that awful voice


You know how sometimes you’re in the grocery store, and you see that harried-looking mom with her couple of kids.

And you hear her talk to her kids in this really nasty voice. Saying all those things that the mean moms say: “if you don’t stop that right now…if I have to say it ONE MORE TIME…” The voice grates on your nerves. Holy shit, you think. They’re just kids.

You sort of pretend not to notice as you walk by, looking intently at the box of cereal in your cart, hoping they’ll move out of the way so you can reach a loaf of your regular bread.

And then one day you’re going about your business, and you hear that shrill, grating, voice. Snapping, or just oozing nastiness. You recognize that voice. It’s that awful mother again. And this time the voice is directed at this adorable-looking toddler with giant eyes and chubby cheeks. And far worse, that voice is coming from your own mouth.

This morning was a bit of a rough morning.

Phoebe is an amazing little girl. I am totally, utterly crazy about her. She is brilliant. She brings me joy. But sometimes, she drives me freakin’ batty.

Sometimes she’s contrary. Sometimes she whines. And, man, does she ever dawdle.

Phoebe goes to daycare 3 days a week. It’s a family daycare about 3 miles down the road. She’s been going even while I’ve been home with Theo, with the idea that I still need to be getting some work done. We need to get Phoebe there by 8:00 in order for her to have breakfast before the whole troop heads out to wait for the school bus to pick up the older kids. If we miss the 8:00 time frame, Phoebe needs to have breakfast at home, and arrive after the bus. This ends up meaning a good hour later. An hour missed of daycare that we pay for anyhow, an hour missed when I could be getting something productive done. Or getting a bit more sleep.

John takes Phoebe most days, but I try to take her at least once a week, and sometimes John (who tends to do most of his working in the middle of the night) needs to be able to sleep before a meeting. This morning was my turn. I have to wake up, feed Theo, change Theo’s diaper, get dressed, and then get Phoebe up and ready. It’s remarkably hard to fit it all together some mornings, when I can barely pry my eyes open. I usually set the alarm for 6:30.

This morning, Phoebe was in a good mood. And playful. But she didn’t want me to take off her pajamas. Then didn’t want to wear the clothes I’d offered. Objected to the underwear I put on her. Finally picked a shirt, but wouldn’t let me put it on her. Picked a sweater, but insisted on buttoning it herself. Wanted a snack for the car.

It was all going so very slowly.

I bundled Phoebe into her jacket and Theo into his carseat and headed out to the car. There was frost. I hadn’t counted on scraping. Phoebe’s slowness about getting into the car was agonizing. Her barrage of whys and I wants tormented. I heard myself starting to use that voice, but I bit it back. I got into the car and headed out the driveway, without scraping the frost of the windshield, revving the engine too hard in my anger, and my need to feel like, to sound like, we were rushing.

I came to my senses and pulled over to scrape the windshield, smelling the nasty smell of over-revved engine and berating myself for risking damage to the car with the revving, and worse, for endangering our lives trying to drive with an obstructed view.

I found the scraper. I scraped. We got to the daycare home safely, if a few minutes late. I was calm and careful on the drive. But when we parked, I still felt the need to rush. I parked in the driveway next to the car of another parent, and unbuckled Phoebe. I was going to have her start up to the house while I got Theo out of the car. She was half way around the car when the car next to us started to back out. I grabbed her hand and caught my heart in my throat. I hadn’t even noticed the other parent return to his car, and there he was backing out, a little too quickly for that driveway. He must have been rushing too, in his hurry to get to work.

And I find myself being grateful that Phoebe dawdles. That she was moving a bit more slowly than I wanted. Because if she’d been running, like I wanted her to in my head, she would have run right behind that SUV. And that other parent, in his rush, probably wouldn’t have seen her.

So it goes that I remind myself that it’s really okay to be a little bit late. Maybe Phoebe will have to rush for breakfast. Maybe we’ll lose an hour of daycare. Or a day. We can afford the lost time.

But I can’t afford to let my temper cloud my judgment.

