Friday, June 13, 2008

Mama Drama: It's Like Kryptonite for SuperMoms

Even though my kids are used to the fact that I have freelance work to do after they've gone to bed, that doesn't mean they always like it. And, even though they're asleep and it doesn't interfere with our time together, they find other ways to make their displeasure known. The most-effective way is by indulging in a bit of Mama Drama. It doesn't change anything -- work must be done, bills must be paid -- but it does feed the Working Mother guilt-monster.

My preschooler has been having a bit of Mama Drama lately, usually right before bed (when she knows I have to log on and work from home once she’s asleep) or when I drop her off at school (when she knows I’m leaving so I can go to the office). It starts with a long sad look, shoulders drooping, glancing sideways to see if I’ve noticed. If I seem not to have, she adds a snuffle and a sniffle, sometimes wiping her (dry) eyes for dramatic effect.

You know the effect Kryptonite had on Superman? Well, for this SuperMom, Mama Drama does the same thing. It kills me.

If I don’t seem sufficiently killed, though, she takes it to the next level: lip trembles, sniffles increase, and her huge brown eyes overflow while she looks like she’s heroically trying to hold back the tears. And then she starts explaining it all away — “I’m just tired,” “I feel shy,” “I was afraid you were going away.” At this point, my Fortress of Solitude is wrecked and I just want to fall apart myself, even though she doesn’t know it.

Today, it started at school, while I was taking my toddler to his daycare classroom in the same building. She came over to the door between the two classrooms, and I must not have been paying attention, what with holding a squirming 19-month-old on my hip and trying to talk to the teachers and put everything in his cubby and all, because she was already at the tears-welling-over stage and was moving into the full-on Mama Drama stage: the explanations.
“Mama?” she quavered. “I just feel too shy for school today.”

I wanted to tell her to buck up; she loves school! She loves her friends! She adores her teachers! We do the same drop-off five days a week and she’s always been fine with it! I can understand not wanting to go to bed but, hey, come on, this here place is fun!

I handed my toddler off to his teacher and turned to my little girl, but one of her teachers had gotten to her first. As I was about to explain that this was just Mama Drama — she’s fine, she’s not sick, she slept well, she scarfed down her breakfast, blah blah blah — he knelt down and looked her in the eye and gently asked her what was wrong.

“I’m just… shy… today,” she sobbed, turning away from me. I could have left then, I suppose, since she wasn’t focused on me anymore, but I was too busy being killed.

“But you were a little shy yesterday, right? And you got better, right?” he asked her, his voice all soothing and rational, speaking quietly so she had to stop crying in order to hear him. My quip about Mama Drama got stuck in my throat.

“Right?” he asked again. She agreed.

“So you’ll be all better today too, right?”

She agreed again. And gave him a hug and skipped off to play.

He got up, winked at me, and went back to the kids in his classroom. And I left for work, feeling like the least patient, least compassionate, worst mother in the world, but grateful that my daughter has such caring, calm, and kind teachers (who, thankfully, are immune to Kryptonite).

Be sure to surf over to The 36-Hour Day and weigh in with other moms in the comments -- there's quite a heated discussion going on.

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