RAISING ELLE | Sometimes, Mommy Isn’t Perfect
by Martinique Davis
Mar 07, 2013 | 1848 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Little hands, reaching for the mixing bowl, grabbing for the flour, seizing the measuring spoons.

Elle snatches an egg from the open carton. Wanting to beat her sister to the prize of cracking the egg into the pancake batter, she grabs too hastily. “Elle, please! Be…”

The egg slips from her fingers, cracking on the counter.

“Elle!” I squeak, frustrated.

Those hands, gung ho to help, thirsty to fix the mistake, impulsively grab for the egg again. Too hard. The half-cracked egg disintegrates in her palm, leaking fluid through her fingers, onto the floor, onto the counter.

“STOP!”

The roar surprises all of us. Like the snap of a branch shattering the silence of a snow-swathed forest. Frustration, anger, impatience – all wound up into this one syllable discharged into the atmosphere of our breakfast-making. The frustration, the anger, the impatience; it’s mine, I realize. Spoken recklessly, unthinkingly, in the heat of the moment.

Elle runs from the kitchen, hiding her tears of disgrace behind the couch.

Emme looks at me with her big owl eyes, which speak her confusion louder than any words.

Rag in hand, I bend to wipe the egg off the floor. Elle’s choked sobs drift from the living room.

Deep breath, I tell myself. It’s just an egg.

“Elle,” I call to her, lightly. “There’s another egg here. Would you like to crack it?”

“No,” she whimpers, and stares out the window.

The shame, now, all belongs to me.

Parenting is an every-waking-moment job. Every interaction is yet another opportunity to instill into your children all those best character traits you’d like them to posses: To be patient, loving, understanding, careful, exacting… perfect. Even when you’re not.

I offer the egg to Emme. She hesitates. Wouldn’t want to invoke the roar again. She settles for stirring the flour, which inevitably sloshes up over the side of the mixing bowl, mingling with the splatter of egg white.

What was that about? I ask myself, as I turn back to the task of making my children breakfast. I’m too tired. I work too much. I have too much on my plate. As always, I’m not dedicating enough of myself to the things that are truly important.   

Prior to becoming a mother, I envisioned myself serene, smiling, showing my children the secrets of magic through the corridors of nature, teaching them lessons of life through the language of kindness. The reality is not so rosy. I see myself now, a harried woman in sweatpants dusted with flour, yelling at my children for breaking eggs.

Another perfect example of how I am ruining my kids.

The sobbing has ended, but Elle hasn’t returned to the kitchen. I break two eggs into the batter. Perfectly – no shells. But who cares? With my outburst, I spoiled it all – the pancakes, the morning, the mood. I stole from my daughter the satisfying sensation of bursting an egg on the side of a glass bowl, and with it making something delicious; all because I expected perfection from her.

I scoop pancake batter onto the hot griddle. Bubbles rise. They’ll be ready to flip soon. I hear Elle moving out from behind the couch.

I put down the spatula and step quietly into the living room. I crouch down to look in Elle’s eyes, which are red and puffy.

“Hey. I’m sorry.”

I hesitate, thinking I should say more. Explain my outburst: Mommy’s tired, Mommy’s stressed, Mommy has a lot to do today.

Really, it’s just that Mommy isn’t perfect. And neither is my child. I say no more, and give her a hug, as the pancakes on the griddle turn from perfect to crispy.  

We pour maple syrup on our slightly scalded pancakes and have breakfast together.

“How are the pancakes?” I ask Elle.

“Good,” she says, mouth full.

They are good, I think. Good enough.

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