Sunday, October 30, 2011

Adult Expectations

Rowan, going to work.
Today was a hard day for this stay-at-home mama and her toddler son. After the fact, I realized that most of the struggle was my doing, actually. See, we are guests in a temporary home and the situation, while comfortable as being a guest can be, is not quite like how you live when you have your own space.

We have one adult in the home that does shift work- he worked a midnight shift last night and was sleeping as soon as Rowan woke and was ready for play. We have bedrooms and a bathroom of our own upstairs, but the main living space is on the ground floor- along with two other bedrooms, including the one in which this tired shift worker was trying to sleep.

Rowan's toys and books are in the living room, two rooms away from the bedroom in question, and mama spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to keep Rowan quiet. He doesn't do "indoor voice" yet- he thinks it's a silly game or joke. He speaks at a louder volume than most adults, just like most toddlers and is a boisterous and he is an active player.

He is one of the most cheerful people I know.
"Shhh! QUIET!" My expectations of Rowan's behavior was making me crazy. I felt caught in the middle of adult expectations and realities and toddler expectations and realities. To Rowan, I was being a mean and unpredictable mama. To the other adult, I was doing what needed to be done to make the household function. Rowan started acting out to my admonishments, being rough with the two dogs that we live with (who are saints, really). I was so frustrated with him, being (mildly) violent and possibly too loud for successful sleeping in the house.

I roughly brought him upstairs for a nap and yelled at him. At first he laughed at me- he didn't take it seriously. Then all at once, he did. His face went from smiling to crumpled and wailing and he did the only thing he knew how to do when he is scared and upset- he threw himself into mama's arms for a hug. Only this time, the irony wasn't lost on me that I was the one he was scared of, at least in that moment. I felt ashamed.

Fun on the "twac-tuh"
Today was a hard day for mama, because I feel like I failed today. I can't possibly explain in terms that he will understand these new temporary rules of living and expectations, so I just got angry that he wasn't living up to them. I took out my frustration of our living situation on my son. I spent the rest of the afternoon apologizing and making it up to him, not that he would see it that way. It was over for him starting with that hug. Mama was fun and playing again, like usual.

I was grateful when daddy came home from his job and took Rowan into a bedroom for an overdue afternoon nap (getting up at 5 AM means an afternoon nap for daddy, too). I had already tried and failed to get him to nap twice. This freed me to breathe, sit, and write this confessional.

Helpful baby.
The truth is, I am NOT a patient person. I have never been. But I am the adult and I need to remember that he is not used to having to be quiet. My gods, I am looking forward to having our own space with its own routines and expectations.

In what ways have you felt like a failure as a parent? How do you spring back? How do you make amends?


  1. Darlin we have all been there. One way to get them to be quiet is to whisper everything. They have to really listen to here you so they can't be so loud. Make it a game if you want. Or could your hubby sleep upstairs while your downstairs?

    I know your pain in living in a home not your own! Its frustrating. I'm currently living with MIL and I feel like I'm going nuts at times. Don't beat yourself up too much.

  2. 25 years later I still cringe and feel the guilt of the occasional mama melt down. Fortunately, my son remembers only the hugs. Don't kick yourself too much, kids bounce back and are quick to forgive and forget.

  3. I back up the comments of the two posters above. Am not a mother but do have younger cousins whom I took care of occasionnally when they were younger.

    I kinda look on your situation positively: it's Rowan's 'lessons' to learning to live with others, and that things can't always be what he has expected them to be. He'll be fine as well as flexible. (Sorry if I seemed pompous.)


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