Posted by: DD | October 6, 2006

no. 287 – I’m a Terrible Mother

My suspicions, and probably even yours, were confirmed last night. No, it had nothing to do with the fact I hoard the cheetos from my dear unsuspecting son (my fingers which glow with nuclear intensity always give me away). Instead I’ve realized that getting up in the middle of the night is something I was willing to do with a reserved smile only if it was when I heard a baby crying. Not when my son taps me on the shoulder at 2:00 a.m. and wants to sleep in our room.

I don’t think I would have reacted as harshly (nearly dragging him back to his room by his upper arm as he clung to his blanket and pillow, sobbing) if he hadn’t been pulling similar stunts all summer. "I heard a noise." "I saw lightning." "I had a bad dream." and the excuses and the whining seem to be never ending. Through gritted teeth I told him not to leave his room again until the sun came up and I walked out of the room, shutting the door behind me for the first time since we moved into this house nearly 3 months ago.

An hour and a half later after I had just fallen asleep (my blood pressure was pulsing so hard I could feel my carotid pulse through the pillow) I heard crying and a low angry voice. Mr. DD was now in X’s room and he was similarly fed up. He told me that X is now saying his tummy hurts and it hurts more when he lays down; and when he’s covered with a blanket, it’s as if we are attempting murder. I send Mr. DD back to our room and I take X into the bathroom and shut the door. I am angrier and more tired than before and I say horrible, mean things to him. Even as they are coming out of my mouth I am mortified and am thinking I will probably be scarring him for life. It was without a doubt, one of my lowest moments parenting.

Again, he was marched back to his room, and I went to lay down in the spare bedroom next to his so I could listen and discover if he was faking it or not. After a couple of minutes, I heard him singing and I flung off covers with the intent of taking him and throwing him outside – I was that furious. Before I could get there, the singing turned to these horrible moans punctuated by quiet "it’s getting worse, it’s getting worse,…"

When he saw me, he was already out of bed and he came up to me and hugged my legs and just started crying all over again. I felt his forehead and realized he had a fever. My anger evaporated instantly.

After the next 90 minutes and a small dose of pepto, a sip of Coke, some time under a heating pad, and coaching how to breath through the waves of intestinal cramping, he finally fell asleep.

I don’t know when I lost that "maternal instinct" to comfort, which I didn’t even know was gone until last night, but I just hope it was from lack of use that it took so long to finally materialize. He may be more independent, but he’s still my baby boy. And it makes me nearly sick to my stomach thinking about how cruel I was and that I was selfishly thinking about me and my sleep when he was in pain. Maybe this was a test last night to see if I’m deserving of another child, and I failed, miserably and completely.



  1. I’m so sorry, DD. Please don’t beat yourself up. We all make mistakes and it sounds like you did rectify it.

  2. I won’t tell you not to beat yourself up over it because I would be doing the same thing. You are a good mother. If you weren’t, you’d be feeling no remorse.

  3. That breaks my heart for both you and X. I hope that both of you are feeling better now. It’s so hard to know sometimes.

  4. God, I have been there. It is being tired and used to the “excuses” we have had in our house too, to get out of bed, or to sleep in our room.

    Don’t beat yourself up about it.

  5. Sending hugs- I recently had a “bad mommy” moment with my son, who is much younger than X, and I still get sick to my stomach to think about yelling at him. It can be difficult to figure out if they’re faking it (crying in my son’s case) or genuinely in trouble, and it’s twice as hard to have patience when you’re mostly still asleep. I try to comfort myself with the fact that I (like you) eventually figured out what my son’s problem was, which I suppose makes me more slow than bad. We all have these moments but X knows you love him and you definitely do not deserve “bad mom” status for this. Take care, Leslie

  6. I’m sorry, DD. I got (very) crabby with my poor child the other night also… I felt like an ass when he started sobbing “the monsters… chase me” and I realized that he’d had a full-fledged nightmare and the best sympathy I coughed up was “just stop crying and go back to sleep already!”.

