My daughter is sitting across the table spitting food at me. She shoves her finger in her cucumber and watches calmly as it breaks into several pieces that fall onto the floor. When I remind her that this type of behavior is not good table manners, she proceeds to stand up and jump on the chair while laughing out loud.
I am not laughing with her. In fact, I have the distinct feeling that she is laughing at me.
It has been one of those days. I glance at the wine rack which is glaringly empty and realize that if we leave right now, we can get to the wine store before it closes. Within two minutes, I have my daughter strapped into her car seat, and we are on our way.
I breathe a sigh of relief when we pull into the parking lot. The rush of cool air when we walk in the door calms me. Inviting wines beckon me from every shelf, but I immediately walk to the rosé section and grab four bottles of my favorite brand. Suddenly, I feel a sharp pain on my leg and look down to see that my daughter is biting me.
“Why are you biting me?” I ask, and she answers with what sounds like a maniacal laugh. Once again, I get the distinct feeling that she is laughing at me.
I pull away as she tries to bite me again and quickly walk to the register with the wine bottles in my arms. She trails behind me with her teeth bared.
After paying, I grab my daughter’s hand, and we walk out to the hot parking lot. She momentarily loosens her teeth on my leg, only to sit down on the asphalt in the middle of the parking lot. I pick her up and wrestle her into the car seat while she whines about how hot it is and that her dress is dirty.
“Of course it is dirty,” I explain to her. “You just sat down in the middle of a parking lot.”
My daughter scrunches up her face and begins to cry.
I do the same.
On days like this, I feel like a total failure as a mother. I have no idea how to prevent her from biting me, or laughing at me, or sitting down in the middle of a parking lot.
I wish that there was a manual for motherhood. It could include chapters about how to get your toddler to eat, how to get your baby to sleep and a survival guide for the terrible twos. I cannot count how many hours I have spent on the Internet researching my child’s behavior, only to realize that the advice online does not work for my daughter.
As clueless as I feel about mothering, this is what I know to be true: I am not the only mama who feels like they are being beaten down by their 2-year-old. I know that there are others who feel the same—mamas who don’t know how to get their kids to stop hitting, mamas whose children won’t eat any food unless they can dip it into ketchup and mamas who can’t figure out how to deal with their emotionally unstable 2-year-olds.
On the night of the wine store biting fiasco, I let go of my pride and started texting my friends. I furiously typed on my iPhone about how I felt like a failure because I didn’t know how to help my daughter reign in her emotions and get her to stop biting me. I was embarrassed that she was chasing me around the wine store. I was not sure how to help her feel more in control so she would stop acting out. I freely admitted all of these faults in my text messages.
With all of the collective wisdom around me, what I gathered from my friends was this: I am not a failure. My daughter is not a deviant. We were just both having a bad day.
I put my daughter to bed early that night and poured myself a big glass of wine. Then I climbed into my own bed and pulled the covers up over my head. It was the only way to end the day.
With parenthood, there is no manual, but there are other parents out there to remind you that you are not alone. So, Mamas, on the days when you are exhausted to the bone and trying to shake your biting 2-year-old off of your leg, reach out to a friend. Go to the park or Starbucks or a music class and look around for another mom with that haggard, defeated look and talk to her. Maybe no one has had as bad of a day, but you can bet that someone else can relate to the day you are suffering through.
Motherhood is not always sunshine and smiles. Sometimes it involves drinking wine and hiding under the covers. That’s okay to admit, too.