Becoming That Mother

The Next Family

By: Shannon Ralph

I became that mother today. Yes, that mother. The woman I never wanted to be. You know the one. The harried-looking woman with the scowl on her face dragging her three small children through Target, bitching at them the entire way. The frazzled, nagging mother. That woman you look at and think, What did you expect, lady? They’re just little kids. That was me today. And it was a side of me I did not like. At all.

I think my To-Do list just got the best of me. I found myself getting progressively more stressed as the day went on about everything I needed to get accomplished today. I picked Lucas up from school this afternoon, just bracing myself for the firestorm that would erupt when I told my little homebody that we needed to make a Target run before we went home. Lucas prefers to go straight home after a day at school. I understand that he is tired after school and I try not to schedule things for the afternoon after he has been in school all day. Sometimes, however, it simply can’t be helped. At first, Lucas was perfectly fine with my announcement that we were heading to Target and he actually responded with “okay.” I should have known he wasn’t actually listening to me. A few minutes later, I made some comment about needing them to behave for me in Target. Lucas suddenly burst into tears and wailed, “We’re going to Target?!?!” Yea. He most certainly wasn’t listening before when he pleasantly agreed. Eventually, he calmed down and resigned himself to our Target run, but his outburst didn’t exactly set a pleasant tone.

The minute we walked through the doors at Target, I began to feel myself tense up. I wanted to do a quick in-and-out. Of course, with three young children tagging along, that’s a near impossibility. We first went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. Of course, there was a line. I stood there for a few minutes, nagging at the kids to stop touching things and to stand still. As we were making our way closer to the front of the line, Sophie suddenly announced that she had to pee. I tried to tell her she had to wait, but she wasn’t having that. I know well enough that Sophie isn’t kidding when she says she has to go. If I didn’t scoot right then, she would have stood right there and peed on the floor. So I got out of line—completely pissed because I knew the line would only be longer when we got back—and dragged all three kids halfway across the store to the restrooms. We found the “family” bathroom and Sophie did her business. As we were getting ready to walk out the bathroom door—as I had my hand on the door handle—Nicholas announced that he also had to pee. He took off his coat, tossed it on the floor, and climbed up on the potty. Lucas was flitting around playing with the paper towel dispenser and the sink and stepping all over Nicky’s coat laying unceremoniously on the dirty tile floor. Nicholas was talking himself blue in the face about absolutely nothing as he sat on the toilet. Eventually, I growled, “Just pee, Nicky!” A little louder than I had anticipated. I am sure it sounded horrible to anyone within earshot.

After our lengthy trip to the restroom, we trudged back to the pharmacy and got our prescription. We then had to make our way to both extreme ends of the store to pick up apple juice and baby wipes. The entire way the kids were hanging on the sides of the cart, one pulling it one way while another pushed it another way. I almost ran over several people. I rammed the cart into a couple of aisles. The entire way, I was bitching at the kids to get off the cart. Walk straight. Hurry up. Stop lollygagging. I could hear the nagging tone in my voice and I absolutely hated it, but I couldn’t seem to help myself. I was just irritated and tired and thinking about the one hundred things I needed to accomplish when and if we could just get the hell out of Target.

As we were standing in the check-out line, Lucas shoved Nicholas and almost knocked him to the floor. The check-out lady said, “Oh honey, be careful.” She was being perfectly nice and was obviously concerned about little waif-like Nicky being trounced by his older brother. I smiled through clenched teeth. However, in my head I was screaming, I can control my kids, lady! I don’t need your help! What was wrong with me? Where did this hateful, bitchy person come from?
All in all,  my children were pretty well-behaved in Target. They were simply being kids. They were energetic, but they weren’t running through the store screaming. They stayed right beside me. They didn’t cry for new toys. They didn’t fight or fuss. Aside from Lucas shoving Nicholas a little too hard in the check-out line, they did nothing wrong. I felt extremely guilty for nagging at them. When we got to the car and I got everyone buckled into their car seats, I took a deep breath, turned around, and apologized to them. I told them mommy was tired and that we all get grumpy sometimes when we are tired. But really, that’s no excuse. So what if I have a To-Do list a mile long? There is nothing on that list important enough for me to treat my kids the way I did today. For doing nothing more than simply being kids. I don’t like being that mother.

I took a second look at my To-Do list this evening. Some things were completed and checked off. Others were not. The laundry did not get folded and put away. Amazingly, however, the world did not end. The sun set as usual. And I anticipate it will rise again in the morning. Life will go on. I will live to make another To-Do list tomorrow. I think this time I will add the following to my list:

Be kind to your children.
Be gentle with yourself.

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