He sat cross-legged on the wingback chair in the sitting area of our dining room, tears welling up in his eyes. He yelled out to me, “You’re the meanest mom in the world!” and I cringed.
It stung. It always stings. This wasn’t the first time I had earned that title, and with absolute certainty, I can tell you I will earn this title again and again.
My middle child was caught lashing out at his younger brother and made to sit in time-out until he could get his frustration under control and was willing to apologize. He repeatedly, and angrily, asked to be let out of time-out. His defiant requests were denied each time, culminating with his “meanest mom in the world” declaration.
I wish I could say I laugh off these instances or find satisfaction in eliciting such a response from my kids, giving myself a pat on the back regarding my parenting skills, but I can’t. It hurts every time. It hurts when they look at me with so much resentment and the words roll out of their lips with so much contempt.
I’m the meanest mom in the world when I take away toys that have been left out after being asked multiple times to be put away.
I’m the meanest mom in the world when I take away TV privileges if I get unsatisfactory reports from their teachers.
I’m the meanest mom in the world when I make them write apology letters if they’ve been rude or disrespectful.
I am the meanest mom in the world when I make them sit in time-out if they decide to express their frustrations by hurting one of their siblings.
I don’t like being the mean mom. It is hard being the mean mom. Being the mean mom means standing your ground when all you want to do is give in because it’s late, you’re tired, and it’s already been a long day. Being the mean mom means keeping a straight face when your child’s attitude makes you want to laugh, or cry, or both. It means reminding them you love them even when they’re mad at you because nothing they can do will change that, all while still doling out reprimands.
I want to be the sweet mom, the nice mom who doesn’t raise her voice—the one who isn’t mean.
I would much rather look the other way when I see them misbehaving to save all of us the unpleasant interaction. But I can’t, and I won’t. I love them too much to do that. Above all, what I truly want is to ensure I raise men who can respect rules, who know how to treat others, and who understand there are consequences to their actions.
So, I will raise my voice, and I will continue to scold them when their behavior warrants it. I will sit them in-time out when they need to get a handle on their emotions. I will take away privileges when they disobey rules. And I will gladly earn the title of “meanest mom in the world” even if it hurts. Because who they grow up to be matters more to me than my hurt feelings.
Nobody said parenting was going to be easy. The meanest mom in the world doesn’t do easy.
My middle son yells out again, “I know why you’re so mean! It’s because Mamaw was mean to you when you were a kid!” and he’s not wrong. I had a mean mom, too. I had the meanest mom in the world, and I’m glad I did. Now, I’m glad to have taken the throne from her, and one day, I hope to congratulate my son when he becomes the meanest dad in the world. I’ll welcome him to the club and remind him of the day he bestowed the same honor on me.
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