I'm not mean, I'm a MOM!

“This is the worst day of my LIIIIIIIIIIFEEEEEEEE!” my daughter whined and cried after losing her Littlest Pet Shop kitty at a bridal store. She sobbed and sobbed in the backseat of the car (O.K. mini-van), lamenting about all the things that were terrible in her life. She was hungry, tired, fighting a head cold, and sick of sitting in a “baby” car seat (she is in a high-back booster seat because she is tiny and it’s safer). And there’s more: her shoes were uncomfortable, it was raining outside, and worst of all the sun had gone down while we were in the store. She is terrified of the dark. TERRIFIED!

“Wow,” I sympathized with her as I helped her in the car, immediately took her shoes off and strapped her into her (baby) car seat,” if you say today is the WORST day, you must be feeling horrible.  How can I help?”

Sobbing she asked, “Can I keep the light on in the car?” Of course she could.

Still sobbing she asked, “Can we get something to eat?” Of course we could.

Less sobbing, but still crying,” Can you buy me a new Littlest Pet Shop toy?” Of course I could. But I would NOT.

“Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy noooooooooooooooooooooooooooot?”

I calmly informed her why not saying, “Because I told you not to bring a toy today and you did. I offered to hold your toy and you declined my offer. The toy was your responsibility. If you would like to buy a new one, you could use the money in your piggy bank to buy a new one on another day.”

Her cries turned back into sobs, and soon she was off and running her mouth about all the things ruining her day. I was sad too. Seeing her so upset and uncomfortable upset me because I love her so desperately and I want to help!  At that point, I could feed her, keep the lights on and  take her shoes off in the car. Other than that, my girl had to deal with a miserable cold, her (baby) car seat, the cold, dark and rainy weather, and a lost toy. How she handled those things was up to her, but I can see where a 7 year old would consider her day to be pretty bad after all this. She had just spent two hours trying on numerous flower girl dresses and her good behavior/patience had run out. She wanted to play with her toy and it was lost.  I may be an old coot, but I haven’t forgotten how it felt to be a child, how it felt to be frustrated and have so many things out of my control. It ain’t easy being seven.  My heart ached for her.

Truly it did, but I had to ignore her ramblings and complaints about the toy. She had been warned. Sure, I could help her feel better by replacing her toy, but then I’d be spoiling her and not teaching her responsibility. I would not be replacing her toy.  She would have to suffer, but it’s not her style to suffer in silence. Misery loves company and she was feeling alone. She started in with the nagging.

“Please can we get a new LPS toy?” she asked while shoveling apple dippers in her mouth (I took care of the hungry part – winning). “I’ll pay you back.” “Let’s stop on the way home.” “Come on, please?” “I NEED THAT KITTY!” “I have $9 in my bank” “IT WAS MY FAVORITE EVER AND I CAN’T PLAY WITHOUT IT!” “Don’t you care about me?” “This is seriously important.”  At this point, the rain is pouring down and my badly in need of replacement windshield wipers are making a squeaking sound that is distracting and irritating. It wasn’t just my daughter struggling during those few hours of trying on dresses. Imagine dressing and undressing an octopus 10 times in a row, but having to find and catch the octupus between fittings.  A slippery little octopus with sensory integration disorder and hyperactivity. I was exhausted.  I was tired, hungry and almost out of patience. Her incessant nagging and begging for a new toy had me on the verge of a meltdown.

Deep breath.  I mustered up the ounce of patience I had left and I spoke calmly, “No. I know you feel sad about your toy, but you have to deal with it. I won’t buy you a new one. We are not stopping on the way home.  Do not ask me again. The answer will still be no. No matter how much you ask, cry and carry on about it, the answer is no.”

That's when she whispered  under her breath, talking  to the toy she hadn't lost,

"MEAN........my mom is so mean."

And that’s when my sympathy UNEXPECTEDLY eloped with patience!

 Lately she’s been telling me that I’m mean when she doesn’t get her way SO I figured it was as good of a time as any to talk a bit more about being mean. I pulled over the car (O.K. FINE the mini-van), put it in park and turned off the aggravating windshield wipers. After a few deep breaths, I turned around to address my sniffling, snotty and at that point, very confused daughter.  Using a hybrid of the firm but friendly, outdoor/indoor voice, I began my rant.

“A mean person is selfish and cruel. They hurt others on purpose. There are mean MOMS who actually DO hurt their children on purpose. They don’t feed them or hug them or read them stories before bedtime. They scream at their children and call them things like “stupid” and “ugly” and “fat”. They hit them hard, sometimes with their hands or sometimes with objects like belts, shoes or even tools. I’ve heard of mean moms that will break toys when kids don’t put them away. I am not mean. I’ve never acted mean to you, Cate.  It hurts my feelings when you call me mean. Please stop it, unless you would like me to start acting mean because I can do that.”

