Feeling terrible / negotiating with terrorists

Mamas make mistakes too?

Yes, mamas make mistakes, I tell Serafina, as I wipe the poop smear from her butt because on this day she has *not* decided she can do it “all by self,” which has left the task to me.

I don’t know why she is asking me if mamas also make mistakes, but there are many words and phrases and thoughts erupting from her these days of unknown origin, most of them demonstrating a more sophisticated handle on the English language than I would have guessed a 2 1/2 year old should be capable of. But I am learning, now that I have a 2 1/2 year old, that they are mighty capable some times.

“Look, Mommy, it’s a whale!” Serafina says to Darry, pointing at an illustration in a book they’re reading together.

“I think that’s a fish, sweetie,” Darry replies. “A mama fish and a baby fish.”

Actually… Serafina replies carefully... I think that’s a Mommy fish. The Mama fish is dead, but the baby fish is happy to be with its Mommy.

We have entered the era a former boss once described to me as the “acid trip” of parenting. The age when kids start vocalizing the reality in their heads: it mostly reflects the reality you also occupy, but some fundamental aspects are askew and the most important priorities rarely line up.

I am hopeful Serafina has at least a small grasp on what a mistake really is and that what matters is that you can recognize when you or someone else has made one, and then talk about it. Each day I die a little when I recognize a mistake that I have made, which usually involves me hollering or losing my patience, often at the same time. But I feel strongly that the best work I do with her sometimes is in the repair from those mistakes.

Last night I was tortured by a battle I unwittingly engaged in when Serafina got out of the tub. It was a blazing hot day and we’d spent most of it outside. I gave her a tepid bath to cool down. It was still stifling in the house, even as the sun was starting to set, but she insisted that she complete her bathing routine by putting on her very thick, very cozy bathrobe.

“It’s too hot to wear this right now, love. I don’t want you to overheat,” I offered.

“I need it! I need my baffrobe!”

“Serafina, listen to mama. This bathrobe is for winter time. We need to get you one that is nice and light for summer. You don’t want to feel too hot, do you?”

“My baffrobe! BAFF-robe. BAFFROBE! I need it now, Mama!”

And after a few more moments of this type of thing — while my caffeine headache raged (because I’d forgotten to make that second cup of tea), while the babies were still whining themselves to sleep over the monitor and while the post-bedtime relief was so near I could taste it — I gave in to the madness and snapped.

Fine, wear the damn bathrobe and if you’re too hot, remember what I said.

We wrapped up in the bathroom, I stationed Serafina in the guest bedroom, where she gets her nightly dose of “Dan Tiger” and walked away for a moment alone to fully realize how useless that interaction was. I did a mental scroll through all the parenting advice I’d encountered recently, mostly in headlines in Facebook, and the Buddhist talks I’ve been listening to on my commute to work.

  • You hold their hearts in your hand.
  • Don’t focus on the content, look at the root of your itch.
  • Make evenings and mornings less stressful by just letting your child guide you.
  • The real work is in the repair.
  • Lovingkindess is key, most especially for yourself.

I sat down next to Serafina a few minutes later and said I was sorry for getting upset and yelling at her, and I told her I loved her very much. It was difficult to know if she heard me, because the lure of Daniel Tiger was so great. So I said it again. She leaned on my shoulder and said “mama…” very sweetly, and a then beat later, “Dan Tiger hurt his leg! He went to Doctor Anna to get it fixed. Katerina was there.”

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