Just for that, Mama, I'm not going to marry you!"
Kyle stamped his foot. His eyes blazed with anger.
"I don't care!" I yelled back. "You still get a timeout anyway. You know you're not supposed to throw Hot Wheels at your brother!"
Reprising my role as the meanest mama in the world, I watched my son's retreating back as he headed over to the couch. And as I stood there, I wondered for the millionth time: How do you parent a four-year-old without turning into one yourself?
When I was a corporate shark, I had it all together. I was captain of the universe, master of my destiny. There wasn't a situation I couldn't handle. At least, that's how it felt on my good days.
Now every day there are two pint-sized people in my life to remind me that I don't have a clue what I'm doing.
I know I'm the grown-up. I'm supposed to have all the answers. I'm supposed to set an example. I'm supposed to keep my cool.
But when the Hot Wheels are flying and the baby is crying and his brother is shrieking and the decibels are peaking ...
It's hard to remember I'm an adult. Sometimes I keep my wits about me, and everyone gets timeouts. Even the dog. And other times, I'm stamping my feet and having a tantrum right along with my kids.
Those are the days I'd rather forget. Keeping cool in the midst of kid-frenzy is no picnic. Most days I manage it. Some days I don't.
Raising kids is the hardest thing I've ever done. And sometimes I feel as if I'm doing it all wrong.
The other night I was tucking Kyle into bed. It had been one of those days. In the silence of the night, I told Kyle I was sorry I lost my temper. His eyes began to flutter shut as we said our prayers together. I stroked his hair and felt guilt pang me again. I wish I'd been more patient with him. He's only 4. And I'm the grown-up.
"Can I sing to you?" I whispered.
He smiled and nodded. I sang very softly in his ear as he drifted off to sleep.
"I want to sing an I love you song to you now, Mama," he murmured.
And then my child echoed the serenade back to me:
You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are gray
You'll never know, Mama
How much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away.
My eyes filled with tears. I felt humbled by the generosity of his spirit. I vowed to forgive myself. And to try a little harder tomorrow.