What Elmo Taught Me

Sometimes Mommy yells. I try so hard, grasping at every vestige of self-control, until, teetering on the brink- I lose it- and myself. Honey, it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Your whining, incessant nagging to “Change the Youtube video!” or “Skip the Youtube ad!” (Yeah, we basically watch Youtube), or the stubborn refusal to put your darn shoes on. At dinner time, as your little sister obediently consumes her fettuccine (that’s a fancy word for pasta with canned mushrooms in a cream sauce), you insist that you aren’t hungry.

“Ahuva, are you sure you don’t want any food?”, I plead for the 65th time.

“Yes, Mommy.”

“But I don’t want you to be laying in bed, and then come out telling me you didn’t eat supper.”

“No, no- I really won’t. I’m just not hungry.”

I almost believe you this time. As I bring your pajamas with the little dogs all over them to begin the tug of war that is clothing you for bed, you nonchalantly state, “But I’m hungry.”

Three little words. You didn’t mean to. How could you know that Mommy had an exhausting day at work and wants nothing more than to put on her elastic pants and imbibe copious amounts of wine and eat all the chocolate?a9203b014312b4e3fd32b7cbd36ce4b7 But she does. And this, this basic human need of hunger is a wrench in my plans.

And so I yell. I don’t know why, but I do. I watch as my dignity and composure fly out of my mouth, along with angry, hurtful words. Words that no mother should ever say to her beloved child. Words that leave teardrops on both our pillows, late in the night.

And does it help? It surely does not. I feel like a lunatic, yelling about something as irrational and petty as you not having anticipated that you would be hungry. Doesn’t that happen to me, too, sometimes? On a long car ride or on the way to work without breakfast?

But by now I am in a rage, and the train of rationality is hurtling away from the station. I angrily slam some noodles onto a plate, and you take one look at it and rival my tantrum with one of your own.

“IT’S SUCH A TINY AMOUNT! I WANT MORE! WHY DID YOU GIVE ME SO LITTLE?!?!”

There you are, naked except for your underwear, the Native American war paint from the Rosh Chodesh Adar celebrations at gan mingling with the tears streaming down your face. I should laugh. I should scoop you up and hug you and understand that you miss your Abba, in LA for the week on business. I should change the channel and surprise us both by catching you in a tickle fight and lovingly carrying you off to bed.

It’s a scenario easier to imagine as I sit here, far from the havoc of bedtime, only the tick of the clock piercing the silence. And so, I continue to yell, to verbally and emotionally abuse, to ruin my perfect little girl.

Later, after a call from Abba and a hug too tight in which I try to transmit to you every ounce of love and remorse I am feeling, I tiptoe back into my room where you lay sleeping. My heart catches in my throat as I gaze upon your cherubic face. Your eyelashes leave shadows on your flushed cheeks. I gently move a sweaty golden strand from your forehead, and lovingly, fiercely whisper, “I love you”. I hold you and half cradle you in my arms, begging for forgiveness, swearing my unending love. But you don’t hear me. Oh, how I wish you did.

It hits me as I begin to prepare your lunch for tomorrow. I place your untouched pasta, witness to the raucous dinnertime drama, into your Elmo sandwich container. I stare for a long time at that blue container, and Elmo’s too- happy smile.

You have a Sesame Street lunchbox. You’re sleeping on your Abba’s side of the bed because you can’t bear to sleep alone with him away. Those pajamas I begged you to put on? They have a little dog motif, and you’re tightly clutching a stuffed monkey attached to a pacifier. Because you’re only three years old. A number you don’t even know how to write. Your charming stick figure drawings mock me from the fridge. I still need to help you brush your teeth and your hair, no matter how much you protest. You’re just a kid, only having made the graduation from toddler when your baby sister was born.

Who am I to fight with a baby?! To clash and to spar, attempting to use adult rationale when all she really needs is to be held and loved?

Suddenly, the dress-up clothes strewn around your floor don’t bother me as much. The meticulously arranged miniature zoo I find in the toy closet brings a smile to my lips. As I place “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” back on the shelf, I realize how very small you are. And tomorrow, I may just happily give in when you ask for supper at bedtime.

About the Author
Nechama Eisenman is a six year consecutive winner of the "World's Okayest Mom" title, and never met a carbohydrate she didn't like. She rejoices in finding G-d in the mundane, is madly in love with her husband and 3 little girls, and relies on spurts of infectious baby giggles to get through the day.
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