And then I said, “No wire hangers!”

By Mir
September 29, 2006

I haven’t been the mom I wanted to be this week. But, hey, that’s okay, because I haven’t been the PERSON I really wanted to be this week, either. This entire week got away from me, somehow, and became less about doing or even being and more about just surviving.

Which is a fairly cruddy way to live, and a crappy way to parent.

Fortunately, the children, they are sproingy. (Monkey picked up a Slinky at the doctor’s office the other day and said to me “What does it do?” and I said, “It walks down stairs, alone or in pairs” and then the doctor and I laughed and laughed while Monkey looked at us like we were crazy.) (What does that have to do with this? Very little. But sproingy, like a Slinky.) They go about the business of tearing up the house and tormenting each other and once I’m back on my game, they’ve forgotten I was ever off.

Me, I’m old. I don’t spring back so quickly.

As the ratio of “stuff to do” to “hours in a day” grows larger, my patience thins and eventually dissipates. And when I reach the breaking point, the children are NICE to me (possibly because they understand that 6 and 8 may be too young to care for a mentally deranged parent) and then I am immediately sorrowful at being such a grump.

For example: SOMEONE—and I am not saying who, because no one will fess up, and I am weary of trying to crack them—thought it would be a good idea to, I don’t know, perhaps use the little washcloth-hanging bar at the top of the shower’s soap dish as a swinging handle. Or possibly as a foothold. I don’t know, and imagining the possibilities makes me feel faint. The end result is that I hadn’t looked into the kids’ shower since the last time I cleaned it, which was… ummm… well, it’s possible it was a few weeks ago, and for some reason, possibly because a child had been in the shower for over 30 minutes and I wanted to make sure she was still alive, I poked my head in there this week.

And I saw:
1) An oblivious child, singing in the spray (infuriating, but cute).
2) Shampoo bottles scattered along the bottom of the tub (mildly annoying).
3) Two cracked tiles on either side of the soap dish, which was now dangling off the wall at a 45 degree angle while the water drummed on the wall behind it (child, stay in that shower, because if you make it out alive I need to KILL YOU).

I turned off the water and scooped up what little brain matter hadn’t just exploded skyward and glued the top of my head back on and assembled my offspring in front of me.


Well, you know, NO ONE did it. Why would they do that? They know better. In fact, they’ve never once even TOUCHED that soap dish. We use body wash! They didn’t even know that thing was there! And they didn’t notice it hanging off the wall there, because these are the same children who can walk past a silver (reflective! shiny!) pop-tart wrapper in the middle of the floor for 3 days.

To say that I became incensed would be something of an understatement. Because, you know, it is AMAZING to me that the ONLY TWO PEOPLE who use that shower have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA how this major structural rift occurred. It’s a mystery! Search them! And so after my standard “You get in less trouble if you come to me right away so that we can fix it” and “do you have any idea how much water damage this has probably caused” and “why are you TRYING TO DRIVE ME INSANE” lines of rhetoric, I found myself wildly expounding on the possible scenarios if, in fact, neither of them had anything to do with it.

Maybe someone BROKE INTO THE HOUSE and RIPPED THE SOAP DISH OFF THE WALL because they are a serial shower-breaker. Maybe the MOLES did it. (Yes, they are back. They sneer little sneers at my ineffectual smoke bombs.) Maybe one day while they were at school, I decided to practice my ballet in their shower, and while standing on pointe ON THEIR SOAP DISH my big butt broke it off the wall.

“I didn’t know you did ballet… with your butt,” commented Chickadee.

I still don’t know who broke the shower. (But I do know who broke the spell of me ranting and raving about it.)

Another example: Today is school picture day. That meant that last night we had to have showers (in my shower, of course) and pick out photo-worthy clothes (being a parent means ironing a church shirt on a Thursday night even as you know that it will be covered in food or paint by the time it returns home), and Deal With Hair.

(I’d given Monkey a haircut a few days ago. He squiggled and squirmed and I applauded myself on the decision to just clean up the sides and back and let it go longer on the top; not because of any preference on my part, but because it meant a shorter stint of scissors battle. Although as he whined “WHYYYYYYYY do I need a HAIRCUT?” and I trimmed, I felt a pang of nostalgia for a happier time. Anyway. Other than helping him to brush his hair down in the back, he was set.)

But Chickadee. Oh, Chickadee. Chickadee loves it and hates it when I blow-dry her hair with my big round brush. She wants me to do it, she loves the way it flips perfectly this way and that, but she hates suffering through it. And it probably didn’t help, last night, when I became increasingly snippy with her antics.

