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Social Chicken: This Too Shall Pass

August 11, 2011

Yesterday, I pooped my pants.

I’ve started doing this recently. Not really sure why. Not at home, but out in public, on a playground, or while my family was at camp last week.

I also threw a tantrum when I didn’t get to finish my art project in class. I was terribly upset, and got sent to the principal’s office as a result.

During a meal with my friends, I dropped a grape. When one of my friends reached down to grab it for me, I presumed she was going to eat it, so I punched her. She punched back and the whole thing turned into an ugly mess with lots of screaming and tears. And a lot of people were watching.

I didn’t feel like getting out of bed this morning, so I tried to kick my dad in the shins. He didn’t like it.

Even as I write, I am hollering because I didn’t get to be the one to open the playground gate and I’m stomping my foot and howling.

Oh wait.

I didn’t actually do all those things.

My kids did.

But often – almost always – I feel so bad, so guilty, you would think I HAD done it.

Especially the public stuff. I carry their mistakes, their flaws, around with me like a leaden blanket. I own them as if they were mine. I blame myself, I search past actions, past words to try and figure out WHY.

I writhe with shame.

When in reality, they are doing what kids do. Missing the mark, making mistakes, rattling the locks. Testing boundaries, establishing their identity and figuring out just how far Mom will bend before she breaks.

They’re doing their job.

So what’s my job? Besides all that shaping of the will and nurturing and all that? It’s certainly not carrying around their flaws in my handbag – it’s already full of hand-sanitizer, Kleenex and emergency Dum-Dums.

I sat at a picnic table at camp last week with some moms who had finished the race – they have delightful adult children who are funny, socially adept and gainfully employed. When I brought up the topic of bearing the weight of my kids flaws, they began telling their own stories of tantrums and public embarrassment. Even as they spoke their shoulders slumped with the weight of that long-forgotten burden.

Even them. With their wonderful, talented, grown-up kids. Even them. They felt like this, too.

I guess we all do. But how easily we forget.

While confessional blogs and even books about being a “bad mom” abound, Borba says, they don’t replace the power of in-person conversations in the carpool line, over coffee or on the playground. When you actually tell another mom how you’re feeling, chances are you’ll feel recognized, relieved and validated — not outcast.

“That’s the golden thing, when you share with another mom and you’re open with another mom, you’re going to get a laugh,” she said. “We all have deep down one thing in common: we want our kids to turn out healthy and happy.”

What’s your deepest, darkest secret?  By Rebecca Dube

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