Can't Say Anything Nice
As a mom I'm good at keeping my cool, until I'm not.
I pulled into the West Lebanon Hannaford around 7:00 last night after a three-hour white-knuckle trip through the snowstorm up Route 89.
The kids had squabbled on and off the whole time because their DVD players were broken, they were bored, also one of them was making an annoying noise, and a host of other complaints I couldn’t mediate while straining to follow a thin slice of tire track, carved by the one car in front of me, on an unplowed highway.
I put the car in park and took a deep breath. As if taking this as their cue, the girls went after each other with renewed energy.
“Ow! You kicked me!” yelled one.
“No, I didn’t.”
“Yes, you did! Mom! She kicked me!”
“No I didn’t. Your leg was in my way. Mommy..."
Both of you shut up, I thought to myself. Maybe it was road fatigue. Maybe I wasn’t finished mentally celebrating the fact that we'd avoided landing in a snowy ditch on the side of the road. Maybe I was anticipating the tedium of today’s snow day (when your fun-Mom ideas that are supposed to last all day only last about an hour). Whatever the reason, those exact words flew out of my mouth.
“Both of you shut up!”
Oops. Was that out loud? I thought. But then their stunned silence – which of course meant I had their attention – emboldened me to keep going.
“Seriously! Shut up! I just drove three hours in a snowstorm to get us home safely! We didn’t even have DVD players when I was a kid! You know what we watched? THE WINDOW.”
Then, turning to what is easily my most overused parenting phrase, because it so often lets me have the last word, I invoked the Disney bunny.
“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!"
For a minute, we all obeyed and sat in the quiet. Clearly, I
had nothing nice to say, either. I pictured the kids going to back to school
and telling their teachers, “We drove in the snow for a long time and then
Mommy told us to shut up.”
I started to prepare my formal apology. But then, it was as if someone hit the reset button.
“Look how big that pile of snow is!” said one kid.
“We could make an awesome fort out of that!” said the other.
And just like that, they moved on. As I sat there blinking in disbelief, I didn’t know whether to call this one a parenting win or a failure. Did I lose my cool? Yes. But did I also stop the in-fighting and restore peace inside the vehicle? Yes. I’m calling it a win. Hopefully all they’ll remember about the last 24 hours is that I took them sledding and baked them cookies.
But please let me know if you see two kids scaling the snow piles in the Hannaford lot, because I explicitly told them not to try the fort thing.