by Gillian Van Cooney
Two years ago my son, Dane, threw such a mind-blowing fit that we were escorted out of IKEA. Moments before, while he lay thrashing and shrieking on the concrete floor, his purple forehead vein throbbing, I fantasized about leaving him there. Just leaving, going home to pour a huge glass of red wine and wait for the police and a KING-5 news van to show up. His tantrums were seemingly constant, and I was done. I was a bad mother and now all of IKEA knew it.
The tantrum happened by the snack area. A pregnant woman, weeks away from delivery, was licking an ice cream cone and staring at me. My child will never behave that way, I felt her thinking. Right, sister. I thought the same thing when I was pregnant.
If anyone would have told me that my son would go crazy and cause public humiliation, I would have rolled my eyes. Yeah, right, I would have huffed. When I was pregnant, I planned on being Mommy Perfect. I would be a legend; books would be written about my superior child-rearing skills. Infancy Done Perfectly: the Gillian Van Cooney Approach to Motherhood, the first in a series of six would be called. My child wouldn’t throw rocks or fits. I would always speak in a peaceful, loving tone. He would never watch television or consume sugar. I honestly thought it would be a no-sweat kind of deal. I had read all the books and I loved kids. I mean, really. How tough could it be?
My son was born the day before Labor Day. I had doctors and nurses, my parents and husband to help me. For two glorious days, I was Mommy Perfect. I was the smug woman in IKEA. No mistakes. Then I checked out of the hospital and was on my own.
Four years and two kids later, I am far from the Mommy Perfect in my pregnant fantasies. I’ve yelled, I’ve bribed with lollipops. I’ve let the kids watch six back-to-back Curious George episodes so I can pay bills and chit-chat with my mom or my girlfriends. I’ve called my husband at work, choke-crying into the phone, begging him to fake a stomach flu so he can come home and rescue me.
I doubt my skills every single day. Why are they freaking out? Why do they look at me like I’m speaking Japanese when I ask them to throw their banana peel into the trash? What am I doing wrong?
Then I’ll watch Dane crouch down to his sister’s eye level and call her “honey.” Last weekend my husband was taking a nap on the couch. My daughter pulled a blanket over him and kissed him softly on the arm. “Night-night, Daddy,” she whispered.
Yes, there are meltdowns. Too many to count. But when I see the kindness and empathy my children exhibit I realize, “Hey! They learned that from me!” I know that while I’m certainly not Mommy Perfect, I am pretty good at my job.
And guess what? It’s mean, but I feel kind of happy knowing that Smug Pregnant IKEA Woman is out there with a two-year-old of her own, suffering through a public tantrum or two.
Gillian Van Cooney is a stay-at-home mom to Dane, 4, and Kylie, 2. Besides, of course, her family and friends, Gillian loves writing, practicing yoga, and painting her little girl's nails.