different scars, but scars nonetheless

Once, when Dee was about two and a half, I lost it all over her.  It escalated to the point where I was screaming at her so loud that Gee could hear me from outside.  I forget what it was about – I’m pretty sure it started as a silly argument over what I wanted her to wear or something – but whatever it was, it certainly didn’t merit my total loss of control, and my bullying and berating an innocent little person who, no matter how mature she was for her age, was still only a toddler.

Once my senses had returned and the enormous guilt had properly set in, I remember consoling myself by thinking that I would probably get away with it.  That as long as I never let loose such an emotional and manipulative outburst again, my poor baby would probably not be scarred by my one huge indiscretion.  In fact, I told myself, she probably wouldn’t even remember it.

Of course there have been more shameful incidents since that summer’s night, 4 1/2 years ago.   At what age, I wonder, does our free pass expire?  When I lost my mind tonight, my pendulum swinging between hopelessness and rage and back again to despair, how much damage was I imparting on my daughters?  If I were to stop it (just stop it!) tonight, and live the rest of my days as a Good Mother, could I undo the harm that has been done?  

Has harm been done?  I think so.  Dee, especially, is as sensitive as I ever was, and I am sure she will grow up with either memories or knowledge of a mother who sometimes couldn’t cope.  I wish that the other memories, the other reality of me as a caring, intelligent, involved and loving mother would tip the scales in my favour, but based on my own experience as the daughter of an occasionally overwhelmed woman, I can’t believe in that.  

There was quite a discussion over at Her Bad Mother the other day about spanking, whether it causes irreparable harm, or actually leads to better, more successful adults.  I commented that I don’t spank.  I don’t think it does any good, and I don’t see how it is ever right to hit a child.  But I cannot believe that spanking, in and of itself, can cause more emotional injury than some of the non-physical ways we deal with our children.  I won’t say discipline, because what I did tonight, and what I did all those summers ago, was not discipline.  It was taking out my frustrations on someone who should be able to expect more from me.

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7 Responses to different scars, but scars nonetheless

  1. Leia says:

    I lose my cool more often than I’d like too. I am a child of an emotional abuser. The yelling never bothered me so much as the insults and public humiliation though. Do you apologize to your girls when your head gets back in place? I do, it makes me feel better, and it lets them know that mommy messed up, overreacted, and will try not to do it again. I think it helps the girls understand as well. At least, I hope it does! My mother never apologized, and never admitted she was wrong. It will always be my fault. THAT is hard to let go of.

    Hugs to you…

    • kootnygirl says:

      I do apologize, and I try try to reinforce how much I love them and how it is not acceptable to act like that. I’m afraid though, of teaching them that you can do whatever horrible things you want, as long as you say you’re sorry afterward. That’s not a lesson I want them to learn.

      I’m sorry you had to deal with that in your childhood…thank you for your honesty.

  2. ironicmom says:

    I’m not a yeller, but I get impatient sometimes and snap at my 5-year-olds. Usually, it’s when I’m trying to have some me time in the midst of chaos (read the paper, check email). Still, I always feel embarrassed afterward that I snapped over something stupid (finishing reading a column). I like to half-joke, I’m saving for therapy…it’s either for the kids (the damage I’ve done) or for me.

    Thanks for being so honest.

  3. Margaret says:

    Its hard when you lose your cool, the mommy guilt is not a fun thing! But I do believe that its okay for kids to know that emotions run a whole range and that Mommy’s are not superheros- we make mistakes too! And we can get grumpy too!

    And that making mistakes is not the absolute end of the world. Seeing how their adults handle themselves & are accountable for their own behaviour is a good model… as long as it is a rare thing! 🙂

    • kootnygirl says:

      “Rare” is a relative term, I’m afraid. One thing I do know is that I am more aware of the warning signs when I’m starting to slip into that place, and usually I can save myself (and them) from the utter depths of it. Sadly, it’s small consolation for those times when I tumble all the way there anyway.

  4. mamatulip says:

    I agree with you. I have spanked my child before – it’s not something I’m proud of, and it’s not something I have done since. I think it made me feel worse than it did my child, and it didn’t work. At all. But honestly? There have been times when I have completely lost my shit on my kid and I’ve thought to myself, “This is worse than physical actions.”

    This parenting thing is so hard sometimes, isn’t it?

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