She danced her feet around and kept touching everything on my bathroom counter despite repeated requests that she keep her hands to herself. And we were about halfway through drying when I heard something clatter to the floor. “What did you drop?” I snapped.

Chickadee swore she hadn’t touched a thing.

And my treasured Smashbox multi-colored blush lay on the floor in pieces.

Now, I don’t wear very much makeup. In fact, many days I go completely without it. I am not a makeup hound. But around the time I cut all my hair off, I decided to wear makeup more often, and I invested in some new stuff.

If you don’t know Smashbox, let me put it to you this way: It’s the most expensive thing in my makeup bag, even though I bought it on sale. I may have had a small anxiety attack while purchasing it, as I am unaccustomed to spending Real Money on cosmetics. And it is worth every stinkin’ penny.

I stared at the pieces. “Well,” I blurted out in anger, “that’s that. I guess I just don’t get to have nice things. That’s fine. Why should I ever get to have anything nice without it being ruined? Clearly I shouldn’t.”

Chickadee began to cry and I felt like joining her. But the absurdity of having just turned into every bitter, martyred woman I’ve ever known coupled with the shame of having made my kid cry over an accident had me doing a long, slow exhale, instead.

“It’s okay, honey. It’s just a thing. Things aren’t important. I’m sorry I got upset.”

“But, but, but,” she blubbered, “You’re MAD at me! And I didn’t even touch it!” Hmmm. Maybe she didn’t touch it. Maybe it was just close to the edge and the cord of the dryer hit it. I am such a heel.

“Nonono, I’m not mad at you, honey. I’m just tired and frustrated and I’m sad that it got broken. It’s okay.”

“You think I broke it! I didn’t!” I murmured “no” a few more times while wiping her tears and hugging her close, then resumed drying her hair. “I didn’t break it,” she offered—one more time—about a minute later.

“I know, sweetie.” I finished her hair and put the dryer and brush away. She smiled at her reflection in the mirror, and I shooed her off to bed.

This morning was chaos and right when we should’ve been leaving for the bus stop I realized I hadn’t written the checks for the pictures, and then I couldn’t find one of the picture forms, and I found myself declaring that I would have to drive the kids to school because we were going to miss the bus. They were thrilled.

I sat down at the kitchen table in my pajamas to write the checks and thought about everything I have to do today and how much time I would lose driving them to school and getting back home and covered my face with my hands for a minute to try to compose myself.

When I felt little hands on my back I looked up. Both kids had come to stand on either side of me and pat my back. “Don’t be stressed, Mama,” said Chickadee. “It’s okay!”

“Yeah,” added Monkey, “cuz you could take us to school and then go SHOPPING!”

I had to giggle. “Monkey, I’m not going shopping. I have work to do.”

“Well, you’d rather go shopping,” he observed.

“That’s true, buddy.”

I loaded everyone into the car and while I pulled down the driveway I saw the bus. We caught it, so I didn’t have to drive them after all. Phew.

Maybe I’m getting sick. Wouldn’t that be nice, if I was coming down with something and not just a really cranky person? A cranky person who periodically does ballet in the shower with her butt, sure, but still.


  1. Amy

    Personally, I think you are too hard on yourself. You did let them live, and I am not sure I would have. The lying about the shower and the smart mouths alone would have made me consider dropping them off with their dad, or something. I am sure they are lovely children, and you are a great mother. It is acceptable to be angry when they are lying to you! Breathe. Eat chocolate. Dock their allowances to pay for the shower! Okay…maybe not the last one…

  2. Steff

    Hang in there! Tomorrow is a new day and a Saturday!

  3. jenn

    I was just kinda mean to my 2-yr-old this morning. He is into everything, and when I take something away from him he retaliates by letting out a very high-frequency, eardrum shattering shriek. After the 5th or 6th time since getting him out of his crib this morning, I grabbed him by the shoulders (HARD) and got down in his face and yelled back at him “STOP SCREAMING!” I know, real mature on my part, exemplary parenting. His little face just crumpled, huge tears in his eyes, and he started wailing. I wanted to too.

    Anyway, my point is, I really appreciate the reminder that all moms lose it and go Joan Crawford sometimes. (Skipping off to put a few bucks in the therapy fund… mine or his? Hmm. Maybe if I go ahead and get mine now, he won’t have to in 25 years.)

