With white knuckles gripping the steering wheel, frazzled nerves and a pounding headache that wouldn’t stop, I tried my hardest to tune out the pint-sized peanut gallery in the backseat.
But even with the music cranked to max, there was no muting the chaos or the bumper-to-bumper traffic that seemed to go on for miles.
“I want that doll, give her back right now!” wailed Zoe, my two-and-a-half-year-old feisty pre-schooler, who decided to take justice into her own hands and snatch it right back.
“Hey, she took my baby – MOM! – you give that to me now,” demanded her distraught older sister, Molly, four and a half, from the opposite car seat.
Even though it was the dead of winter, little beads of sweat began to trickle down my forehead – I was a ticking time bomb ready to go off at any second.
In the front passenger side, my own mother, “Nana,” remained cool as a cucumber. If she was aggravated, she sure as heck wasn’t showing it. I on the other hand, was having a tough time swallowing a big, fat proverbial chill pill.
Deep breathing technique – check. Bite my lip so hard I can taste blood – check. Politely ask them to simmer down – check(ish).
“Get me out of here NOW,” screamed Zoe, her cherubic cheeks reddening a deep crimson hue to match her unruly locks.
“I want out. I want a cookie. I’m thirsty… I … I pooped!”
Astute olfactory senses told me she wasn’t kidding. And it turned out I wasn’t the only one who smelled trouble.
“Eww that stinks, I’m going to puke up – l want that doll,” exclaimed Molly.
Then it happened.
Despite all attempts to keep my “good mommy” title, there was no stopping the two little words from escaping my lips.
“Shuuuut up!” I yelled. The words flew effortlessly out of my mouth, taking even me by surprise. For two seconds I felt pretty darn good, as though a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. However, the feeling of relief was quickly trumped by massive guilt over my Mommy Dearest moment.
Judging by my children’s reaction, you would never have known about my out-of-character outburst. Both girls continued on whining, fighting and complaining – both unfazed by what had just transpired in our cramped, compact car.
But not my own mother – oh no. She heard it loud and clear, which was evident from the little smirk that began to turn up the corners of her mouth.
Within seconds her teeny-tiny smile turned into a big fat grin, followed by a gut-busting laugh that had her doubled over, trying to catch her breath.
“What are you laughing at? It’s not funny,” I objected to my mom’s amusement.
“Oh, it is, Kristyl. I can remember the exact moment I lost it on you and your brother,” she said. “It’s payback time!”
During a trip to the playground a few days later, a couple of moms reluctantly admitted that they, too, have lost their cool, said things they wish they could take back, or acted just like they said they never would prior to starting a family of their own.
I’m just as guilty as the majority of moms out there who give the impression that they are the “perfect” parent.
While I can only imagine that the stress of parenthood will escalate over the years, I have been working much harder to stay calm, cool and collected.
Through trial, plenty of error and a glass or two of Chardonnay, I’ve begun to realize parenthood is all about survival of the chillest. Yes, I still lose my temper from time to time, and do find the odd venomous word teasing the tip of my tongue – daring me to spit it out at times of frustration.
But you know what I do what that happens?
I take a deep breath, bite my lip and shut up. And if all else fails, I send the girls to Nana’s house.
Kristyl Clark is a stay-at-home-mom and founder of the family blogazine, She’s a Valley Mom (www.shesavalleymom.com). She writes monthly for The Leader.