I used to think I was a pretty good parent. This was big stuff for me; I’d agonized for years over having children because I thought I’d be a complete fuckup. But then I had JJ and fell head over heels in love with him, and I realized that this was it: the most important and best job I’d ever have.
And we were so in sync, he and I. We were like perfectly matched dance partners from the very beginning. We nursed for 19 months, and it was wonderful. Then one day I thought to myself, “I’m done with this now,” and that evening he dropped his bedtime feeding. We were done in less than a month, and it was this beautiful, mutually respectful process.
That’s just one example of how easy my relationship has been with JJ. (Minus the horrendous potty training debacle of November 2006, but let’s never speak of that again.) I always told other parents that being JJ’s mother was a piece of cake because he was this easygoing, mellow, compliant child, but that was a total lie. What I really thought was I was this fantastic, understanding, patient, compassionate, mature mother with a heart of gold.
The Terrible Twos passed with hardly a tantrum. The Traumatic Threes? I barely broke a sweat. But Four? Four is kicking my ass. Four is serving me a huge slice of humble pie with ice cream on top. Yeah, laugh it up friends—I deserve it—but Four may be the death of me.
Why didn’t anyone warn me about Four? The mouthiness, the eye rolling, the know-it-all attitude. It’s like a warm-up to Thirteen, but I am not ready for Thirteen. How is it possible that this angelic child is suddenly pushing all my buttons with such alacrity? “How do birds poop, Mama?” “Pretty much like we do, but they have an opening called a cloaca instead of an anus.” (Eyeroll) ”I knew that already.”
I am so stunned by this kind of behavior, I don’t even know how to respond. I try to be patient and respectful, and then he comes out with this crap and I explode in a white rage. I’m turning into a yeller. I know it could be worse—I could be turning into a hitter—but I don’t want to be a yeller.
This morning I yelled at him for rolling his eyes and saying “Blah blah blah” at me. And then he cried and said, “I’m sorry, Mama,” and threw himself into my arms. And I thought to myself, I need someone to fire me now. Here is this little boy trying so desperately to grow up and become his own person, and he’s so vulnerable and tough and irritating and lovable, and then I just stomp his fragile psyche to a powder.
It’s hopeless, isn’t it? I guess I’ll just toss another twenty bucks in the therapy fund and pour myself a big glass of wine.