I used to watch reruns (I’m not THAT old) of old shows on t.v. (think ‘Leave It to Beaver’ or ‘Father Knows Best’) where the mom dressed impeccably and cleaned house all day in her heels, and the dad wore business suits and came home happy to be with his loving family. These type of shows can make the best parent feel awful about parenting skills. Have you ever felt like mother of the year material? Yeah? Me, neither.
When my girls were younger we would often vacation at a little cabin (owned by my in-laws) by a lake. It was nothing fancy, but very nice for us as we didn’t have money to take real vacations. We would swim and play all day, and grill hamburgers and hotdogs in the late afternoon. I would then give the girls baths, brush hair and teeth and have them ready for bed. Since it was vacation, my girls, J and S, stayed up late and had extra “wind-down” time. They had a pile of special “lake house toys” that usually kept them entertained.
The living room had a bank of windows that looked out over the lake, so I plugged in the baby monitor, instructed them to “play nice”, grabbed two ice-cold beers from the fridge, and joined my husband on the pier. He was already settled back in his chair, fishing pole in hand. I could sit in my chair on the pier and see the girls through the living room windows. The baby monitor kept me updated on any potential fights or problems. All-in-all, a nice system. Yeah, right. A nice system if I had normal kids, which I don’t.
Let me explain: My oldest daughter, J, was born with a flair for dramatics. She can create drama most humans never dream of! One minute she is the life of the party, the next minute everyone is against her and her world is ending. As a teenager, we discovered her ups and downs were not just typical teenage problems, but bipolar. (That, however, is a post for another day.)
My youngest, daughter, S, is the quiet, stable one. She spent her young years trying to counter-balance her sister’s dramatics. However, she would, and often did, needle her sister into hysterics just because she could. (Who else knows you well enough to push your buttons but a close sibling?)
Most evenings the “wind-down” time went well. One particular night, however, was more memorable than most. The girls played happily as I grabbed two cold beers and walked to the pier. I turned on the baby monitor and heard the reassuring sounds of J and S arguing over the crayons. You know, typical sister arguments. I settled back in my chair and let out a long sigh. Before I could crack open my beer, I heard the sound of the screen door slamming.
“MOM!” J screamed, even though we were close enough to speak in normal voices.
“Yes?” I replied calmly.
“S is NOT sharing and I TOLD her to SHARE!”
“Honey, lower your voice, we have neighbors next door. Remember I told you not to come out unless it was an emergency? This is not an emergency. Go back in and play with something else until she gets tired of it, then you can have a turn.”
“Okay, but I want my turn!” She stomped her little foot and went back in.
I opened my beer. I heard arguing on the monitor. After the first swallow, I hear the screen door slam.
“MOM! S hit me! She is being a BRAT!” J’s indignant voice bellows from the porch.
“Tell S mom said to stop hitting or she will have time-out. And you, young lady, do not snatch things away from her or you will have time-out.” Yeah, that’s right, I heard that on the monitor, I thought to myself. The only reply this time was the slamming of the screen door as she went back in. I snickered and drank a swallow of beer and settled into my chair.
Within three minutes, I heard the slamming of the door. Again. This continued for several more minutes. By the tenth time, I realised my enjoyable evening was going to be ruined if I didn’t nip it. Before she had time to whine, I beat her to the punch. I stood up to make sure she knew I meant business.
“DO NOT come back outside unless one of you are bleeding or have body parts falling off! Do you understand me?” I used my deadly quiet voice that could scare the leaders of small countries.
“Yes, ma’am” she wisely replied.
I heard the girls playing and all seemed well again on the home front. The peace lasted a whole 10 minutes before the door slammed again. I stood and glared.
“What did I tell you? You better be bleeding!”
I hear pitiful wails. “I am bleeding!”
Now, feeling guilt like only a mother can feel, I rushed up to my darling to see that she had stubbed her toe and ripped the toenail off. She really was bleeding.