    .. and of course, I wondered then if that’s why he’s my only still… parenting isn’t perfect, and I’m sure X has forgiven you. I hope he feels better soon.

  7. I agree with Karen, a bad mother wouldn’t feel bad.

    This scenario is the reason that there’s a fairy tale called the boy who cried wolf. Kids sometimes use up their parents’ patience with fake stuff and then when something real comes along it’s missed at first.

    Forgive yourself, I’m sure he has. Hope you both feel better soon.

  8. Live and learn, honey, live and learn…

  9. Easier said than done, I know. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
    Mag has taken the brunt of my frustrations on more than one occasion, and I’m pretty sure that she still loves me. At least she doesn’t get the concept of sarcasm yet.

  10. It is really hard to figure out when your child is actually sick or in pain or when they just want attention. Emma is always saying something is bothering her. It’s really hard to tell. I’ve been there and have been equally frustrated many, many times with her because of that. It’s not easy being the mommy.

    Please don’t beat yourself up about it. Learn from the experience and forgive yourself. I’m sure that X will. You might even sit him down today and explain why you reacted the way you did last night. Use it as a teaching moment. Everyone does and says things that they are not proud of. The most important thing is to acknowledge your mistake and ask for forgiveness. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to forgive him in the same way.

    Also, you can’t always expect to function as a wonderful, perfect mother all of the time. Yes, you are the adult in the situation and are responsible for him; but you are human. Error comes with the territory. When you’re tired on top of being stressed out, you have to give yourself a break. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t feel bad, but I am saying that you are a good and loving mother. If you weren’t, this would never have been posted.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  11. It’s very hard to gain composure and patience when you’re half asleep. And if he’d been doing it all summer, then I’m sure to you it was seemed it was as if it was just another excuse for him to get out of bed.

  12. You know, you’ve written here about a situation that has probably happened to most mothers. It’s definitely happened to me. Yet I don’t have the courage to admit to it and write about it.

    We all lose our cool because we’re not perfect. But, I think what we can ultimately teach our children is how to gracefully admit when we’re wrong and how to say we’re sorry. That is even better, really, than being a perfect mom.

    (It’s not unusual for my daughter to get me out of bed with her cries at least once a night. But, there have been a couple of nights when she cries out at 12:00am, then 1:00am, then 2:30am, and I have already lectured her on putting herself back to sleep before I realize that she’s got an earache, cold or other malady. You’d think one time of this happening would be enough to learn the signs, but…I’m still learning.)

  13. DD, do not be so hard on yourself. I have a little story for you that might provide a solution.
    Jeff and I have shared this with several of friends who have had the same problem and they’ve tried it and it works for them. Also the first time Jeff told me about it, I fell a little more in love with him because it was just so adorable.

    When he was your son’s age, he would often get up and do the exact same thing. One night after a few months, his mother got up with him and told him they were going to do something very very special.
    She took him to the kitchen and they had a snack of cookies and milk while his mother explained that cookies and milk was a very special treat for boys who slept all night in their own beds.
    I asked my mother in law how many times after that she had to get up with him and she said maybe four or five over the next year.
    It was something special they shared and Jeff ended up sleeping through the night in his bed.
    Maybe it’ll work for you too.

  14. Don’t be so hard on yourself DD. I’m sure you feel awful about it – but it happens to everyone. My nephew was complaining his arm hurt before school one day…my sister made him go and found out later that his arm was broken. You are human. You make mistakes. Now would be a really good time for him to ask for a puppy lol

  15. We’ve all done that to our kids, in some form or another.
    I’ve begrudgedly gotten up, swearing under my breath and stomping only to find my child was sick. And I know other moms have done it because they’ve told me.
    Don’t beat yourself up, DD. Try to see that it may have been a lesson for X about ‘Crying Wolf’ and give yourself a break for being the one who was so worn down by the false cries that you didn’t see this one coming.

  16. You are so NOT a bad mother. You’ll probably still be haunted by this long after he’s forgotten it- that’s what we tell ourselves anyway, right?

