The friendly stranger would look on with horror and nearby pedestrians would jump in and try to correct my terrified toddler. "Don't hit your mom!" They would scold, which would only exasperate the situation. I felt like a terrible mother, surely somewhere in his 18 months with me, I had broken this precious gift from God.
Months went on and the situation seemed to grow worse. I would avoid going out simply to bypass any chaos. Whenever my son would act out, a monolog ran through my mind of what onlookers must be thinking:
Que older woman voice, "If I did that to my mama, she would tan my hide!"
Or que the snooty, analytical voice, “They must hit that boy at home… that's where he learned the behavior!"
Unfortunately, my little angel didn't get the in-utero memo that we don't hit in our household.
Finally, I nearly broke down after my son hit me in front of the pediatrician. I explained that we don't hit in our house, and I don't know where he learned this, or what to do, nothing seemed to help! As I choked back tears from months of mom anguish, my pediatrician choked back a chuckle.
She explained that this behavior, though not good, was a very common in children. Sure, I had read that online before, but her words provided relief. Maybe others weren’t judging me as harshly as I judged myself?
Flash forward a few years, and our tribe has grown. I have three little ones, and the said toddler is now a happy five year old. Guess what? He stopped hitting. Instead of mommy freaking out, he needed some reassurance that I was with him and he was safe when strangers came around.
I do have another toddler though, and she has hit a few times. Then, she sat in time-out, and I moved along with my day because I have to. I have a baby to feed and meals to cook and laundry to do.
The moral of my story is that, oftentimes, moms are highly equipped to make mountains out of mole hills. We adore our children and think they're perfectly incredible. Sure, some kids may hit, but not my angel! When we hit a bump in the road, we’re thrown off completely and we google 800 different ways to handle the pothole because we’re afraid that just driving over will produce permanent damage and years of therapy. But the longer you parent, and the more families grow and change, the more you realize that the road is indeed bumpy. No one has a freshly paved road in front of them, and if it looks like Jenny from the playground does, then it's a façade [I read her e-mails].
Take a deep breath, fasten your seat belts, and keep driving. You'll make it through the ditch, I promise! Don't let potholes ruin the trip, and don’t let worrying about the potholes keep you from driving. The memories of this crazy road trip we call parenting will fuel us with joyful memories for decades to come, and at the end of our days, we’ll look back and relish in the laughter, the milestones, even the tears, because we were together… and we made it through.
Have a wonderful Mother’s Day, you’ve earned it!
Is a wife, mother of four, author of Re:Birth, and lover of afternoon naps.