated which, as a mom, is basically a daily occurrence.
For example, my younger daughter Maggie – the one who whines and cries for sport – will burst into tears because I gave her the orange cup instead of the pink cup, and then stare at me with the surliest expression her face can make just to make sure I know that all the wonderful things I’ve ever done for her have been erased by this one act of tyranny.
Then I’ll walk into the mudroom to find my teenage son’s greasy work shoes on my nice rug again when there is a basket DEDICATED TO ORGANIZING HIS SHOES eight inches away. He’ll respond with feigned surprise and indignation when I bring this to his attention, making me feel like I’m the one who has done something wrong.
Meanwhile, my toddler doesn’t know to hand me his milk when he’s finished with it so he will just launch it at my face and giggle when he beans me in the eyeball. This is perhaps the gravest insult because toddlers are like inanimate objects: when they tick you off there’s no way to get revenge.
At this point I am starting to come unglued and my disposition towards these people goes from lovingly stressed to whack-a-mole. The next asshole ($0.25) to do some stupid bullshit ($0.25) around here is going to get hammered.
Then my phone dings and it’s a text from my husband, an hour after he told me he was leaving:
“Sorry, just now leaving. Got stuck talking to someone. Be home in 45 minutes.”
I’m trying like hell to maintain my tenuous grasp on sanity but I can feel The Crazy wash over me. My heart is racing, my hands are shaking, and I can feel the hormones pumping furiously through my veins. A full-on mommy-rant would be the next act of this play. I’d stomp around with flailing limbs as my face gradually turned purple, while my family locked themselves in the panic room and stacked furniture against the door. I’d rage impotently at them from outside, and they’d feel guilty that their compounding antics are slowly driving me bat-shit-fucking-bananas ($0.50).
And this is exactly where poor Anna’s little mind was that morning as she launched large plastic objects and shouted obscenities through the door. I knew what she needed, and it was not solitary confinement. I opened her door, crept to where she was sobbing on the floor and gently placed my hand on her shoulder. She crawled into my lap and wrapped her arms around my waist as I stroked her hair and shushed her until she calmed down. This was what she needed — to be understood, and comforted.
I look back on some of my worst moments and wish I understood then what I needed when I was spiraling out of control. I have said terrible things to the people I love, and screamed and ranted like a contemptible twat. Something takes over (I blame my endocrine system) and you say and do things that you would never normally say or do … like throw shit ($0.25) at the door and call your mother a stupid bitch ($0.25).
I need a little bit of comfort, a lot of understanding and, because I’m a mom, a modicum of validation goes a long way when I feel The Crazy sneaking up on me. Most of the time I can comfort myself, and talk myself past whatever nonsense is about to set me off. But sometimes we all need somebody else to understand our point of view, legitimize our struggles and give us a hug.
Total owed to the swear jar for this post: $2.25