She’s was still sniffing and eating apples, she looked confused. The tear stains on her cheeks made my heart sting with pain. I’m not sure how much she understood. Had I said too much? Did I scare her? Did that last part sound threatening, like I was going to start acting mean? My daughter is so literal. Her understanding of language is still a work in progress. Kids in the autism spectrum have trouble understanding pragmatic and semantic language (understanding appropriate social use AND understanding the actual meaning of what is being said).

The silence between us at that point was deafening. I wanted to crawl into the backseat and draw her into my arms for a hug. I NEEDED A HUG and I needed her to feel how much I love her. I had  just made my daughter aware of some pretty unpleasant things about the world.She beat me to it. My weeply little nagger unbuckled and crawled up to me in the front seat.

“Can I turn on the radio,” she asked me after already turning it on, “I need to hear a favorite song right now, Okay?” She wraped her arms around my neck and used her sticky fingers to fiddle with my necklace.  I pulled her in tight for a squeeze and I felt the tension escape both of our bodies.

She pulled back from the embrace and said to me, “Well, since you don’t hit me, or call me names and yell at me, I guess you aren’t mean, but won’t let me get a new LPS toy so what are you then?”

I lifted her back into her (baby) car set, strapped her in tight, covered her up with a blanket and gave her back the apples she had been eating. What am I then? How do I answer that question? What word describes me in a way that can help her replace the negative MEAN with something positive? And then I found the perfect answer, the word that truly encompasses everything I am now as a human being.

I gave her a big, juicy kiss on the forehead (which she instantly wiped off while simultaneously saying “ewwwwww”), stole one of her apples from her bag and said, “I’m a mom. That’s what I am.”

 P.S. Whoever invented all these collectable animal things with 10 bazillion parts that get discontinued is a sadist with no soul who hates parents and children equally. The end.

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  • fb_avatar

    Great piece! As a parent, I have been amazed at the depth of my well of patience. (And, at times, equally amazed that the children can exhaust it.)

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    yeah, those LPS makers can suck it! I hate those damned things when I step on them in the middle of the night or when they get stuck in between the car seats and God-forbid she loses one. But you are right, it is hard to be seven and I needed this reminder of that. Great post!

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    LOVE this!! As a mother of a child with SPD and ADHD...you could have been telling a story about me!

  • Nikki, this is my favorite MWDAS post. Ever. <3
    I heart you, and one of these days I'ma meet you and give you a squishy hug and tell you thank you face-to-face. Being a Mom isn't easy, kids don't come with instruction manuals!
    Your blogs, posts, comments, and meaty-meat tweets unite us all - Moms - and not just Moms - but - Moms Who Drink And Swear!
    -winkiebear (aka shsidman on the twit)

  • In reply to winkiebear:

    I second this comment!!!!! Hands down!

  • Three things have made me shed tears of emotional joy this month:

    1. Seeing my girlfriend in her new thong
    2. Seeing my girlfriend in her new thong cooking me chicken parmesan
    3. This post

  • I am seriously nominating you as Mom of The Year. Olympic Gold parenting! Fabiola! So clear, so firm, even under duress! Nice job, MWDAS!

  • fb_avatar

    I have been in this battle lately with my 4 year old lately, and it sucks. I say, "because I am a Mom" about 20 times a day...but I will totally throw his toys in the trash when hes misbehaving, so maybe I am mean ;)

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    In reply to Kate McCord:

    youre not mean, youre just following through. I had to do this not too long ago to prove when i say something i mean it.
    My boy refused to keep his stuff in his room. finally i snapped, and just started to trash stuff. he begged and called me names, and said i didnt love him, n blah blah.
    I replied back, one, i aint no maid, never will be never have been! i AM MOM!

    why this made me giggle. he has yet to leave his stuff out in the living room. its not always fun being mom, but sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do. They need to learn when someone says enough, they mean enough. hugs kate! youre doing fine!

  • fb_avatar

    I feel like you're stalking my mind.

  • fb_avatar

    Nicole Knepper so totally rocks. The end.

  • fb_avatar

    Definitely feel your pain! From one mother to another - I completely understand. I have been told that I'm the sole reason that my child had no friends in high school. I am reminded on a daily basis - sometimes several times a day how mean I am by my 8-year-old. Wow, gives new meaning to the statement that the great Bette Davis once said, "If you have never been hated by your child, then you have never been a parent". Thanks for the day in the life! Love it!

  • I'm impressed my your patience. You handled that situation very well. Have you heard of squinkies? They are the smallest things ever. Impossible to find.....

  • You have a lot of depth, Nik. I love the very real empathy you exhibit in this piece. It's really nice to be both funny and kind.

  • Nic, I love you!

