Yesterday was not my finest hour.
I will admit that sometimes, I am not all sweetness and positivity in my role as Mom. Because, you know, I’m human. And as such, I get tired, and frustrated, and cranky, and hormonal, and any one of a couple dozen other reasons why I might not be the pleasant and picture-perfect Mom.
Yesterday was one of those days. I was in an okay mood to start the day, but as I was driving in to the office I felt that something was just off, you know? So, as the day passed, I felt increasingly crabby. But I tried to be… NOT… and to just Get On With It.
I had to pick Stinkerbelle up from school, as I do every day. Yesterday morning, at drop-off before school started, her teacher remarked to me that I should go in and have a look at the self-portrait that Stinkerbelle had drawn — all the kids were tasked with it, and Mrs. Teacher said That Girl’s was “frame worthy”.
Well, the morning drop off is a little chaotic, and Stinkerbelle is a bit overwhelmed by all the sensory input what with all the noise and kids and such, so I suggested that perhaps after school she and I would go in and have a look. I was kind of proud and a little bit excited that she had excelled at something, enough that the teacher made note of it, because she’s struggled to catch up and has worked so hard, so this was exciting. And so, after work, when I went to pick her up, I had plans to stop into That Girl’s classroom and see this masterpiece.
We went in and there were all the kids’ photos up on the wall, and beside each was the picture of themselves that they drew. All along I saw these little hand-drawn heads, stick-figure bodies, all the artists’ visions of themselves. And then I got to Stinkerbelle’s picture.
It was a big scribble. A big blue and purple scribble.
Now I am sure I made all the right noises, but inside, I found myself immediately going on alert. Having a kid with significant delays makes you question and assess these sorts of situations constantly. I heard the voice in my head asking, why was there no face drawn? No body? No person-like shape of any kind?
I know my kid can draw a face. I have seen her. Why did she just scribble?
The logical explanation is that she probably did not understand the directions. She is delayed, and if instructions are not relayed to her simply and directly, she may not understand them. Another explanation is that she was given the opportunity to draw a picture and focused on the YAY I CAN DRAW A PICTURE! part and completely tuned out any instruction given to her. She does that, too.
I weighed these possibilities in my head.
But then the inevitable happens, and that voice in my head starts Comparing. I know I should not do it, and I can hear other people’s voices telling me not to do it, but it happens. I hear it saying, why is my child not drawing a face and a person like the other children? And that sets off all kinds of emotions. Panic. Anger. Frustration. Exhaustion. Defeat.
But I shook it off. Kind of. Stinkerbelle didn’t care, so why should I. We walked home.
Our usual routine when we get home is to put away coats, shoes, and backpacks, and I unpack her lunch. That Girl’s school provides two 20-minute “nutrition breaks” during the day. Now, because of her eating/oral-motor issues, we knew that 20 minutes would hardly be enough time for her to choke down a bite or two of sandwich if she wasn’t really, really focused and directed. And with a table full of four and five year olds, and a bunch of distraction, what was the chance of that?
So I started the year packing her a massive lunch. My thinking was that if she had a bunch of little, easy-to-eat options, she could graze and perhaps get more into her. Or, if she felt like she was struggling with something, she could just choose something else. I packed little chunks of cheese, little cubes of ham, crackers, cookies, pickles, mini-muffins, anything that she might potentially eat, along with a (usually half) sandwich if she felt like that, too.
And then, once the school day was over, I could assess what she had eaten, and we could sit at the table together and chat about her day, and she could eat the stuff she had passed on that day as her mid-afternoon snack. And that would help me plan for the next day’s lunch. And it was working pretty well.
But late last week and early this week, she was starting to come home with maybe a quarter of a sandwich eaten, and that was it. No cheese, no ham, no muffin. A quarter sandwich isn’t enough to sustain her. I asked what had happened, why she had not eaten her lunch.
Stinkerbelle’s first reaction to any disapproval she senses is to apologize and break down into tears. I tried to assure her that she was NOT in trouble, but that I was trying to help her and make it easier to eat her lunch. And she told me that there just isn’t enough time to eat her sandwich — her teachers during the first week told her, maybe the whole class, that they should eat their sandwiches BEFORE cookies or whatever, and knowing my kid, she took that to heart.
And 20 minutes is just Not. Enough. Time. So I decided yesterday morning to just NOT pack a sandwich, and pack a bunch of other things. Solve that problem, right?
Well, yesterday afternoon, I opened her lunchbox to find she had eaten half a little tub of yogurt. That’s it. Maybe 50 grams of yogurt. And a juice box. For a six and a half hour school day.
So my cunning plan was not so cunning. In fact, it failed spectacularly.
Did I handle it with calm and patience? Oh no I did not. Combine my feelings from the self-portrait after school with staring at the uneaten lunch in front of me and… I got frustrated. Stinkerbelle sensed I was upset and believed she was in trouble and began to cry over her remaining lunch. I tried to tell her how important it was for her body and her brain to eat lunch, and she cried and apologized for making me cross. I tried to reassure her that I was not angry at her, as she choked down some apple slices and cheese and a cracker. But she wasn’t reassured, and she was crying.
And I sat there, frustrated, part of me thinking WHAT MENTAL PATIENT THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA TO GIVE KIDS ONLY 20 MINUTES TO EAT, part of me getting frustrated because Stinkerbelle just CAN’T eat like other kids, and part of me feeling like this constant battle over meals and food is doing nothing but setting my poor child up for a lifetime of eating disorders and confusion and stress about food.
I was not in a good place.
I let That Girl get down from the table to go and play. If I had been the calm and happy Mom, I would have just realized that Kids Don’t Always Eat Their Lunches, and just let it go. But there was that voice in my head again. Complaining about the short lunchtime. Frustrated at my kid’s inabilities and issues. Hearing the disapproval or confusion or whatever in Mrs. Teacher’s voice that second or third day of school, asking me “do you expect her to EAT ALL THAT?” And that life lesson I was taught from birth, probably, that you Don’t Waste Food.
And, over top of all that, the voice that chastises me for being such a shitty Mom to my poor, wonderful, doing-her-best child.
Not that THAT voice stops me from being a shitty Mom on these days, as is evidenced by getting cross with Stinkerbelle when getting her ready for bed, and she asked me, “Can you come and wake me up in the morning? And can you say, ‘Wakey wakey sleepyhead!’ And can you be HAPPY, NICE MOM and not GRUMPY MOM?”
Which, as you can imagine, given that I was having a Bad Mom Day, was not greeted with the laughing “out-of-the-mouths-of-babes” good humour that it might otherwise have been.
So that was fun.
I’m tired of being Grumpy Shitty Fail Mom. I want to be Happy Nice Perfect Mom.
It’s not happening, not today anyway. And tomorrow’s not looking good either. But I know I can do better. She deserves better, but she’s got me. I’ll keep trying.