Last week, I was having a particularly trying day with my two-year-old twins. They were acting more defiant than usual, testing me at every turn, and had fallen back into an old habit I thought we were through with: pulling away from me…and then running away. By naptime, I was at the end of my rope, my heart still pounding from their great escape on a busy street. It didn't help that instead of actually napping, they decided to unzip the couch cushion in their room and pull out the fluffy innards. Yep, just one of those rough days.
Later that afternoon, we went over to a friend's house for a playdate with her toddler twins. Although it's obviously chaotic with four little boys running around, it's also comforting to know that I don't have to apologize for anything. She's dealing with the same mayhem that I am. Of course, my boys continued to be just as challenging at her house, and my frustration continued to grow.
When it was time to leave, I feared another sprint down the sidewalk, so I took my boys' hands firmly and said, "Okay, we're going to go right to the car now and you have to hold on to Mommy's hands." Then, they said, "Of course, whatever you say, our sweetest, dearest Mommy," and obediently marched right to the car. Hahaha, just kidding. As soon as we stepped off of her stoop, they each yanked their little hands out of mine, and one boy ran one way while the other went the opposite direction.
My friend lives on a quiet, residential street, but there's a busier street on one end. I do believe my boys may know better than to run into the street, but they're only two, so why even take that chance? Watching them run off like that, I felt powerless and really effing scared. So, I screamed, loudly and shrilly, at the top of my lungs, "Stop, stop, pleaaaaaase stop! STOOOOOOOOOOOOP!" They didn’t. I chased after one boy and lifted him up by the back of his shirt, then turned and sprinted down the street after the other. Once I'd finally gotten them both in the car, I took a deep breath and then realized that my friend's neighbor was standing there, and had seen the whole thing. I smiled and gave an exasperated, rolling-my-eyes look, which she returned with a stoic, judgmental glare.
I felt ashamed, and incredibly guilty for creating such a scene in front of my friend's house. On the drive home, I cried and cried, overwhelmed by my emotional reaction and my inability to manage my kids sometimes. I felt like a crappy mother, ill-equipped to handle the challenges of twins in the terrible 2s. And I was embarrassed that my friend saw me lose it like that. Of course, she knows I lose it sometimes because we've talked about it. Seeing me in all of my fire-breathing glory though must have been a different thing.
That night, after I put the boys to bed, I texted her to apologize for screaming like a maniac on her serene, tree-lined block. She texted back, "Please, trust me, I do it all the time. You never have to feel badly in front of me because I SO understand." And just like that, I felt better. I felt understood. I felt safe in our friendship. I was still a little embarrassed, but the shame was gone, because I was reminded that I'm not the only one who has these moments. I'm not a perfect mother, by any stretch, but maybe I'm not such a terrible one either. At some point, we all lose our cool–all of us. It happens and it's okay.
Sure, there are going to be some mothers who tell you that they never get upset with their kids. Who give the impression that they always have it together. Maybe they do. Every mom though needs to have those friends that are willing to admit to their own weaknesses, their own mistakes and their own shameful moments. This motherhood thing can be emotional and exhausting and lonely. We constantly wonder if we might be doing it all wrong. That's why we all need friends who are honest enough to say, "Hey, you're not the only one."