The Worst Question
I can picture it like it was yesterday. Me, Henry, and Harrison were sitting at our dark brown dinner table. Brandon was out of town for work, again. It had been a long day of playing, rocking, feeding, screaming, coping. I was counting down the minutes until it would be bedtime and I’d finally be alone. I set Henry’s paper plate of peanut butter and jelly in front of him. Harrison had been crying for nearly ten minutes by now. Why? I’m not really sure, and I doubt he was either. But he was mad and he wanted everyone to know it.
I tried to feed him bites of the mashed potatoes he normally scarfed down. He screamed more. I tried to give him a bottle filled with watered-down apple juice. He slammed his tiny fists down onto his highchair tray. Over and over he screamed until he was so red in the face, I thought he was going to choke.
My salad sat near me, long forgotten. Henry stared at us both, wondering what I would do. He could feel the frustration radiating off of me.
“Harrison, knock it off!” I lost control and yelled, only making things worse. Harrison’s face scrunched up and he cried harder.
Finally, I gave up. I lifted Harrison out of his highchair, sat him on the table facing me with his chubby legs hanging down. He stopped crying nearly instantly. He grabbed for my shirt, he grabbed for my soggy salad, he grabbed for my glass of milk. To distract him, I got a spoonful of his mashed potatoes and started to feed him. He finally went still and began to eat again.
I sighed. I likely rolled my eyes. I sighed harder.
And that’s when Henry asked me the question. The one that felt like a punch to the gut, and made me feel like I was doing everything wrong. The one that made me feel ashamed of how I had reacted, not just in this moment, but in all my previous moments where I had lost my temper with Henry or Harrison.
It started off innocently enough:
“Mommy, it’s really hard to have two kids, isn’t it?”
“Yes, baby, it can be really hard.”
I thought that was the end of it. It wasn’t.
“Mommy, do you wish that you never had that baby?”
I stopped the spoon mid-way to Harrison’s mouth. I had to have heard him wrong, right? I asked him to repeat it. And he did, in exactly the same way.
I felt tears spring to my eyes. Even now, as I relive that moment, I can feel the tears form.
I had reacted so poorly that I made Henry feel as if I didn’t want his little brother. I wondered if he also thought I didn’t want him in the times that I lost my temper and yelled at him.
I took a deep breath and as simply as I could, I tried to explain to my four-year-old how I would never wish that. How sometimes I just got so frustrated because I didn’t know how to make Harrison happy. How even when I’m angry, I always love both him and Harrison.
I took Harrison and put him back in his highchair, where he was now perfectly content to sit and eat his mashed potatoes. I slid my bowl of salad closer to me and ate it with one hand while feeding Harrison with the other. Henry went back to his dinner.
Minutes later, Henry hopped down from the dinner table, put his plate on the kitchen counter, and walked to the bathroom as I asked. I picked Harrison up from his chair and followed Henry to the bathroom for their nighttime bath. They splashed and played and giggled in the bath together all while I mulled over Henry’s question, and my response, hoping I had conveyed to Henry how much I truly did want Harrison in our family.
I went to sleep that night with so much guilt on my shoulder’s, vowing to do better the next day. Vowing to prove to them both how much I want them. But also knowing, chances are that I would probably slip up again, because I am not a perfect mother. Sometimes you just have to give yourself grace.