  • Man - those little people are so good at making us feel rotten. It could be worse you could be told, "I don't like you and you're stupid!" Yeah, that's right I said stupid. Mind you, I have never even used the word stupid or idiot. But now that my 3 .5 year old is in pre-school- she's a big shot and has a lot of new words. School is so much fun (sarcasim). I feel your pain.
    fellow CN blogger, Katalin

  • I've doled out those lectures, never knowing what's sinking in. Mine mostly revolve around the nature of a "secret" and how she shouldn't tell Dad about going through the McDonald's drive-through. Great post.

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    Nicole, as always you seem to find the exact way to put into words what us woman are thinking and coping with! This blog made me choke up! Wonderful writing as usual.... :D

  • This was fantastic! Beautifully written and incredibly relateable, felt like I was in your car (mini-van) with you. And the message-perfect! I always tell my kids its good to want, because if you had everything you think you wanted when you wanted it, there would be nothing to look forward to....And I think you're right, the LPS manufacturers hate us.

  • fb_avatar

    Well said. I'm a mean mom because I make my 7 year old do chores. Every. Single. Night. And then I don't even give him money for doing these chores. And I say no Nintendo DS at the dinner table. And I make him eat brussels sprouts. And I also make him sit in a booster in the car.

    But I'm also a monster because I would go to the ends of the earth for these kids, fight tooth and nail for them and love them so fiercely that I can barely contain the feeling inside my body. I try to make the kids understand responsibility because I know that when I'm gone, they'll be ok.

    Personally, I think you're a brilliant mom. That's what you are.

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    Nicole - I love you more every day...I've said a million times that parenting ain't for sissies and you hit the mother load of what we endure on the head. Reading this made me feel strong and confident in how I am as a mother. Thank you for making it known that for all of those parents out there who give in to every whim, they are feeding the beast and eventually the beast will bite the hand that feeds them. YOU ROCK SISTER!!!

  • You are a great mom! You have handled that situation so perfectly. I don't know if I could have kept my cool. Thanks for reassurring moms out there that we aren't mean and horrible for not giving in to our kids all of the time. :)

  • I am going to make my children, ages 8 and 11, read your post so they can see why *I* sometimes act "mean" (in their eyes). So, you are a good mom, helping other moms who drink and swear become good moms. :)

  • Nicole, some of my favorite compliments come from people who told me that they don't even watch baseball yet they like reading my blog.

    In that spirit, I'm passing that on to you. My wife and I don't even have kids (or plan to right now) and we still enjoy your blog immensely. You're much more than a "mommy blogger". You're just a good writer who appeals to the humanist in us all.

  • I can totally relate to what you wrote. My 5 year old calls me mean and the 2 year old mimics him.

    Here is a little post I did about it with illustrations. I am sure you can relate.

    Cheers,
    Louise

  • Sorry, I forgot to put the post about me being mean...

    http://ichoosehappynow.com/2011/10/21/family-relationships/my-kids-say-%e2%80%9cmom-you-are-mean%e2%80%9d%e2%80%93how-a-parent%e2%80%99s-shield-is-love/

    Cheers,
    Louise

  • Unfortunately, the Mean Mom monicker doesn't go away anytime soon. As the parent of two teenagers I still hear it when I make them unload the dishwasher of feed the cats.

    As for sitting in the "baby" seat, my oldest was in one until she reached the ripe old age of 10 and was in the fifth grade. So hopefully your daughter will get out of hers before then.

    Littlest Pet Shop toys are made as a torture device for moms. Some where there is an evil toy designer laughing hysterically.

  • fb_avatar

    Great Blog. But don't forget to add the inventors of the children's play makeup and glitter kids to your list of the soulless. I can't tell you how many times my daughter, at around that same age, would receive the body glitters and makeup kits, and just as we were getting ready to leave, I'd discover her and posibly my infant son ready to go in full makeup and body glitter, and would silently curse the gift giver, the manufactur and the media for making it such a hot item.

    Blondie McBaffled
    www.realityornothereicome.blogspot.com

  • wonderful.....

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    You are a good mom!

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    Oh I ALWAYS say I am not getting Mother of the Year this year. I'm a yeller and never wanted to be. I'm working REALLY HARD to choose peace. But I feed 'em well....here is my post for goldfish and animal crackers http://liveyourloveoutloud.blogspot.com/ So they may be put upon, but at least they are well fed? (mine are only one and three! Cannot wait )

  • You handle your children with such grace and diplomacy. You inspire me to be a better mom - not that I'm a bad mom, I'm not, I just cave to easily. ;-)

    Please share with Cate - my almost 8yo 2nd grader - who is off the charts tall (seriously - he's 4.5 ft tall and looks like a 4th grader) - is still in a "baby" seat. Even at his height he just does not fit properly or safely in the car w/o it.

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