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Bad Mommy Gets a "Do-Over"

Yesterday I had one of those "bad mommy" moments. Maya and I were walking Chloe (our 2 year old beagle/pointer mutt) back from the park. It was a longer walk than normal, a choice that had been made by Maya's insistence to keep doing "one more block". About halfway home she announced that she had to use the bathroom. (Maya, not Chloe who had already peed on two trees and someone's stoop) We were on Bedford Ave, surrounded by hipsters with coffee, overpriced boutiques and trendy cafes. I had a preschooler and a rowdy dog. This was not the ideal scenario for a bathroom break. So, rather than tie Chloe to a parking meter and ask someone if we could use their restroom, I told Maya to just keep walking, hoping we would make it home in time. We didn't. With each block she grew more and more insistent. "Mommy I need to go pee. Mommy I need to GO PEE! Mommy I need to go pee RIGHT NOW!"

Maya never has accidents anymore, she hasn't for at least a year. When this one happened she was miserable, embarrassed, wet and very angry. I of course told her it was ok, that it was not her fault, that the walk was just too long. As I wrestled the dog and a screaming Maya into our building and up the stairs, I tried to help her take off her clothes. She shouted all kinds of wonderful "angry kid" endearments at me.  I shouted back.  So there we were, one damp, naked 4 year old throwing a frustrated fit and one very mature grownup mother throwing a frustrated fit.

The truth was I should have brought Maya to a bathroom. But I was tired and just wanted to get home. When she had her accident I was frustrated...with myself. She was miserable and it was all my fault. But when she then proceeded to tell me just that...oh hell no! Because the only thing worse than feeling like a failure is having your child remind you of it over and over, at top volume. To timeout we go!

Should Maya scream and yell when she is upset? Of course not. Was this the time to teach that lesson? Not even close. It was the time to hug her and comfort her and apologize for not taking her needs (which she had clearly articulated with both her voice and her squirming "potty dance") seriously. Which I did. Eventually.

Later that night, while we were eating dinner I asked Maya if I could "try again." (This is something she often says when she gets caught doing something wrong, usually when she is faced with a punishment and is trying to weasel out of it.) I told her I was sorry we did not get to the bathroom in time. I promised that next time we would stop. I asked if she was sad that she had an accident. I told her that she had tried her best and that it was not her fault.  I then asked her to please not shout at me when she feels frustrated and especially not when I am just trying to help her. She apologized. I apologized. Then we had ice cream.

Today in my morning toddler class I had to give a kid a two minute "timeout" for not following directions.  He is a good kid who almost never gets in trouble and he was very upset about it. After class I reminded him to always be a good listener. "Don't be sad," I said. "A time out is just a reminder to make the right choice next time. The nice thing is that once it is over you have the chance to try again."

Unfortunately some things in life are permanent. Some bad choices cannot be undone; an out of control punch that breaks someone's ribs in sparring, a drunken one night stand. The nice thing about being a child is that there are a lot of do-overs. You can hug your friend and say you are sorry. You can rebuild the Lego tower. "Fall down seven times, get up eight." That's childhood. But mommies get to try again too sometimes. Lost your cool the last time your toddler threw a tantrum? Don't worry, there will be another chance to practice those "I statements." (As in I feel sad when you throw your toys at me. Also it hurts my face.) Turned the bake sale cupcakes into a blackened lumpy mess? That's why you baked them a week early. You didn't? Don't worry, there is a Crumbs Bakery on the way to school.

As a mommy, I try to do everything perfectly and fail miserably. So then I try to at least not make the same mistakes twice. Thankfully I often get a second chance.

Admitting you are wrong is mature and liberating. It has one downside. Later that evening Maya called Matthew at the dojo to tell him about her day. "School was great!  I had a really fun playdate. We walked Chloe to Mc. Carren Park. On the way home I had an accident but it was all mommy's fault."

Damn that self-righteous brat.


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