  4. Patricia

    How is it that even when you think you are grumpy, I’m still cleaning coffee off my screen? I’m about to replace my Mac for a new one — and I’m so asking if they make a special coffee screen for this thing.
    The Butt Ballet has me giggling and may for the rest the day. But nothing is better than Monkey’s wise observation that when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.
    I know you have more work in front of you and behind you (perhaps if you better at the butt ballet, you could do some of the work WITH your butt), but perhaps there is a point there — an hour of retail therapy won’t kill you — and if it is online, you could call it research or multi-tasking.

  5. Theresa

    You didn’t react any differently than we all do at some point. We’re human, we have limitations, and you just hit yours. Shake it off, and remind yourself that you are doing the best you can do, and you really ARE doing a good job.

  6. Elizabeth

    “Well,” I blurted out in anger, “that’s that. I guess I just don’t get to have nice things. That’s fine. Why should I ever get to have anything nice without it being ruined? Clearly I shouldn’t.”

    I say something similar to this at least once a week, or a variation on the theme of “apparently I’m the only one who doesn’t get to sit and take a break, I’m the only one who can pick stuff up off the floor”, etc. And I completely understand how you felt when your makeup got broken. I expect everyone to respect my property and not touch my few nice things.Even if it was an accident, having something nice get broken would piss me off.

  7. Bob

    I am sure it wasn’t Chickadee who broke the smashbox. It was the black knight. I think he deserves to have an arm ripped off. or two. Then go find that internet cafe, have a cuppa and relax for a few minutes. The world will be there when you get back.

    It’s only a flesh wound.

  8. Mom Nancy

    Ditto. Many dittos. I’ve had the same week here.

  9. Woman with Kids

    He Did It breaks everything in our house. Perhaps he used your shower?

    And as for having little patience, it happens. To you, to the kids, everyone. Tomorrow’s another day and all that.

  10. Elleoz

    I’m sorry that you are having such a rough week. I know that we have all been there. I know I have. I loose it with my family at least once a week, and feel terrible afterwards. Isn’t parenting grand?

    Hang in there and do something extra special and fun with the kiddos this weekend!

  11. Aimee

    You’re upset now, but just wait ’til the Boston Ballet premieres the Bathtub Butt Ballet Suite next spring and the audience yells for the choreographer and you are acclaimed and applauded and showered with roses. It’ll all be worth it then. Right?

  12. Caren

    My four year old son stood in the middle of my kitchen a few nights ago and wet his pants. He was about 10 steps from the bathroom. I asked him why he didn’t go to the bathroom and he said “I don’t know”. I was. not. happy. And I was less than patient with him. Looking back I know there were many better ways to handle it, but alas, he too, is sproingy.
    Hugs to you (and your ballet butt).

  13. Susan

    And here I thought I was the only one doing Butt Ballet.

  14. Jenn2

    Thanks alot, Mir. I just laughed so hard at the Butt Ballet and Chickie’s response that I woke up Big Red. He is not amused. In fact, I think he’s gonna go Damien on me here.

    Thank you for a good long laugh. Missy and I are going to practice the Butt Ballet later today.

  15. Cele

    Mir, you need a Mir day. Something deliciously decadent, like chocolate in bed and a good book. I also think you need re-examine your schedule and wedge a little Me time in there. Girl, many of us have been there, we know you will survive. The children will survive. The sun will rise and life will go on… sing a chorus of…Ob la dee, Ob la dah… here

    The hard part of single parenting is that you have to deal 24/7 with little relief. Thank heavens your ex backs you and Otto listens. You are doing a great job, look at your kids you can tell. You are accomplishing what many two parent families don’t – a loving, nurturing family. Remember a new day will dawn.

  16. InterstellarLass

    I know exactly how you feel about the ‘mommy can never have nice things’ stuff. It happens. And then I have the talk about respecting other people’s property. And to be more careful. And then I cry inside because my nice thing was broken.

  17. Susan

    You know what? You’re a great mom (and pretty! don’t forget pretty!) for a variety of reasons. But you do something *so* important that my mother never did: You show emotions. You show your kids that you have feelings, too! My mother was so saint-like that she never expressed anger, frustration, sadness or disappointment. Her only goal in life seemed to be to nurture US — never herself. She was being selfless by always putting us first, but all it taught us was that *she didn’t matter as much as we did.* And that’s not healthy… not one, little bit.

    You’re an awesome, HUMAN mother. Bravo to you for being so well-rounded, Mir!

  18. Minnams

    Mir–I read your blog for many reasons, but one of them is that your daughter seems to behave in mysteriously identical ways to MY seven-year-old daughter, and I love that you are so willing to be open about the days when you are grumpy. I actually complained to my son’s preschool about a teacher who always seemed grumpy because, as I pointed out, “They get enough of that bad behavior from me!” (dear Lord.) I like to think (on my bad days) that if my kids are so loving and wonderful to me DESPITE my occasionally erratic behavior, then maybe I’m doing something right, some days.

