My son has been “working” on his homework for over an hour. In that time, he’s barely finished one of his two assigned workbook pages. The page is a mess of scratches and scribbled out errors because he used a pen even though I told him to use a pencil. I tell him to use a pencil and to finish the last two problems. I’ll be back in five minutes to check on you, I say, and I take a deep breath to calm myself. The worksheet should have taken him 10 minutes at most.
Five minutes later, I come back in and he looks at me with baleful eyes and tells me he got distracted again. He’s made no progress on his work. I ask him a question about a different assignment. He gives me a vague answer, so I ask him again. He looks at me like I am speaking a foreign language. I bark out the question again, my voice sharp, my teeth clicking together as I spit out each word: Did. You. Do. YOUR. READING. FOR. BOOK. CLUB?
My son, whom I love wildly, shrugs and I lose my mind. I gesture to his homework on his desk, calling his worksheet “a hot mess”. I mock his answer to my question. I feel angry and mean and so frustrated. I finish with a bang, telling him he needs to “get this shit finished”. I’ve never used the word shit at him before. He bursts into tears, eventually climbing into my lap and telling me he thinks there is something wrong with his brain.
The hot prickle of shame I feel is instantaneous, the guilt I feel at being an asshole mom is complete.
You see, my son is struggling with attention and focus right now. We’re working on getting to the root of it, but I know that as frustrated as I am about it taking him two hours to do his homework, it has to be even worse for him. He needs my help and I took his head off instead.
If you ask me on a good day what I’m like as a mom, I’d tell you that I’m loving, I’m affectionate, I’m not a yeller, I’ve got decent to better than average amounts of patience, I’m fun.
On bad days, when I’m asshole mom, I worry about which version of me they’ll remember. I’m the better version of myself more often than not, but when it comes to remembering his childhood, is my son going to remember that I played Dutch Blitz with him for an hour or the time I said shit and lost my temper about his homework?
Parenting feels perilous sometimes. There are so many was in any given day to screw this up, to damage the little people who are hard-wired to love us and need us. I do okay, most of the time, but, damn, it is hard to shake the guilt off when asshole mom emerges instead.