The Day My Kids and I Cried Together

No, it had nothing (or only a little) to do with the outcome of the elections in the US. The tears were neither of joy nor sorrow. Per se. The tears were of anger, frustration, helplessness, fear, uncertainty, and solidarity.

This is a long post. 

It’s been two days and for the last two days, I have been an emotional wreck. My toddler has been trying my very weak strain of patience more and more every day with everything he does and does not do and I have turned into the evil, angry, frustrated, helpless, terrifying yeller that my kids do not deserve but for which I completely qualify.


Yesterday’s dispute had to do with complete and utter disobedience over not wanting to clean up a mess he had made. Usually after some coaxing or at least after some counting down of numbers, he reluctantly does as is told in s…l…o…w motion that take every ounce of my being not to overlook or demand a “hurry up”. Nothing worked this time. Absolutely nothing. No gentle and calm telling to clean up his mess. No raised voices. No threats. No countdowns. No yelling. Nothing. He did not move. Just decided not to and call my bluff, I guess. I wonder what was going on his mind.

Today was worse. The frustration began early morning when the small container of play dough was not enough to cover the entirety of the toy Flo (from Cars) whom he had successfully covered a few days ago with homemade play dough. Use, Guido instead, I suggested and to his credit he did, except Guido only just barely fit inside the small batch of play dough and that got him into a major tizzy.

Honestly, I just wanted him to do something independently that would give me some moments of undisturbed viewing of Hillary’s concession speech. I was in tears and I just wanted to be alone in my moments of sadness. I did not know that the outcome of the election would have such an effect on me.

You see, I am not a US citizen. I have lived in this country legally, for over 16 years and through two two-term presidents, one Republican and one Democrat. I have had many a grievenaces with the whole immigration system and how it is skewed toward citizens of certain favorable countries, something not extended toward me or my countrywomen and men.

Still, the extent to which I was saddened by the outcome came as a shock to me.

After the speech ended, Aaron left for work and I was left to be with the kids as is usually the case.

To keep TJ calm, I had promised him homemade play dough after I put Baby E to bed.

A kid who usually plays by himself or is generally (not always though) quiet was making all kinds of noises outside the door today such that even after I placed Baby E in her crib after feeding her, she did not want to nap. At all. I left her in her crib and ignored her.

I turned on some music just so I didn’t have to hear her sniffles and got busy making play dough with TJ during which he tried to put his trucks into the dough I was mixing. After I had made the play dough in two colors, instead of playing with it, he spread it all over the kitchen floor, drove his truck over it, then took some and flung it into the living room, then came back and stepped into the leftover dough in the kitchen with his socks and then ran around the carpeted living room with socks that had play dough stuck on it, knocking the plastic guard gate on the floor on purpose as he ran.

Meanwhile, Baby E was not willing to nap and I needed some fresh air. I could have taken the kids to the library’s story time but I didn’t think I had it in me to put on pretenses of normality with my mom friends there so instead, I decided to take the kids for a walk in their monstrous double stroller.

Before leaving, more drama ensued. He stepped on Baby E’s fingers and made her cry. I yelled at him to stop doing it and asked him why he always did that. No answer. Water bottles, a guard gate, and a banana were thrown around in anger and frustration. By me. This scared the kids but at least compliance followed. He walked himself down the stairs as I joined him holding Baby E, and opened the double stroller.

The stroller wouldn’t cooperate in helping strap the baby. I couldn’t get the back to sit up and once I did, I couldn’t get it to recline. The diaper bag refused to fit into the stroller’s basket at first and I had to struggle to shove it in. I had to go to the garage and get my baby carrier and a few other things. All of this just had me immensely exhausted, frustrated, and left me very, very helpless at everything that was going on.

I let out a loud scream. The loudest I had ever screamed. A loud, gut wrenching scream that came from the inner core of my being. I screamed like I had never screamed or ever needed to in my life. Tears flowed easily. They had been flowing easily all morning anyway.

Both kids were strapped in their seats in the stroller, ready to go. I just sat on a stair with the palms of both my hands covering my eyes. Crying. Sobbing, uncontrollably. I tried to tell myself to get my $### together but it didn’t work. My screaming (to be clear, I wasn’t screaming at the kids. I simply screamed because I truly felt like I needed a good scream just then) had scared them both and they both started crying too.

Amidst his own sobs, TJ quietly said, “Mommy, st..o..o..p”. If he was next to me, he would have wiped my tears like he did this morning when I was watching the concession speech.

When I continued just sitting there, sobbing, realizing I was not going to stop but perhaps I would be encouraged with a call to action, he said, “Mommy…put shoes on”.

