The Adventures of Mean Mommy – originally published July 24, 2008

So this morning, when I got home from yoga at 7:15, the pouring rain was starting to taper off and the sky was beginning to clear. It felt like a great day for the zoo – not too warm, and not so nice that the entire city of sahms would have the same idea. The kids were thrilled. Mark immediately ran to get dressed and found that the blue shirt he wanted to wear was in the wash. He immediately (and uncharacteristically) burst into unconsolable tears. The crying went on for twenty minutes. This is highly unusual for him; he’s not really a crier when things go wrong, more of a complainer/debater. Finally he pulled himself together enough to take my suggestion of wearing a DIFFERENT SHIRT. Fine. Then the usual sunscreen debate between he and I began, and ended fairly amicably with a quick sunscreen application. When it was almost time to go, and I was feeling a little fried from the Mark-haranguing, I started to apply sunscreen to Jake. He ran behind the couch, and when I retrieved him, he squirmed away, running, and laughing. Note that this is, in the not-even-grand scheme of things, a very small violation. Sunscreen resistance is something I deal with every single sunny day, and I have dealt with it every single sunny day since they were old enough to wear sunscreen. However, I had, at that exact moment, totally run out of patience. I did exactly what I coach the children NOT to do – I hurled the sunscreen bottle across the floor and stormed out of the room. When the boys came to check up on steaming me, I announced that we were not going to the zoo as Jake wouldn’t cooperate with his sunscreen application. Ah. There’s nothing like putting a guilt trip on your two year old. When Jake came back five minutes later to say that he would be a good boy and put his sunscreen on, and then could we go to the zoo? I felt like I was starring in some weird “how NOT to parent your children” video.

It really reminded me of when Jake was a (colicky) newborn and Mark was a year and a half, and Jake would be crying for solid hours on end, despite much baby-wearing, rocking, attempts to feed, etc., and Mark would have some totally normal age-related crying/whining fit, and I would totally lose it and end up yelling at Mark. Sometimes with kids you can just take it and take it and take it and then you snap, and the result is just totally inappropriate with what made you snap in the first place.Guilt is an integral part of motherhood.

After sunscreen and hugs, we had a really great day at the zoo, marred only by the explanation as to why the stingray exhibit was closed. The boys were pretty saddened by the loss of so many stingrays. The drive home was all about “Why did the stingrays get sick? Did they have a stingray doctor? Why didn’t the doctor help them? Why did they not know what was wrong? Why did they die?”, culminating in the grand question “What if all the animals get sick and die and we can’t go to the zoo anymore?”

Existential questions and fights about sunscreen. Sometimes the world of parenting small children is just so completely surreal.Can any of you relate?

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