Before most of us had children, we were smug and judgmental when we encountered "bad" mothers who couldn't keep their naughty children from ripping apart candy displays in the checkout aisle at the grocery store.
"Why can't she keep those kids under control?" we'd say to ourselves. "I'll never be a mom like that."
Or worse, when we overheard a mom threatening her children, "If you don't stop it, I'll leave this shopping cart right here and take you to the car. And you know what will happen then," she'd say foaming at the mouth like a mad dog.
We were appalled. "How could she? Those poor, innocent, angelic children don't deserve such harsh treatment," we'd self-righteously think.
I hate to admit it, but I was smug even after my first child. I thought I had mastered mothering because my son virtually bypassed the terrible two's, with the exception of one temper tantrum, which he kindly threw in the privacy of our own home. He listened so well that, on his first night in a big-boy bed when he was just over 2 years old, I told him, "Don't get out until Mommy comes to get you." That's all it took; the first time he got out of bed by himself he was 4 1/2.
Then came my second son, and now I am that mad dog mom.
You see, my second son, Hugh, has thrown me into a tail spin. He is adorable. He loves life. He laughs contagiously. He says the darndest things. He adores me. Yet, he obeys nothing. He pushes all my buttons, even ones I never knew I had. He fights me on everything from eating to sleeping to dressing to brushing teeth. Everything is a battle.
It's so bad that a few family members and acquaintances have said to me out-of-the-blue, "I want you to know that I don't think you're a bad mom because Hugh is difficult." Gulp! (I can't hold it against them since I used to be just as insensitive toward other moms.)
No measure of discipline has worked. He flies out of timeouts, laughs it off, and keeps testing me.
So one frustrating day, I decided if he wouldn't stay in timeout, I'd strap him in the only place he couldn't escape -the carseat. It worked! Finally something that got him to obey! I had won the battle of wills. Unfortunately, it was a hollow victory. The next carseat timeout, the little bugger figured out that if he vomits while in the carseat, I'll rescue him. So now he pukes on command. Lovely.
Nowadays, on the off-chance that my kids are behaving, and I see a mom who's battling her children, I give her the, "I feel your pain" look and pray for her under my breath. No judging. No condemning. Just empathizing and eating a huge slice of humble pie.
Shasta Clark is a St. Clairsville native who lives in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, with her husband and two sons. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.