It’s been said that one of George Stephanopoulos’ most important and challenging tasks when he worked as a senior adviser for Bill Clinton was to absorb Bill’s ‘Blue Rage’ every morning. I have rage. Sometimes my rage grows so hot that it too is blue. I don’t have a senior policy advisor or anyone whose job it is to absorb my rage – at myself, the universe, and the failings of both. But I do have a blue car. And sometimes it must absorb my rage.
I had one of ‘those’ nights. I couldn’t sleep. I had a beer. I got out of my bed and performed a couple of menial tasks. Still couldn’t sleep when I returned to bed. I had some tea. I read using the ‘night’ setting of my phone. Sill, sleep evaded me even though I’d done everything books tell insomniacs to do when they can’t sleep. Plus, I’d had a beer. As night turned to morning I napped. The alarm’s ping sounded like an air raid siren.
I was not prepared.
“I don’t want to go to camp today,” my son stated in response to my ‘good morning’.
“I don’t have a costume,” he started to explain….
Steam. And it wasn’t from my tea.
Now, I’m not a fan of dressing up. Nor am I a fan of the bee-bopping tween jerk my son’s camp group were to dress as for the camp’s “Costume Day” where they were to ‘perform’ in a group, each dressed as said dolt. But I am a big advocate for taking responsibility for your choices.
“I’ll draw tattoos with an eyeliner and we can turn one of your t-shirts inside out…” I ‘suggested’ in exasperation as a way to make an impromptu costume. Naturally, I also reminded the little bugger that I’d offered to work on a costume over the weekend.
Nada. He stormed away from my bedroom teary.
“You know, he’s eight years old. He doesn’t want to dress up and he doesn’t want face the social pressure…” my husband reasoned. He offered to bring our second-born to camp as soon as the child calmed down – which I learned (via an email exchange with the camp co-director) would be in about an hour — it was more like a “Costume Hour” versus the “Costume Day” my child described through tears.
“He has to take responsibility for his actions,” I said storming out of the room. And into my car where I turned the music up to 11 to mask my screams of frustration as I tore out of our driveway.
“Hooooonk,” my horn shrieked at the grey minivan driver who realized switching into the lane of a mother gone mad would be… ill-advised. I’m sorry, by the way. I’d also like to apologize to the Tesla, the SUV… well, to everyone who was on Sunset Blvd with me that morning.
Those who know me and my usual grandmotherly driving preferences are surely gob smacked by the above account. As was I. But I was not prepared for the wave of exhausted frustration followed by the tsunami of maternal failure that this morning was. So I drove like the mother gone mad that I was … that failed mother filled with shame and regret who lives within me always.
Oh, sure, I’ve read the books. I have a B.A. in Psychology and an M.A. in Education. I promise you that neither degree is from a diploma mill. And yet there are moments, days, weeks… when I know that I simply suck as a parent. I should never have had children – I am not raising them right. I should’ve given them up for adoption – surely there are millions of more competent parents out there. I’ve attended the lectures. Consulted psychologists, had long discussions with wise gal pals, my husband, our pediatrician….
And yet, there I was screeching down Sunset Blvd ‘singing’ out my rage, frustration – and fear. Fear that I would fail the budding excellence I see glimmers of in my tykes. Fear that they would in fact avail themselves of their therapy fund justifiably because it is all my fault. Fear. And terror. And horror that I’m utterly failing at my most important job.
Every chorus was, “Fuck. I suck as a mother,” even though some of the actual words that spilled from the radio and my mouth were different.
I arrived at my workout. As I took step after sweaty step I became further convinced of my failure. I was wrong. Again. I should’ve dragged my kid to camp – my husband was being too soft, too understanding. There are rules and commitments and lessons to be learned. But… there is also physical reality. The difficulty of getting a strong, willful eight-year-old boy to a place he does not want to go – at least without the later involvement of Child Protective Services. I was wrong. A failure. And powerless to amend my son’s ways. Ever. As I heaved that 15-pound weight against my muscles’ protestations, I thought of the consequences of my husband and I arguing in front of our child, of giving our son the power to upset our day. Of… well of every frustration of the morning. Although it was only 9:45 AM. The list was long.
And then the endorphins injected some perspective. I know that I’m blessed. I know that my children are blessed: they are healthy, intelligent, loving, competent beings who have the world as their oyster. My children have a village who truly love and respect them – and yet despite this… they may never live up to their potential because I suck as a mother.
I hope I get tomorrow. I hope the damage I’ve done isn’t permanent. Or at least not beyond repair.
Maybe tomorrow I will suck a hair less. Maybe I’ll drive more courteously. Maybe tomorrow my son will see the error of his ways, understand the lesson that was there between my frustrated, fearful shouts. Maybe tomorrow will bring another opportunity for him to learn the value of his word, of commitments great and small. Or maybe I have scarred him with my blue rage beyond repair and he’ll never do an honorable thing in his entire, therapy-filled life.
I think that the reality is somewhere in the middle. I hope so. And, I hope I get some sleep tonight. I hope for sleep … my blue car, fellow drivers my family and even George Stephanopoulos deserve better.