One day I went to the supermarket with my 3-year-old son, John, and he started screaming at the top of his lungs. I tried to remain calm. “John, do you really think that’s necessary? Do you even know why you’re crying?” I asked. But that didn’t stop him.
It felt like we had a huge, bright spotlight on us in the middle of the jam-packed supermarket. My friend who was shopping with me slowly but surely drifted away, as if she was not with us. Everything seemed like a blur of embarrassment moving in slow motion as my son cried as if someone was beating him.
‘I’m Tired, Mommy’
I didn’t know what to do. I moved into an empty aisle and started yelling with a stern voice. “If you do not be quiet I will leave you right here on your own!”
Finally, I took a deep breath, hugged my son and said, “I love you, John, and you are embarrassing the both of us, so if there is something you need, you have to say it, because I cannot understand you when you’re crying.
“I’m tired, Mommy,” John replied.
I sighed, “It can’t be it was that simple, John,” but it was. So I removed my coat and made a pillow of it for him to lie on in the shopping cart.
It is extremely difficult at times for me to handle my son’s temper along with mine. The good things—that smile he has, the moments when we connect—keep me going.
I’ll Be Better Than My Mom
I was 18 when I found out I was pregnant with my son. I was one of those stupid little teenagers who wanted a baby because I thought it would be cute. I didn’t know then how difficult it would be to raise a child on my own, how there would be times where I would feel lonelier than I ever had before in my life, with no one to blame but myself because I made the decision to have a baby.
When I got pregnant, I was determined to prove to myself that I could be a better mother to John than my own mother had been to me. My mom used drugs when I was a child and my childhood was sad and embarrassing, from the beatings to the jokes at school for wearing Payless shoes. My mother was so caught in her drug habit that our Christmas gifts were given and sold all in the same day.
It Is Not That Easy
I want prove to myself and other people that growing up in a negative environment doesn’t mean you can’t flourish. I will raise my son without abusing him in any way, and finish college and pursue a career as a nurse.
To prepare to be a mother, I participated in parenting classes and read books about parenting. I remember sitting on the bus and seeing this woman giving her son a slap on the hand because he was jumping on the seats. “That’s not how I am going to be with my child,” I said to myself. “He’s going to listen and we are only going to have to sit and talk about discipline for him to follow what I say.” Yeah, right. Little did I know. It is not that easy.
Crying and Crying
The first few months after John was born were a lot harder than I expected. You know, with a newborn, you’re lucky if you get a full three hours of sleep. One day John just started crying and crying. I had no idea what was wrong. I mean, I burped, changed, fed and rocked him but nothing helped.
Finally, I had no choice but to put him down and walk away because I was literally shaking and dizzy. It took a while before I pulled myself together and said, “If I don’t do it no one else will.” I got up, grabbed my baby and paced for about an hour more before he stopped crying.
About two months after John was born, I was finally catching some ZZZs, but I was already behind in college by the time John was 2. Taking care of my baby, working and going to school turned out to be nearly impossible and I put school off.
Now John is 3 years old. He has a big head topped off with a mat of brown hair, big brown eyes and two handfuls of cheeks. His little voice brings me an array of feelings, from joy to frustration. I find my son more interesting now because he is learning and has more to say. He is also tougher to discipline. I say, “John, don’t do that.” He says, “You don’t do that!”
My Son vs. His Teacher
I love my son but, boy, does he do some things. I get repeated complaints from the teacher: “Your son is being disruptive.” “John does not focus on his work.”
One day John’s teacher said he hit a little girl and was put on time out. John was so angry that he kept cutting the teacher off to say, “But Mom, Victoria bump me with her butt against the wall!” I wasn’t sure who to believe, but I was upset that my baby keeps getting into trouble.
Is He Becoming His Father?
I requested an evaluation through the Board of Education, only to find that nothing is wrong with him. I worry, though, because my son’s father was very disruptive in school. I am so afraid of my son possibly repeating anything of the negative patterns of behavior on my side of the family or on his father’s. Seeing any bad behavior causes me to think he’s going to end up in serious trouble.
However, maybe I should consider that my son is just a 3-year-old boy who likes to play more than he likes sitting down and writing the letters of the alphabet. The evaluator even suggested that he might do better in a pre-school that is more about playing and less like school.
Am I Becoming My Mother?
Sometimes I catch myself doing the same things I hated in my mother. Because of her addiction, my mom was inconsistent. I felt frustrated that I couldn’t count on her to cook when I was hungry or help me do my homework. She disciplined my siblings and me when it wasn’t necessary and let us get away with things when we needed discipline.
Inconsistency is mistake number one that I make with my son today. If John jumps on the bed I punish him, but if I am on the phone and he jumps on the bed then I completely disregard it. I know consistency is difficult, especially for a single parent, but I feel upset that I’m not as on top of things as I’d like to be.
Angry and Overwhelmed
Sometimes I just feel overwhelmed. One day recently I was arguing with John’s father while cooking some sausages on the stove. When they started to burn I said, “I’m not dealing with that,” but he did nothing. Smoke started to fill the kitchen. I got so mad that I flung the pot against the kitchen door.
My son was watching cartoons in the next room and walked out to see sausages on the floor and his mommy upset. “What happened, Ma? You all right?” he asked. I quickly had to grab my composure and say yes. I thought, “He’s going to learn that this is how to react to anger.” That really bothered me. I felt embarrassed that I’d lost control.
Parenting Is Confusing!
What I’ve learned is that parenting is all about confusion. I am always confused about little things, like whether I should give John a time out, or whether to give him juice when bedtime is around the corner. Should I say no, or do I say no too often?
I am also confused about the big things: which school I should put him in, whether John is learning the right behavior from me, if he’s growing into a good kid.
I look for signs that John is doing well. I see that John has good qualities: He’s loving and helpful and very entertaining. Our communication has developed so we understand each other better now.
Just the other day I was sick and he came and rubbed my back, saying, “Mommy, you all right?” I was feeling half-dead, but I was able to crack a smile, because my baby came along with a thermometer saying, “Turn over, Mommy, I’ll help you.”
Making My Son Proud
Now I understand why people say, “You’re too young!” Being a single mother is something you need to be mentally prepared for. My advice to other girls is to wait!
But I also like that my son is here with me through my own years of growing. I started college again in the fall, and over my winter break, I kept John home from pre-school most days. I wanted the extra time with him. I am bored at home with no one to tell, “Stop that!” or, “Come play ball with me,” I was also able to work on his behavior so that when he returned he listened to the teacher more.
There are times when John and I are home and I say to myself, “Wow, my baby is growing so fast.” I know I have to keep growing at a fast pace, too, to be the mother I want to be. I’m determined to set us both on the right path and make my son proud. John will be there to see me finish college and will be learning from me as I start a career.