This weekend I was reminded once again of why I am the world's worst mother when I caught my daughter slapping her own hand and calling herself a "bad baby."
For the record, I have never called Ellie a bad baby. It's something her cousin, who is also two, says as a joke -- when one of us does something she doesn't like, she points her little finger and informs us that we are bad babies. When we straighten up to her liking, she deems us "nice." Ellie, however, seems to have missed the humor.
This little motherhood moment was brought to me by dinnertime at our house, which lately has resembled World War III. Ellie is a very messy eater, which I can live with -- she's two. What I CAN'T live with is when she's intentionally messy. As in sticking both hands in her bowl and squishing the contents between her fingers before dropping it on the floor in sticky lumps or smearing it into her hair. Or holding her spoon high in the air just to watch what's on it splat on the table.
We go round and round about this every night without fail. It's pretty much driving me insane.
Last night was no exception. By the time dinner was over, I had removed Ellie's plate, smacked both her hands, and put her in time out indefinitely. Not that time out works. She really couldn't care less what I say or do -- if she wants to play in her food, she's going to play in her food. So far I've failed to find anything that will stop her.
Since Ellie was wearing corn chowder in her hair, we went straight from time out to the bathtub. I got Ellie in the tub and then stepped across the hall to put in a load of laundry. When I returned, she was smacking herself and saying "bad baby!"
I tried to explain that she is NOT a bad baby, and that I was sorry I smacked her hands. I told her I get upset with her when she plays with her food and makes a mess on purpose, and that's why I got mad. The whole time I was talking, she was looking at me with those black eyes and I just wanted to take the whole evening back and start over. Unfortunately it was too late for that.
When we got in bed, Ellie wanted to read Love You Forever, which is, of course, the mommy guilt manual. So I read it to her, and I sang the little song, and I didn't cry. But when the book was done and she put her little arms around my neck and squeezed the life out of me? THAT'S when I cried.
She fell asleep with her cheek pressed against mine, arms still wrapped around my neck. Does that mean I'm forgiven? Probably. Does it mean we won't go through some lesser version of the same scenario tomorrow night? Probably not.
I make a real effort to be patient with her most of the time, especially since I don't want our limited time together to be spent in tears and time out. But somehow all my effort has come to this: she's internalized the times I've smacked her hands or spanked her butt or yelled at her, instead of the thousands of times I've lavished love and affection on her. How did I get to be so incredibly BAD at this?
After she fell asleep, I retired to the kitchen, where I consoled myself by eating half of a Mrs. Smith's apple pie. Will ten extra pounds make me a better mother?
If you have a little extra positive karma you could send in my direction, I'd appreciate it. Otherwise this could be a long week. Or a long 18 years. Two down, sixteen to go . . .