16 responses to “that awful voice

  1. Oh, you hit the nail right on the head. I’ve been there so many times, where the one second of inattention because I’m so damn busy could have been fatal. I’m old enough to know better, but still I have to remind myself over and over again. Just as you said, I can’t afford to let my temper cloud my judgment.

  2. Geez, I remember those days all too well. Always feeling rushed. Ooh, and the frost. I would yank out my driver’s license and scrape a few little rectangles, thinking that’s all the vision I needed. And, then blast the defroster basically driving with my head on the dashboard peering through the freshly defrosted lower part of the windshield. We’d arrive to find Gav or Gab had just missed breakfast. Yep, rushing makes us crazy.

    We are late for everything.

  3. Oh that voice. I’ve used it; I’m turning into a dragon, I think.
    What a good and thoughtful post.

  4. Time stress. That is the biggie for me. I cannot cope with time stress and it ALWAYS brings out that voice. I hate myself for it afterward BUT WHY CAN’T THEY SEE THAT WE’RE IN A HURRY? The dawdling almost kills me.

  5. Now that there are two, just running and doing something is an adventure for you. It is hard to leave extra time in the schedule for dawdling, eating and unexpected baby things.

    Nothing is easy and simple. Hang in there.

  6. I frequently tell myself to slow down – there is no reason to be in a hurry. Of course, it doesn’t always work, but…

    I’m glad you’re all okay.

  7. Whew!

    I have a bit of a hair trigger, which actually helps me avoid getting to that point where I feel I’m being ridden roughshod.

    Sure, they’re just kids, but they have a responsibility to cooperate. Lack of cooperation (dawdling, not responding) means they lose time for something they want to make up for it, eg., one story instead of two at bedtime is a CRUSHER for my kids.

  8. i know that feeling so well. i force myself to calm down before turning the key in the ignition on days like that. And i just cross fingers that i get a spot right by the front door of the preschool.

  9. This one hit especially close to home today after a “vacation” in which Alex drove me absolutely crazy while we were at my inlaws house. And this morning, when I woke up today I just decided that I’d be late to work. We ate waffles and played and I was 90 minutes late and the world didn’t stop.

  10. My kids are old and we all survived so I’ve earned the right to confront bad parenting when I see it, which I did, in fact, see just yesterday at the mall. A woman was annoyed with her 3-ish year old for not being able to put on a pair of gloves. (Why she felt the need to try on GLOVES for pete’s sake was beyond me. But I digress.) I was browsing nearby and I could hear the woman’s voice become more stressed while the girl’s became more whiny and defiant. Bad combination, I thought. So I went over and said, “These are really hard to get on. Can I help?” They both settled down. The girl relaxed her hand, the mom stepped back, I slid the glove on her hand and we all admired it. I hope they got through the rest of their day. Even a two minute break is sometimes enough.

    Parenting is hard. There’s no rulebook. Be gentle with yourselves. But run away once in awhile because they can be such bratty little boogerheads.

    Excellent post, Alejna. Phoeba and Theo will be just fine with you in charge.

  11. Um, you know how when you hit the ‘submit’ button and as it’s floating away you see you’ve typed “Phoeba”?

    D’oh.

  12. Looks like we both learned a good lesson this week.

  13. thanks for your eloquent post on the challenges of parenting.

  14. That voice has been known to get the better of me on occasion. I regret it the minute it leaves my mouth. There’s no excuse, but sometimes it’s all just so overwhelming, especially when you throw, say, PMS into the mix. But your post really puts things in perspective and you are right. I am glad that you are all OK.

  15. we’ve all been there – well, at least I’ve been there. Using that voice. Losing my temper. Wanting her to not be a 3 year old. But she’s a 3 year old.I believe there was throwing of Crocs which is about anger-cathartic as chucking a piece of confetti.

  16. I’m not sure there is a mother alive who hasn’t used THE VOICE and it comes as a surprise to all of us.

    I’m thankful for the happy ending to your morning and your watchfulness.

    And I am completely amazed that you took Theo with you as opposed to dropping him on the sleeping husband — obviously not the nice thing to do, but completely and totally what I would have done. Actually, I probably would have woken him up, too, and asked him to scrap the car before he changed the baby. (For the record, that means you get Mom AND Wife points for the morning.)

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