  17. If THAT’s bad motherhood, none of us deserve to be mothers. I hope you’re both feeling better now. Please don’t punish yourself for being human. No no no. Hugs to you and hugs and hugs and hugs.

  18. Hey, anyone who says they haven’t been there is a fricking liar. I have definately been there, in a startingly similar situation that still makes me cringe to think about.

    You are a GOOD mother for admitting your mistake, DD. {{hugs}}

  19. Ok, echoing the 17 other people before me…quit beating yourself up, Woman! Nobody’s perfect – and I remember one particular time, when I woke up with a child staring at me about 2 inches from my face, which ensued with a definite non-perfect mommy incident. Scared the heck out of me, that time.

    But the thing is, when you realized there was a problem, you took care of it. And, if you feel bad – a little “Hey X, I’m sorry I was angry with you last night. Mommy needed her nap!” or whatever…doesn’t make it all better, but makes you feel better, and him feel loved.

    Plus you get to rub it in to Mr DD, since he got fed up too 😉

  20. I have done that too, then got puked on, then felt like total crap. We can’t be 100% wondermom all they time, and as long as you took care of him, what else can you do? Don’t beat yourself up, just give some extra TLC to both of you.

  21. I have done that too, then got puked on, then felt like total crap. We can’t be 100% wondermom all they time, and as long as you took care of him, what else can you do? Don’t beat yourself up, just give some extra TLC to both of you.

  22. I have done that too, then got puked on, then felt like total crap. We can’t be 100% wondermom all they time, and as long as you took care of him, what else can you do? Don’t beat yourself up, just give some extra TLC to both of you.

  23. I have done that too, then got puked on, then felt like total crap. We can’t be 100% wondermom all they time, and as long as you took care of him, what else can you do? Don’t beat yourself up, just give some extra TLC to both of you.

  24. I have done that too, then got puked on, then felt like total crap. We can’t be 100% wondermom all they time, and as long as you took care of him, what else can you do? Don’t beat yourself up, just give some extra TLC to both of you.

  25. I have done that too, then got puked on, then felt like total crap. We can’t be 100% wondermom all they time, and as long as you took care of him, what else can you do? Don’t beat yourself up, just give some extra TLC to both of you.

  26. You came through for him in the end DD, and that’s all that matters. I’ve done the exact same thing. Hang in there.

  27. We’ve all been there, or WILL be there. Don’t beat yourself up. You’re an awesome momma.

  28. I don’t know if I’m being repetitive because I don’t have time to read the other 20 comments…

    There is NO TEST. You failed nothing. You were tired. Of course you responded differently to your son waking you when he was a baby. He couldn’t rely on sophisticated communication skills or rationalization when he was a baby. Now he can. Now he knows that sleep is necessary. It’s ok that you were mean. It’s ok that you were tired. I’m sure he’s not scarred. If anything, maybe now he knows not to wake you up unless he really needs you.

    You’re a great mom. AND you’re human.

  29. There’s a reason why the fable “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” was written. Sometimes it’s for attention; sometimes it’s for real. I work with adults with developmental disabilities. Many have the cognitive abilities of infants and toddlers. You’d be surprised the “you’re evil incarnate” looks I get from people when dealing with behavior issues. I know these individuals and I’ve learned what is truly an issue and what is attention seeking. You learn better; you do better. You rock, DD! And yes, sometimes even mommies have to hear that.

  30. Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s hard to be nice when you are awakened at 2 am from a sound sleep!

  31. *hugs*

  32. Ok, I’m a little late on this one. But what everyone says is true…don’t beat yourself up. It’s only natural to be frustrated when you’re half asleep and it’s happened several times before. We’re only human..not perfect guardian angels.

  33. Oh, DD, so sorry to hear that you and X had a rough time the other night. I’d tell you not to beat yourself up about this, but I have a feeling that won’t make a difference. I think you’re a great mom and I’m sure Mr DD and X think you’re better than I can imagine.

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