Chortle Portal / Confessional

Mike Bob’s Daycare

Mother's Little Helpers

Mother’s Little Helpers

My doctor evaluated me recently. As the end of our conversation neared she asked if I was a perfectionist.
“No,” I answered without thinking twice. That was a no-brainer, I’m anything but perfect.
She tilted her head to the left, “Do you like things in order, routines, etcetera?”
I think twice now, out loud, “I mean, my house gets pretty messy sometimes…” I trail off as I picture the dirty dishes in the sink, the massive pile of dirty laundry, my chest tightens and I purse my lips, “When my house is messy I get pretty damn irritated, though.”
My doctor nods and walks out of the room. She returns with samples.

I don’t always see myself clearly. I am a perfectionist, it’s probably true. I can really see this in my parenting. I’m always beating myself up inside for falling short of the mother I feel I ought to be. Ideally I would be infinitely patient, I’d love to read boring, shitty children’s books over and over and over (I’m sorry children’s books, I think you’re great). If I was the mom I’d always intended to be, I would never lose my temper.

One afternoon a few years ago Layla, Piper and I were in the car on our way to the Omaha Children’s Museum. We had barely backed out of the driveway but the kids were already whining for snacks or arguing over who has the wettest-sounding farts; or maybe Piper had told Layla that she was going to “stick her like a pig.” Christ knows what blasphemous, ungrateful thing they were doing and had been doing on repeat for hours, most likely. Each day my kids discover a dozen new ways to make me want to lock myself in the closet and cry. But I remember, that particular day they had really taken it too far.

“That’s it!” I snapped on them and pressed the gas. I sped down the street, took a hard left, barely paused at the stop signs, I headed directly to the closest, most run-down looking house I could find. I abruptly pulled off of the street and parked on the cracked-cement driveway.

Mike Bob's Daycare

Mike Bob’s Daycare
photo via

“Get out of the car!” I barked and they obeyed automatically. Their eyes were like saucers. “Mike Bob is going to babysit you! I can’t take this anymore!” I motioned for them to follow me to the door.

“Who’s Mike Bob?!” Their feet were planted.

“Mike Bob’s the guy who lives here. He can take his teeth out of his mouth like Grandma G.G. He said I could leave you with him any time I need. You are staying with Mike Bob until your dad picks you up. I’m getting my nails done and maybe going to Mexico!” I started to get back in the car.

“No Mom!” They grabbed at me, “No, we will not fight any more! We’re sorry!” Their eyes were filled with terror, terror and tears were welling up. I’d taken it too far. The girls get that from me and that fact doesn’t escape me.

I once told my doctor that I feel completely responsible for every bad thing my children do.
“You’d better get over that real fast,” she chuckled at me. She’s in her seventies, a real spit-fire. We laugh together at me, because I know I’m being ridiculous. I’m slowly learning to let things go.

When Layla was just born and I was the parent of one flawless little girl, I thought I had it all figured out. My daughter was perfect and I humbly believed that my perfect parenting and impeccable instincts were largely responsible for her perfection (did I mention that everything was perfect?!). For a few years after Layla was born I didn’t think other babies were cute anymore. I seriously thought every baby I saw looked weird because they weren’t the perfect template of a person that I had birthed. Then I had a second daughter and she broke the mold and altered my definition of perfection once again. She wasn’t Layla, she was Piper. She was cuckoo, not blonde hair with blue eyes but brown hair with brown eyes, dark and twisted and goofy, a total firecracker. And she was perfect, too.

My girls were changing me. They were shaking my view of my self and the world like an Etch a Sketch. That mom I’d pictured as a teenager when I’d paint my toes and dream up cute baby names was gone and I was standing there instead; a real human mom who made mistakes and didn’t know all the answers.  I never imagined that I’d get so frustrated with my children one day that I’d intentionally frighten them to tears.  But I also couldn’t anticipate how deeply I would love my girls and the crazy emotions and thoughts that love would put in my heart and my head.

