I roar at him in the dog voice. It comes from deep within; from way down low in the belly as if coming from another being, another species even. Immediately I am sorry and I look down at his little face, innocent in so many ways but now in one less. I hold him and tell him I’m sorry and I want to somehow erase in our collective memories that bellowing voice.
I tell myself I will not do it again which is all I can do at this point; that and call my mom. My mom who, of course, has surely howled a time or two in the raising of her own nine children, but not, to my recollection, with that voice I hear in my own head. She weeps a little, and laughs, too, when I tell her—not at my fall from motherly grace, which she knows is an impossible stance to ever maintain—but at the memory of her own time.
FOUR KIDS UNDER FIVE
Four kids under five and she shrieked so hard it was a physical act; her throat hurt and her head and her heart and all she could do when it was over was to knock on the neighbor’s door. She told the neighbor of her distress and asked to borrow a dollar. The women then—including those on that block where I grew up—were all home with little kids and no cars and they borrowed things: quarters, dollars, ears and cups of sugar, too. And, they were all quick to lend.
So she borrowed the dollar and she loaded the kids in the stroller, a big old-fashioned perambulator kind of thing and she walked downtown to buy ice cream with her borrowed money. The walk cooled her heels and the ice cream soothed her heart and her throat, and the treat to the kids was her mea culpa and she promised to never yell like that again. She laughs a little when she says never because maybe never is a bit of a stretch when raising nine kids, but almost never, at least not like that.
A friend had a day like I had, filled with bawling and gut-wrenching fits of hysteria by both mother and children and she called her own mom in the midst of it all. “I’m Horrible!!!” she cried and her mom soothed her self-condemnation and calmed her long distance with permission to forgive herself.
The mom asked if she ever remembered being yelled at like that and the friend said no, definitely not like that and the mom laughed and told her for sure it happened but kids don’t hold onto it like the grown-ups do. They forgive and, when it’s a rare occurrence, then they truly forget. At least that’s what we hope.
THE BEST WE CAN
All the years of her own mothering, my mom’s nightly prayer consisted of a promise tomorrow to try to do the best she could. And to remember, that the best we can do can sometimes changes from minute to minute.
Bernadette Noll is a freelance writer and the author of the book “Slow Family Living: 75 Simple Ways to Slow Down, Connect, and Create More Joy”. She lives in Austin, Tex., with her husband, Kenny, and her four children. Find her on Twitter @Slowfamilymama, and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/slowfamilyliving . You can read more of her work at Slowfamilyliving.com and at bernadettenoll.net