Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bad Mommy!

Occasionally I can't control myself. Every once in a while I have a horrible instance where I am standing outside of my own body watching the words come out of my mouth, regretting every one and wishing I could stop them.

Two weeks after her oral surgery, I am at the orthodontist with Eve, watching her anxiety level ratchet up like a car on a roller coaster heading for the tallest peak. Her cheeks redden, her eyes twitch from side to side and widen, the tears build inside her lower eyelids. At the same time I am becoming more and more embarrassed, knowing that at any moment she will reach for me and pull herself out of the chair, burying her face in my stomach and letting the sobs fly. I am paralyzed, feeling powerless, knowing that we've been here before time and time again. She is afraid of having the bands sized on her back molars. She hates the way the metal feels scraping against her teeth, hates the feeling of the too-tight bands and the too-loose ones pushing against her soft gums. Two years ago we made three successive appointments, each one attempting to get to this point and watching her fall apart more quickly each time. We decided to wait for her to get a bit older and hope that it would make a difference.

Here we are with the worst part (arguably) behind us. She's had the anesthesia, she's suffered through the pain and stitches and eating soft foods for ten days. We have to get past this point and Eve just can't do it. She's holding up the well-oiled machine that is this orthodontist's office by sobbing and refusing to let them do their job. The young man in the chair next to her opens his mouth and offers to let her see the bands around his back teeth but she's not buying it. She buries her head deeper. I am mortified. She's making such a scene! Lola is hungry and she jumps off her stool and grabs my free hand to whimper into as well.

Out in the parking lot I let fly. I know I should be the one who is comforting her, acknowledging her fears, rational or not, and helping her find a way past this. Instead, I am angry.

"We just spent a ton of money having those teeth removed!" (That's not the point at all. Why am I saying this?)

"You can't do this this time. You have to find a way to get into that chair and let them put the bands on. I had braces three times. I didn't die - it's not horrible!" (Not helping, Mom.)

"Why don't you trust me? Have I ever taken you to a place where you would be hurt? It's my job to keep you safe. I am not going to put you into a situation where you will get hurt. Why can't you trust me?" (Why am I making this about me?)

She is buckled in to her car seat, sobbing. Gulping huge gasps of air, tears rolling down her cheeks and dripping into her lap. She is frightened, embarrassed, frustrated. I am yelling at her. With every word that comes out of my mouth part of me is recoiling in disgust. Why am I so angry? Why am I embarrassed at her behavior? Why does this bother me so much?

I don't know. My instinct is to have Bubba take her from now on. I can't be rational about this. I can't find a way to get her past this and I can't remain dispassionate about it. By the time we get home she is calm and I am deep in shame and regret. I sit with her on the couch and hug her and tell her over and over again that I love her. It isn't enough to make up for the way I rubbed salt in her wounds today and I am afraid that this is one of those horrible moments from her childhood that she will always remember.

Tomorrow I will do better. I hope.


Scott from Oregon said...

Nah.... She'll remember the part where you felt bad and apologized...

Suzy said...

My guess is that you are so feeling her pain and fear. You're not a bad mom. Nothing is further from the truth.

My guess is that you could cry and scream and bolt out of there also, if you could. But you are the grownup.

You have just taken on her extreme sadness and debilitating fear.

You're the best mom.

Love you


Anonymous said...

As moms we all have those moments, believe me, I have had my fair share. Don't beat yourself up, your a great mom, you apologized, that is the part she will remember. She is so very loved, and she knows it.

Jerri said...

I'm with Scott. She'll remember that you apologized.

My dad once apologized to me, and it's one of my strongest memories of childhood. My admiration for him grew unbelievably that day.

I'm sure you'll find better ways to express the simple truth: sometimes we just have to suck it up and get it done.

Teaching her that is a true kindness.

You're a wonderful mom, and true kindness is a huge part of your toolbox. You'll work it out.

Anonymous said...

Yup, she'll remember the worst bits of your worst meltdown. But she'll also remember quiet mommy-and-me moments. She'll remember how you are the best story reader on the planet. She'll remember that amazing birthday cake you baked your own special self. I know a little girl who remembers sitting in the aisle of a grocery store so we could work through a world class nine-year-old issue. Oops, I think she also remembers me kicking the counter stool across the room in a hormone-fueled moment. But she still loves me. So yes your girl will grow up with her own collection of memories, some so obscure that you won't have any recollection of them when you talk about this 38 years from now. That's how this process works. We don't get to choose for our Selves or our children what memories "stick." I guess that means they are all good!


Jerri said...

Just checking in to see if "tomorrow" (which is now today) is better.

Love you.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Ditto everyone. ONE apology, heartfelt, abolishes 100 bad mommy moments. Here's my philosophy, you are teaching her you are not perfect, and when you make a mistake, you apologize and move on. What BETTER lesson is there for a mother to teach her daughter? Take an A and put away the horse hair vest!

BTW, I would get that girl some Valium, seriously, and load her up before all ortho. appointments. Just make them at the end of the school day and plan on her being useless the rest of the day. She has anxiety. Join the f'ing club. Anxiety needs to be treated. No judgment. Bands on the back teeth? Not an option. Debilitating anxiety? Optional. Remember, anxiety is not rational. All the kids in the other chairs don't make a lick of difference. She is anxious, period, and responding accordingly. Her anxiety makes you anxious, of course it does! Then that exacerbates her anxiety and around we go on the wheel of neurosis!

Deb said...

It's all been said above. I love what Bubba said to you. Your daughter knows you're human now - if she didn't before. But I know for sure that there are no little girls anywhere who know better than yours just how loved they are.

Give yourself some slack - your dad is dying. I'll bet you have your own chorus of scared little girls inside.

Much much love to you. Sending light and grace your way.

Anonymous said...

One suggestion from someone who suffers anxiety attacks herself - have her come up with a mantra she can tell herself over and over to calm her racing mind. Mine is related to back pain and the fear of being immobilized - the mantra I use is "I'm okay, I can move, I can do this." Then I move to prove to myself that I really can move. It will help her focus on something other than her fear.

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