Even if I do go off the deep end every once in a while, I need to take it easier on myself. I wake up every day to take care of three little girls. I could run to Mexico if I wanted, seriously you guys, I could. Instead I make meals, practice spelling words, blow bubbles, draw with chalk on the sidewalk. I ignore my kids to read a little often, sure. But I am a damn good mom.  I do so many things right.  I need to remember that.  Besides, whatever’s good for the goose is good for the goslings.  If I can get a handle on my stress, anxiety and depression by whatever means necessary, my children will reap the benefits.  My doctor urged me not to feel so bad. She told me that there’s a consensus between her and her colleagues.  They believe that moms are holding themselves to some dangerously high standards. We need to let go of perfection.

Have you ever been driven to madness by your beloved children? Please share in the comments! Then after the story, toot your own horn and tell me one of the ways that you’re a great mom or dad. Because you are.

12 thoughts on “Mike Bob’s Daycare

  1. Reading this made me love your blog even more. I once pulled my kids up in front of a boarding school. Or ‘go away’ school as I called it. They are now teens. They are funny and smart and (for the most part) know when I am just making idle, stress-driven, threats. They even joke back…once driving by a retirement home my son quipped “don’t make me put you in there”. Keep the faith. And keep writing.

  2. My children drive me to madness frequently, and I would probably react similar to the way you did at mike bobs. All 4 of my kids were arguing in the car on one road trip. I had absolutely had it. After giving them the “one more time” speech enough times, I simply pulled over to the side of the road, got out of the car, and shut the door. I never said a word, just started stretching my legs on the front of the car. They became silent, scared if what was happening. They probably wondered what this loony lady was doing. Once they lost their attention, it wasn’t necessary to carry on. After a few minutes, I asked if they were ready to go. Yes was their response, and it was the last word I heard for the remainder of the trip! I know I’m a good mom because I’m trying desperately to keep them out of jail in the future:)

  3. I think I had an opposite introduction to motherhood. My daughter has been terrorizing me since birth. Born with the cord strangling her and having to be resuscitated to crying non-stop for the first three months of her life, I thought I was a total failure as a mother. But when my son was born, I realized that it wasn’t my fault! He was perfect. I parent them the same and I’ve got one hellion and one angel.

    That being said, they both drive me crazy so often that I can’t come up with a single story to share right now. But my problem is that I’m a yeller. Ok, a screamer, sometimes. And I have a lot of guilt about it because I’ve heard my daughter screaming at her brother in anger and I wonder if that’s my legacy – if I’ve taught her to be an angry person who says ugly things to people.

    I know I’m a good mom because my kids are still alive!

    • You’re right, it sounds like our kids have similar personalities but in opposite order. The jury’s still out on my third daughter, Simone.
      I am the same way, a total screamer. I get it from my mama. And I have a sharp tongue, I get that from my dad. A beautiful combination, no? Well, I’d rather be you or me than a lot of other mothers out there.

  4. oh…….gosh…..
    Thank you for sharing this. It makes me feel so much better about some of the awful things i have done when my kids have driven me too far. I have “monster mummy” come out and she is REALLy scary.
    And i too look at my kids when they are being horrid and think that’s because of me…but is it??? On bad days, my answer is yes and on good days it’s no. Kids are kids and they all do horrible things.

  5. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, I love you. For making me feel like I am not alone. I think that perfectionism is only half the problem, by the way: there is also this society pressure to LOVE IT, all the time, because being A MOM is the BEST and MOST IMPORTANT job in the world, don’t you know?!

    I like the extent to which you took the Mike Bob thing, I have made the same threat, but haven’t actually picked out a house. Instead I have gone on explaining about foster care and juvenile detention and threatening to call the police if they DO NOT STOP FIGHTING. Lately, since those threats have lost their sting, I try to laugh when it gets really bad, or occasionally, I just drop to the ground, spread eagle, and refuse to get up until they stop.

    So anyway, yeah, been there, hun. 🙂

    Keep these blogs coming!!!! I could read this stuff every day.

    • Great point about the pressure from society to just grin and bear it! You are right on. The spread eagle thing is a great visual!! Piper would just kick me in the taint, though : ) I love to hear from you, thank you for the encouragement!

      • Ha! My boys don’t kick. Actually, the 9 year old is old enough to be embarrassed.

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