I suck. And it’s not just the nasty voice inside my head that I call “Cruella” that says so. No, most often the voices I hear saying I suck come from my kids.
My children have so many reasons I suck that I’ve begun to categorize them. I may suck because of the things I don’t do. These reasons I generally understand. Painting toenails falls in the category of things that I promise to do and then don’t do. For my daughter, this makes me suck. To date, my son has not asked me to paint toenails with him, but I would probably forget and then he would think I suck.
I agree with my children when they think I suck for forgetting a promise made. One really shouldn’t forget promises, particularly those made to one’s children. In fact, I am about to forget a promise I made to my son, so excuse me while I call the doctor about the pain my son is feeling in his wrist. (This pain is almost assuredly because my son has been in rehearsal for his first professional band gig. These rehearsals take place almost every day and last anywhere from two to four hours. It seemed to me that banging on the drums for two to four hours every day for weeks on end would lead to overuse injury. I suggested rest, ice and ibuprofen. But I’m just mom and I suck, therefore I have to call the doctor who will recommend rest, ice and ibuprofen. The doctor, obviously, doesn’t suck.)
But I may also suck because of things I do. The reasoning behind these is also sometimes understandable. When my daughter was much younger, her Christmas list included a number of expensive toys we could not afford. I bought toys we could afford; it sucked. Now, technically, it wasn’t me that sucked, but Santa. However, Santa does not exist to feel the failure of having sucked, so I took it upon myself.
Christmas is not the only holiday that can cause me to suck. My children celebrate Easter. As I am Buddhist and my husband is Jewish, I am pretty sure this is not my doing. Every year, though, my kids expect to be treated to a basket full of candy-filled eggs. Last year, Easter sucked because I put all of my daughter’s eggs in her basket, instead of hiding them around the house. This year, I sucked because I gave her a solid chocolate bunny rather than the hollow bunny she claims to prefer. My son did not think I sucked this Easter; he is lazy and likes solid chocolate bunnies. He didn’t even realize he’d gotten a basket until I told him. Later, though, he made sure I hadn’t given his sister money in addition to eggs and chocolate because, if I had, I would suck.
Sometimes I have no idea I suck until I’m told. In fact, those are often the times when I think I’m being a pretty nice mom. Every morning, I get up with my daughter to help her get ready for school. Most mornings, I get dressed, make my bed and am downstairs making her breakfast before she’s managed to get her pajamas off. She comes downstairs to a hot breakfast. I make her lunch and manage a cup of tea for myself. She plays games on her phone, texts her friends, and—often—complains about the breakfast I’ve given her. Always, the complaints are made at least ten minutes after the breakfast has been served. What ensues could go one of two ways. I could make something else for her, but I would suck because she would not have time to eat it and she would be hungry until lunch. Or I could refuse to make anything else and I would suck because she would be hungry until lunch.
Lest you think that it is primarily my daughter who thinks I suck, my son finds ample reason for me to suck. I suck when I won’t let him use the car—even though he has lost his car privileges—to pick up his prom tuxedo two days before it will be ready to pick up. I can’t possibly be right about that (even though I paid for the tuxedo rental and have the rental agreement pinned to the kitchen bulletin board), because I’m mom and I suck.
I suck when I won’t let my son take the credit card to charge a burger and fries when he gets home from school, even though we have mass quantities of the pizzas he loves in the freezer. I suck when I only buy one case of Coke, instead of three, because one case will only last him three days at the most.
I sucked big time when I implored my son not to have his ears “gauged.” Gauging is the term for the ear maiming that is currently en vogue among young people who want to express their solidarity with certain indigenous peoples and don’t care if they ever have a job past the age of 19. It certainly sucked when I told him that if I had to pay for his prom tuxedo he absolutely didn’t have the money to have his ears disfigured gauged.
I suck almost every day. In fact, I suck so often that when I talk to my husband he’ll sometimes ask me how I suck that day. Today, I told him that I sucked because my daughter’s hair wouldn’t part the way she prefers. I have no idea why this makes me suck, but I’m getting pretty used to sucking over my daughter’s hair. Once, after putting her hair in a ponytail, I neglected to glue down the little flyaways with water. Her hair, she decided, sucked and therefore so did I.
Sucking so much used to bother me more. When it first started, I took it to heart even though I knew it wasn’t true and that, by and large, I’m a pretty good parent. But how many times can you be told you suck before you start to believe there might be a grain of truth? Now, though, I mostly let it roll off. Sometimes, I even act like I agree. “Yup,” I’ll say. “I suck. But I’m still not going to: give you the car/make you another breakfast/let you charge junk food/get you a hollow chocolate bunny.” Truth is, though, I know I don’t suck and I believe our family therapist when he tells me the time will come when my children agree.