It was only a moment. One tiny moment where I lost the ability to control my temper. But in that one moment I did something that I feel is unforgivable as a parent . . .
I scared my son.
I have been a mother for nearly three years. It has had its ups and downs and we have definitely had our challenges. But I’ve always managed to squash my frustrations and approach tough toddler situations with a level-headed and caring approach.
Believe me, I surprised even myself with how good I have handled some situations. I have prided myself on just how good I had become at this mom thing. I could count on one hand the number of times I have screamed at my children. I know all the tricks.
Get down on his level. Look him in the eyes. Use words he can understand. Be stern but never scream.
I was a good mom.
. . . was . . .
It was only a moment but it’s a moment I can’t ever take back. I don’t know how it got out of control so quickly. And I realize I am probably dramatizing it in my head a bit. But to me, it was the most awful moment I’ve had as a mom yet.
It had been a rough day for all of us. The boys were exhausted from the festivities of a long holiday weekend. Landon wouldn’t walk to the car and we were already running late. So I picked him up to carry him but I tripped over something and fell forward on the concrete. I landed on him. He started crying immediately and I quickly tried to figure out what was hurt. He calmed down quickly so off we went to daycare drop-off.
That night I stopped to get the boys happy meals to make up for such a rushed morning. They love the apple dippers, I thought. Landon will love the batman toy that came with it.
My boys and I sat around the table eating apple slices and chicken nuggets. I laughed that one of the meals came with a girl toy. A barbie head with hair you could style. I walked around the table and pretended to have the barbie kiss the boys. They both erupted in wild fits of laughter as I got closer and closer and closer with the doll, teasing them with kisses. Things were looking up.
I took both boys upstairs for their bath. The boys always bathe together. It is usually fun. I ran the bathwater and placed Brigham in right away. I called for Landon in the playroom. He came to the bathroom door and screamed, “I’m not taking a bath!” His face red with anger. My usual problem-solver is to use reverse psychology.
“That’s fine, Landon. You can be stinky if you want.”
Ordinarily he would come running back and do what I asked of him. But tonight it didn’t work. Instead he swiftly threw a toy at me while I bathed Brigham.
Now I was mad. Hadn’t I done a good job tonight? Hadn’t I made him smile and laugh? And this is the thanks I get?
I quickly pulled him into the bathroom, shut the door and locked it. I told him that he didn’t have to take a bath but he could not play in the playroom. He started freaking out. FUH-REAKING. And suddenly he got all smart and learned how to unlock the door. Usually I would have followed him but Brigham was in the bathtub so I couldn’t leave him unattended.
I told Landon he needed to come back into the bathroom with me. But he didn’t listen. Instead he started kicking the door to the playroom with both feet. You guys know we just moved to a new house, right? Scuff marks on my pretty new doors? I don’t think so. You know, because doors are more important than a happy child.
I briefly pulled Brigham out of the tub and left him standing there while I ran to get Landon. I brought Landon back into the bathroom and shoved the step stool up against the door so he couldn’t get out.
And this is where I should have stopped. This is where the logical part of my brain should have admitted defeat, stopped bath time altogether and walked away until Landon calmed down and Brigham stopped crying.
But that’s not what happened.
Instead I pulled Landon’s clothes off and put him into the tub as he kicked me repeatedly in the stomach. He stood there screaming at the top of his lungs. His face became bright red as he held his breath in between screams. He slid in the tub as I tried to soap him up. Brigham just stood there crying for me to take him out. He had no idea what was going on. After all, he just wanted to play in the water with his boats.
I turned around to gain composure while Landon continued his fit of rage. That composure I was looking for? It didn’t come.
I turned back around and began screaming at Landon at the top of my lungs. I told him to please just shut up. I begged him. When I screamed Brigham started screaming even louder and harder even though I wasn’t addressing him. I’m pretty sure he was scared shitless.
I swiftly took Landon and Brigham out of the bathtub. I put Landon in his bedroom with a towel and slammed the door. I had to be in a different room for a minute. And I needed to tend to Brigham who was still crying.
I grabbed Brigham and wrapped him in a towel. And then I sank onto the floor of his nursery and began to sob uncontrollably. What had I done? What had I done?
A moment. One moment. That’s all it took for me to possibly screw up my sons’ lives forever.
Within seconds I realized what I had done. I got up onto my feet and frantically ran into Landon’s room. He was sitting naked on the floor with soap still in his hair. I grabbed the towel I had given him off the floor, wrapped it around him and held him until he stopped crying.
Within five minutes things had calmed down and Landon was acting like himself again.
But then there was me. I felt like running. Running far far away so that my sons never have to be subjected to a mom who cannot control herself.
I gave myself a zero tolerance policy long ago when it comes to abuse. It will not happen in our household. I don’t hit. I don’t spank. I don’t slap. I have never touched my children with anything but loving hands. I should have known that I would screw things up with my damned mouth instead.
When it was bedtime I crawled into bed with him so that I could explain what happened and apologize. After all, if I make him apologize when he does something wrong then why shouldn’t I be held to the same standards?
“Landon, mommy is so so sorry for what happened tonight.”
He sat silent as I explained that I lost my temper and was sorry for yelling so loud. I told him that sometimes adults have tantrums too but I hoped he could forgive me for my mistakes. He stared straight into my eyes but this time they weren’t scared eyes. They were worried eyes. My child. The one I disrespected so terribly just an hour before . . . was worried about me. The tears started to flow from my eyes.
And then he did something I will never forget. He reached up and kissed my cheek where the tear fell.
“It’s okay, mommy.” he said. “I forgive you.”
He told me he loved me, put his arms around me and patted my back until I stopped crying. And then I did the same for him as he drifted off to sleep.
I always rock Brigham to sleep and sing to him. But as I rocked him on this night he was restless. He jerked back and forth in an effort to be released and put in his crib. I can only guess that he no longer found refuge in his mother’s arms.
It was only a moment. But I started punishing myself for it as soon as it happened.
I stayed awake for way too long that night. I couldn’t eat. I was too upset. I cried and sobbed after my husband went to bed. All I could picture was him sitting in his room. Afraid and confused. Because of me. Because I lost my temper.
An hour after Landon went to bed the cramping started and then I began to bleed heavily. I already had my period a couple weeks ago. I assume that the mental stress led to physical stress as well. I am so deeply disappointed in my behavior and the utterly despicable example I just set for my sons. I don’t know if I can recover from this mistake. I don’t even think God will forgive me for this.
I climbed back into bed with Landon and watched him sleep for a long time. It was the only thing that made me feel better. I watched his eyes move back and forth from behind his eyelids. I wondered what he was dreaming about.
I hoped it wasn’t about me.
He deserves better dreams than that.