Eventually, I did stop crying. I did get up and put shoes on. I also put a large hat and dark sunglasses on.

We walked to a Starbucks. I needed that. Not Starbucks, but the walk. I did not want to talk to anybody. I did not want to engage with the kids. I just wanted to be. I just wanted quiet. I did not even want to hear myself think. I wished for a no-thought, no-speech quiet.

I did hear things like, “ see blue garbage truck” and “ see white garbage truck”…I chose to ignore them.

Starbucks was actually quite calming. I fed Baby E a little banana while TJ and I split a cake pop while he looked at some constructions vehicles nearby.

retail-1424041_1280On our way back, I even stopped by a grocery store and the only eventful thing was when TJ asked to get out of the stroller and then wandered to where all the loose food items are to be bought by the pound (like in the picture above). I usually allow him the treat of a chocolate-covered almond. This time, unprovoked or encouraged by me, he made his way to the string of containers and like a pro, grabbed one and ate it as I forced him back into the stroller.

At lunch, he refused to eat and turned his face away when I tried to feed him. He literally started crying over spilled milk on the table and pushed my empty plate of food on the floor spilling some soy sauce on the carpet. This was the last straw. I cried again in hopelessness as I sat on the carpet trying to scrub the stains off. He was beginning to become more than a handful.

Despite my best intentions and trying to put my own disciplining strategies to use, I was failing miserably at them. Tired, I called Aaron and asked him to come home. I just couldn’t take it anymore. Meanwhile, TJ had started crying again. Talk about a bad day for me. He wasn’t having a party either.

I just couldn’t bear to talk to him just then. I picked Baby E up and took her upstairs for her nap while he sat there crying.

Eventually, Aaron came home. Things calmed down a little. He came to me for a hug and some snuggles and I gave him heart fulls of them acknowledging what a rough day we had both had.

Right before nap time, at one point when he was crying over something and Aaron asked, “Baba, why are you so upset still?”, without skipping a beat, he matter-of-factly said, “Rough day”. Despite myself, I couldn’t stop laughing as Aaron joined in and I am sure TJ wondered why we thought his rough day was a matter of joke for his parents. [Imagine in your head a 2-year-old telling you that he was crying because he had had a rough day. He was right. He was perfectly in context. It was too awesome not to laugh or at least smile over.]

Over the evening, TJ cried more over random things.

I usually try to reflect on my experiences of the day and try to gain some perspective on them. There surely are more lessons to be learned here but I am just not motivated enough to do so right now. With Baby E still waking up at least once a night and sometimes twice, my sleep cycle is always unpredictable. I always lucid dream which makes me tired in the morning. Last night, I couldn’t sleep thinking and worrying over the outcome of the elections. As an immigrant, some of the colorful (no pun intended) rhetoric that made for much political drama effects me directly.

I was to attend a potty training workshop at TJ’s school this evening but asked Aaron to go instead. Thank Goodness he did! I needed that. Had I gone and Aaron had put the kids to sleep, I would have still been carrying the anger and frustrations of the day and come back home in the same cloudy funk I was in all morning and afternoon.

Being able to stay home with the kids in the evening, where thankfully everything went right – I was even able to put Baby E to bed with TJ quietly hanging out by himself downstairs in the living room, I was actually able to savor that time. I got to read to the kids, play a little with them, and was even able to cut TJ’s nails without needing to bribe or threaten him. His own bed time was peaceful.

Some quiet night time reading, acknowledging and apologizing to him for my behavior today along with promising him my continued commitment to being a better mommy for him and his sister, and lots of snuggling, kissing, singing, and some I-love-Yous, were the perfect way to end the day.

Tomorrow…well, we just have to wait and see.


A former Communication Studies professor turned a somewhat reluctant stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), I blog about my adventures raising two multiracial kids. I write about parenting and living a multicultural Indian-Canadian-American HinJew life with honesty, a few tears, lots of laughter, and gallons of coffee.
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Follow me: @thephdmama

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  1. As I have always told you and will continue to tell you, this is completely understandable. Please please please don’t beat yourself up. Not yelling is a very very tough road to go down and with two kids you are to be lauded for doing everything humanly possible to keep it together.

    These days are rough and I know that. They get better with time though. Take only one day at a time. Nothing more.

    For the cleaning up, a simple tip that may work: Do it with him. When I began doing this with Gy, she responded better later to my instructions. Kids love cooperation over everything else. I used to squat on the floor and ooh and aah over the many toys and squeal with delight when she’d put another one away. That tickled her a good deal. She started looking forward to the clean-up game 🙂

    The baby being troubled must be tough to handle. Maybe telling him firmly that he cannot be that way to her and she loves him too much may help? Either way, hang in there, momma. You’ve got this. Trust me.

