“I need a break.”
Both girls were crying. One didn’t want to take a bath and the other just wanted to be held. My husband had just gotten out of the shower after a long day at work and an hour commute home. In traffic.
I walked downstairs and sat on the couch, listening to my husband stomp around in the room above. I hear the bath running and him trying to coax #1 into the tub. He runs back to #2 to give her the pacifier. It works for 10 seconds. She is crying again. He puts white noise on. #1 is now screaming, “Mommy!”
I just wanted 10 minutes to myself.
Feeling defeated, I walk back upstairs after 3, pick up the baby, and go over to tub with my fake smile and my best mommy voice.
“Wow! You’re taking a bath, Dylann? What a good girl! Now you’re going to be all clean!”
She stops crying, looks up at my with red, puffy eyes and says, “Yeah.” She grins.
Then something happens between that moment and after #2 is done with her bath. I feel anger, resentment, and exhaustion rising from within. And it all comes out. There is yelling and tears and screams. There is also confusion and hurt. Somehow we had forgotten that the kids were in the room.
#1 is confused and scared. She puts her hand on my face and repeats, “Stop talking!”
I can’t even begin to describe the million thoughts that went through my mind in that one moment. My two-year-old knows something is wrong. Does she get it? Does she really understand? I see the fear in her eyes. Mommy and daddy don’t talk to each other like this.
What ensued next further perpetuated my guilt and affirmed my belief that we had scarred her for life. She wouldn’t look at me, at either of us. We asked for hugs, she turned her back. She never does that. She didn’t say anything for a while, and she didn’t want to go to bed, even when we offered her her bottle – usually a source of comfort and sure-fire way to get her to go to sleep.
I woke my husband up later that night to apologize. There were more tears, but the yelling was replaced with words of forgiveness. We promised to try and be slow to anger, more understanding, and more loving. We promised to try and never fight in front of our children again. The way they will view the world will be dependent on what they see going on in front of their eyes. And we agreed that we don’t want harsh words and raised voices to be their normal.
Parenthood can bring out the worst, though it demands the very best. It will push you to your limits, and also expand your heart to territories unknown. But I think overall it has made my husband and I want to become better versions of ourselves. I see so much of ourselves in our daughter – in the way she talks, reacts, laughs, and loves. Being her parents has shown us what it is to love and be loved unconditionally.
I know there will be more days like this, where we forget how to be kind and patient, when our voices are full of anger and resentment and tiredness. Hopefully those days will be few, and our children’s normal will consist mostly of laughter and light and love.
We’re working on it.