Sophie managed to wedge a piece of cheese up her nose this weekend. I had given her some roughly-grated cheese as an appetizer to keep her occupied while I cooked the broccoli, rice, and fish for dinner — so I wasn’t watching her eagle-eyed, and I didn’t see the cheese enter her nose. Worse, when she told me, “My nose hurts,” I didn’t actually notice the cheese. I offered her a kleenex, but didn’t fret when she didn’t really blow, just only told her it would feel better soon. That frighteningly large lump of cheese fell out by itself a few minutes later.
So I thought of making a blog-post that would sort this whole weekend under Bad Mom (cheese up her nose) versus Good Mom (but she loves broccoli! and I took her to the zoo!). It was amusing, to me, to notice that I was telling myself “But I took her to the zoo!” as if that somehow mitigates her nearly injuring herself with cheese. I was making these mental lists of all the ways I’d neglected her this weekend: while I was in the shower, she painted herself and the floor with green metallic marker. While I was cooking lunch, she somehow managed to pee on her favorite Baby Doll. The list goes on. I forgot to turn off the stove under some banana pancakes, and burned them badly. I yelled at Sophie on Friday night, letting her two-year-old-ness anger me, unnecessarily. I did a whole lot of good things, too, and was trying to weigh out in my mind whether the healthy meals, outdoor adventures, lovely friends, laughing moments, etcetera all balance out the few dangerous moments and many lapses of perfection.
But then I realized that these aren’t Bad Mom examples. They’re just Mom examples. Every kid will eventually put something odd up her or his nose: I think it’s universal. Every parent will eventually lose his or her temper. That’s universal, too, and what matters is not that I did it, but that I quickly apologized and hugged her — and then arranged for a babysitter on Saturday afternoon, so that I could have two hours to myself, to see other adults, ride my bike without a toddler, and try to regain my equilibrium. Getting a babysitter might sound like a Bad Mom item, but I’m convinced it’s a Good Mom thing.
I don’t want to think in Bad Mom / Good Mom categories. Really, I don’t deserve much credit for Sophie loving broccoli OR for her nearly injuring herself with cheese. She’s a kid, after all: she makes some independent choices. Letting go of the illusion of control may be one way to let go of the pressure of feeling like a bad mom or a good mom. That doesn’t mean I’m not in charge of her safety, or that I’m entirely free of guilt or ego: just that I’m trying to avoid the worst of the second-guessing self-flagellation that is middle-class America’s version of modern motherhood.