March 4, 2024 | Rome, Italy

The narc

By |2018-04-27T19:07:31+02:00June 17th, 2013|Lifestyle Archive|
He is three. Years. Old. And I. Am. Not.

y son has become such a tattle tale,” said my girlfriend, sounding as if he’d developed a permanent limp or lisp.

“Narcs are necessary!” came my reply. “They keep everyone in check.”

I said it and I’ve always believed it. Checks and balances are essential, so are whistleblowers — in government and at the playground.

But now it’s time to put my mommy money where my mommy mouth is — and narc on myself.

I have a temper. It’s Irish and it flares fortuitously and frequently. And I’ve finally realized that it isn’t fun. For anyone.

Not for my husband, my kids or me.

I don’t fly off into a black rage. I’m not physically dangerous. I don’t throw things or hit anyone.

And my screaming lasts for just a few minutes. Truth be told, my kids sometimes laugh at my rants. But sometimes, they don’t. And that’s not okay.

Six months ago, I mentioned this to my therapist.

“How often do you lose your temper?” she asked.

“Couple times a week.” I replied.

She felt that wasn’t overboard.

But this week, I marched in to her office and ratted myself out. I told the truth. “Once a day… sometimes twice… and it’s usually directed at my younger son.”

She confirmed what I already knew: it’s not okay.

My second-born is beautiful and smart and funny and healthy and has a personality much like his mamma.

I like to refer to myself as emotionally flexible. And he is too. But when his temper starts erupting, mine usually follows suit.

He is three. Years. Old. And I. Am. Not.

My first born almost never cried. When he did, it took six seconds to soothe him. I later learned this was a sign of his language delay.

When numero due arrived on the planet, I noticed he wailed much more often. As a toddler, he threw fits (because toddlers do) and now, as a preschooler, he can be a bit moody.

When he whines, cries or explodes and I can’t soothe him the way I could my first, I tend to freak out. It’s as if alarm bells are ringing and every nerve in my body is on red alert. I have no idea why I react (or overreact) to a child’s cries.

Children cry. Intellectually I know this. But at some visceral level my children crying is like sand paper grating on my psyche.

I could give you every excuse in the book. I haven’t slept eight consecutive hours since April 2007. If I don’t eat enough I suffer from low blood sugar. Yoga has taken a back seat. My kids have eaten my brain. Managing two languages and two kids is sometimes too much.

I could give you these excuses but I won’t — because they’re all crap. The bottom line is that I’m wired this way and it’s my job to get it under control.

My mother would scream at the top of her lungs daily, “You need to get it together!” The shrill line was directed at moody me. Remembering those words, I got it.

I did need to get it together then, and I do now, particularly if I want my three-year -old to learn the paramount skill of regulating personal behavior. My mother, though wonderful in many ways, lacked the tools to teach me to calm down. I don’t.

I strive to be a good mother, maybe too much. I do a lot of the things that look good to the world. I bake; I do arts and crafts; I get down on my knees and play. But that’s just the fun and easy side parenting.

I also do other things that aren’t as fun (laundry, doctors appointments and disciplining), but the hardest thing of all, and the most important, is breaking bad habits.

That said, acknowledging that I had to change to be a better mother was excruciatingly difficult. I’d rather paint a mural in our garden than ask my three-year-old to practice taking deep breaths.

It’s been 10 days since I ratted on myself. Ten days of me demanding my son’s deep breaths. Ten days of demanding my own.

Parenting is not an exact science. I know this. But for first time in my personal history of motherhood I feel like I’m doing exactly the right thing. By checking myself, I’ve restored precious balance to our family.

About the Author:

Kissy Dugan's "Parenthood" column ran from 2007 through 2016.