  19. MommyHam

    “Well,” I blurted out in anger, “that’s that. I guess I just don’t get to have nice things. That’s fine. Why should I ever get to have anything nice without it being ruined? Clearly I shouldn’t.”

    Chickadee began to cry and I felt like joining her. But the absurdity of having just turned into every bitter, martyred woman I’ve ever known coupled with the shame of having made my kid cry over an accident had me doing a long, slow exhale, instead.

    Oh, how I feel your abdominal muscles pushing your diaphragm as you practice this exhale…oh, wait, I was *just* doing it this morning, with similar words having preceeded it.

    You are a good mommy, and not a mommy dearest….but I totally HATE wire hangers in addition to having those moments, so perhaps I am?

  20. Carol

    “…less about doing or even being and more about just surviving.”

    If it’s any consolation, that’s how I parented for the 4 1/2 months my husband was deployed. For me it was temporary. I really admire single parents like you, Mir. You’re doing a fabulous job with your children & you are entitled to a few bad days here and there.

    I hope things get better and that your kids realize the cosmic relationship between mother and child (as in if you don’t stop doing what you’re doing NOW, I’m going to toss you out the closest window).

  21. carolyn

    I’m glad you have empty pop tart wrappers on your fllor. I thought that just happened in my house!

  22. Zobabe

    Maybe you can put a dollar under the shiny wrapper and scotch tape the whole thing down. Then, when they are both in the kitchen, pick it up and say, “OH! Look! Something shiny – and GREEN!” I bet they’d pick up the NEXT one. And for the record? I don’t know that I’d even be penitent about feeling sorry for myself. You are such a good human…

  23. Karen Rani

    Oh I needed to hear this post today. Now I know I’m not this week’s suckiest mom. You are. KIDDING! I let Troll Baby fall and smash his head today. It was a complete accident, but after he stopped crying, he looked at me and screamed, “WEAVE ME AWONE!”
    See, you don’t suck nearly as much as me. Keep trying. :)

  24. Suebob

    You are smart. And funny. And you have the wherewithal to apologize to your child when you need to. All excellent qualities.

  25. elswhere

    What everyone said. But not as wittily, because all I can think of is how much I *hate* when my kid lies. Especially about things she did wrong. Even though I know it’s totally normal and developmentally appropriate and blah blah blah, it just drives me right around the bend.

    So: sympathies.

  26. Christina

    There must be something cosmic in the universe or something, last night I had the pleasure of scrubbing runny poop out of the carpet and off of the toddler right at the moment that my dh called (from his week-long business trip) to say he was off to a party and what was I doing?? I thru the f*ing phone across the room and melted into tears while my 3 and 5 yo tried to comfort me and make me feel better. Which just made me feel even worse. This was not the first time, nor will it be the last, that I will be scrubbing poop out of the carpet, but this time it was just too much. Hang in there! And maybe the handy Otto can fix the shower :)

  27. Gillian

    If you wouldn’t mind passing on my email addy to the kids, I can teach them to say ‘but we live on a fault line, it must have been the earthquake!’ Or, ‘I think it was the moles.’.

    Then you can wander away muttering until you run into something shiny. That will be way fun, you’ll see.

  28. sumo

    I was that kid who broke the soap dish/handtowel holder off the tiled tub wall at my friends’ house years ago (not that it matters, but plural possessive because they were twins). I was probably a little older than Chickadee, definitely old enough that I should have realized that it probably wouldn’t hold my weight as I used it to hoist myself up out of the bath. I still have my clueless moments. Their parents were very understanding and said they were planning to redecorate the bathroom anyway, which they then did, which didn’t really make me feel better because I felt like I made them spend money on a whole bathroom instead of just the soap dish. The only part that wasn’t so bad was that it did look kind of rotten behind the tile wall. I still feel guilty about it 30 years later.

  29. Lesley

    One time, at band camp, no wait, that’s a different story. But one time in the car on the way to drop two of mine at school I was doing the “Who do you think packs your lunch? Why do you think you have clean clothes? Who pays for your shoes?” and I stopped myself and realized out loud, “I just gave the ‘I do and do and do for you kids, and this is the thanks I get’ speech. Awesome!” There’s a reason those matyr type speeches are stereotypical. Because IT’S ALL TRUE. Waaaaaah! ; )

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