I bring out the worst in my children.
Fellow mommies, holler if you hear me.
How many times has your partner, or parents, or trusted caregiver made comments such as the following:
“Oh, geez, your child NEVER acts that way with me!”
“I swear your kids were happy until you showed up.”
“Your son/daughter is a perfect angel around me and never does anything wrong and is constantly a joy and must have fallen directly from heaven and would NEVER yell at me like that EVER.”
Why? Why? WHY?
I recently took a much-needed girls’ trip to the mountains with my friends. My in-laws came to help my husband with the kids during my leave. Though I didn’t check in often, when I did I got reports that my blessed cherubs were using their manners, cleaning up their messes and had smiles on their faces every waking moment.
It got to the point where I was just waiting for my mother-in-law to tell me my not-yet-2-year-old had potty trained herself while solving a Rubik’s Cube and my 4-year-old discovered he loved doing housework and found a winning multimillion-dollar lottery ticket.
Of course, I was thrilled that my children were behaving and having a great visit with their grandparents, whom we only get to see a few times a year because they live hundreds of miles away.
And though I did not miss the kids as much as I thought I would (yikes?), I was more than eager to return to these clean, free, tantrum-free children.
And then I got home.
Within moments of embracing my little ones, they launched into an all-out assault. Armed with sippy cups and plastic toys, they launched hate-bombs and whiny-grenades on me:
“I want this NOW!”
“Hold me and not him or I will scream in your face!”
“No! I WON’T put on my shoes!”
I mean … what? My in-laws looked at me in disbelief.
“Where did those happy children go?” my mother-in-law asked.
Yes! Where did they go? Where do they always go when Mommy shows up? The sweet angels their temporary caregivers fell in love with run away, and two little monsters appear. They sneer and bite and yell and fight.
At the end of my rope, I called my mom.
“Why do I bring out the worst in my children?” I asked.
As always, my mother had a response: Because children feel comfortable that they can act like little jerks and their mommies will still love them. Children might be afraid that other caretakers will disapprove and shun them when they throw tantrums, but a mommy never will.
For as much grief as they gave me in the first 24 hours of my return, I still found myself wanting to hold and kiss and love on them. Sure, I had to strap their flailing arms to their sides and hold their screaming, snotty faces still so I could plant a smooch on them. And my son tried to bite off my nose when I went in for a hug. And my daughter threw her cup of Cheerios on the ground, screamed and ran the other way when I opened my arms to her.
But whatever. For better or worse, these are my children. If anyone can suck it up and see past the little monsters in them, it’s going to be me.