So I get to be the meanie in my home, a lot. I mean, Josh is firm and gentle, and hardly ever ever loses his temper. Which means that when the mucky stuff hits the fan, I have to step in.
I think I inherited my mean-ness from my mother, which is to say that I remember a lot of mean-ness as a child, the icy, bone-chillingly angry voice, the pointed finger, the cold eyes, the occasional shoulder grab-and-shake when it got bad.... and I hated it. It would make me cry. I thought my mum hated me, and I hated her for it, and although I love her now, I never ever wanted to be the meanie in my house.
I would much prefer to be married to a meanie. I would like to be the quiet, calm, welcoming arms after the 'daddy-storm' of loud yelling and stomping. I would like that. It's much harder to be the mean one.
So I never wanted to become that, and of course now that I'm a mother I am that. I totally empathise with my mother, the rage that stirs in your chest when, like a bear in a cage, you have been poked and prodded for hours: how much can you really take? I mean, we're not infinite beings. I love my children sooooooooooo much, but not infinitely. And the small-child voice in me whines that it's not fair. It's just not fair to be patient and calm for so long as children whinge and whine, as their ridiculous behaviour escalates up and up, as the endless march to and from Time-Out continues calmly(on the adults part), and then for everything to erupt. I can't help thinking, if you(sweet child) had just stopped one minute ago, I wouldn't have lost it. If this was five minutes ago and you had decided to be reasonable at last, I wouldn't have erupted. Then we could have had a reconciliatory hug, a gentle talk about what went wrong, and then moving on. Which does happen sometimes.
And it makes me realise that as an adult, all I remember of those moments in my childhood is my mum losing the plot, screaming and shouting at us, storming off, slamming doors so hard that the house shook(we did have pretty flimsy houses though). I don't remember how I pushed her and pushed her and prodded and poked, and tested every loophole, drained every ounce of courage and self-control from her until It Happened. I don't remember that. And all my child will remember is that I yelled in her face, not the fact that she was being completely unreasonable, not the fact that I had actually been patient all day long, not the fact that she was screaming and yelling so loudly that I HAD to yell to make myself heard. And it sucks.
I don't want to be the meanie.
When we're in the thick of it sometimes, when I am calmly explaining that the reason Mummy told them off for running down the road is that Mummy doesn't want them to get hurt, and that it's Mummy's job to tell them off for such things so that they stay safe, Maddy will sob "But I just want you to be my FRIEND" or "you're making me so SAD when you tell me off"(thanks a lot therapy for teaching her how to say these things), and she'll go on to weep about the fact that no-one is her friend, not even her family. And I take a deep breath and say "Before I can be your friend, I always have to be your mummy, which means that I have to take care of you, and I have to tell you off when you do dangerous things, because it makes ME very sad to think that you or Lewis might get hurt." It's really hard to say that, because she knows and I know that what I'm actually saying is I'M NOT YOUR FRIEND.
It's a yucky thing to say. I want to be her friend, I want to be her confidante, and one of my greatest hopes and prayers is that when she's in trouble she'll know she can come running to me and I won't judge her, I'll listen. But when I have to give the little talk, it sucks, because to me I feel like I am putting up a barrier. I know I'm not, but it feels like I'm pushing her away a little bit, when all I want to say is "oh honey I AM your friend, I'm sorry for yelling at you, I shouldn't have told you off, let's just be friends and forget this happened". But I can't say that. I have to be the meanie.
I do say sorry though, when I've yelled. My mother never said sorry to me for the things she said, for losing her temper, and she still denies she even said some of the most hurtful things. So I say sorry. I explain that I shouldn't have got grumpy and I shouldn't have yelled, but that I was upset because they did things that made me worry like running down the road. I probably go on a little bit too much, but I really want them to remember that I was a mummy who apologised when she got it wrong, rather than pretending that it never happened.
Of course, some nights like tonight, I didn't get the chance to say sorry. I yelled and then I gave cuddles and then I firmly shut the door.
But later, when they're asleep and breathing deeply their peaceful dreams, I'll slip in and kiss their porcelain cheeks and whisper "sorry... I love you..."
Sigh. I wish I wasn't such a meanie.