    1. Oh hugs. Thanks so much for more great advice. It’s like I know why and what I am doing wrong but do it anyway. Two steps forward, one step back. Last few days have been tough but I know they’ll get better. Thanks again.

      1. Any time. It took me 7 years to even accept that I was yelling, let alone do something about it. You’re doing great.

  2. Hugs hugs and more hugs. Miss you. XOXO.

  3. It is so comforting to read a real human being with a real life here, instead of the “oh, my life is perfect, my children are perfect, my home is perfect” blog post.

    When my girl was about two, I had written a somewhat similar (although shorter) post about how terrible the two has been and how at the end of my tether I was. I got a lot of slack for the post – how could I let my child down like that? How inefficient a mom am I and such judgemental drivel. I took them seriously, and tried so hard and pushed myself further and further for the next ten years, to be a mom comparable to all those gorgeous, hyperefficient, in-control moms in social network world.

    It came to a head last year. The pressure of trying to do everything and be perfect, the disappointment with myself of failing, the peri-menopausal hormonal eff-party, some marital problems, and a bereavement made me lose it. II had melt-down for something as small as finding my daughter’s dirty lunch box in her bag two days after she swore that she had lost it in school. The voice that came from the pit of my stomach as I screamed was spooky – like I was possessed or something. My child was stunned. But both of us needed to understand the pressure that was building inside me.

    Since then it has been a difficult year, learning to let go and accepting the less-than-perfectness of my life.I think I am almost there. There is no such thing as a perfect mother. There is no such thing as perfect parenting. There is no such thing as a perfect child, at whatever age. We just take it as it comes. I have stopped pretending and needing to be perfect. I don’t even freak out anymore when I enter my child’s room.

    I have never confided this in anyone so far – not even my own family (except for that meltdown I had with my daughter last year). Thank you for this post. And hang in there. Scream all you want. You need to release your pressure now and then, else it will explode at some point and that would be more dangerous than a periodic pressure release scream.

    1. I feel you on so many levels and I wish I was right next you so I could give you a big hug and be there for you to vent and speak your mind while I quietly listened. Hugs, my friend. Really. Sometimes all we really need is a big hug in certain moments.

      Thank you for sharing of yourself and hopefully unburdening some of the stress that weighs us down in our search for being the right kind of parent for our child. I am so happy for you that there is some calm in knowing where you are today as a parent and what works and does not work.

      I am a firm believe that kids need to see us in our natural state, imperfections, warts and all so they know we are human and so we do not screw up their own expectations of adult roles. Of course there needs some filtering of that but that will come eventually.

      I used to think I was an “okay” mom but even that notion has been kicked out of the window on some days. Now, I simply exist. Some days are great, others are good, and still others just are.

  4. Though I only have one of my own so far, I have to say I can understand.
    And yes, I have those days too. At times, it feels like all that hard-work you put in sort of goes to waste when we yell or lose our cool. But kids know to push our buttons, and we sometimes can’t help it.

    With regards to cleaning up, I reckon what Shailaja said will work. It’s not easy, and is a constant work in progress, but sometimes team work is what they need.

    As cliched as it sounds, things will get better. They always do. Just hang in there. And kids, they always understand

    1. You are so right about the buttons. He KNOWS now or is at least working out the kinks till her perfects the ride to know exactly which ones to push and when. Have to hand it out to the kids though. Such geniuses!

      I have tried teamwork clean up before, said I would help him, did it with him, etc. but it only works sometimes. I like Shailaja’s idea of singling out each toy to give it some drama and go ooh and aah…he may like that.

      Thanks for the encouragement. One day, one step at a time.

  5. RASHMI SHARMA says:

    “Rough day”…lol. That was too good. What I love about your articles is that you are purely honest with how it is. Had a similar day 2 weeks back when I screamed at my younger one and both the kids started crying. Thankfully Akshay (my husband) came listening to my scream and rescued my kids. I do not do that often but yes, sometimes it just becomes uncontrollable. Happens to me especially when I have some plan of to do things in my mind and this whole situation is delaying it. It is like that marathi saying “kalta pan valat nahi”. Smiles!Smiles!Smiles!

    1. Thank you, Rashmi. If I wasn’t writing with honesty, I might as well not write. What’s the point, right?
      I totally understand how things can be uncontrollable when plans are made and you need to follow them and they are especially uncooperative on those days or times. One thing I hate to tell TJ is to “hurry up” and I almost never say that. Almost. I used to be big on punctuality. I still am, just not with the kids anymore although that is still, easier said than done. Kids have their own clocks.
      It was so refreshing to read some Marathi 🙂

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