I consider myself a modern mom. Sometimes, almost too modern. There’s the fact that I’ve never been married, although I have been engaged twice (for some reason, I just can’t bring myself to walk down that aisle.) There’s the fact that I have two children with two different fathers. There’s the fact that I could never be a stay-at-home mother, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I know that if I was with my kids 24/7 I’d absolutely lose my mind. I like to have a career. I need it. I don’t know how to cook and I don’t want to learn. I have travelled all over the world, solo, and am more than happy to be on my own for days.
So no one was more surprised than I was when I heard the words, ‘Wait until your father comes home!’ Come out of my mouth recently. For the first time in my life, I felt like a 1950’s housewife. I actually looked down to see if I was wearing an apron, and checked the mirror to see if my hair was coiffed in a bouffant and if I had perfectly applied red lipstick.
My four-year-old son, Holt, is super cute but he’s also super stubborn (like his mother) and often has tantrums. I walked into the house after a long day at work to witness my son refusing to eat his dinner (prepared by his caregiver) and acting like a royal brat, demanding chocolate milk without any ‘please’ or ‘Thank You’s.’ When I told him he couldn’t play with his toys at the table, he started to cry and proceeded to throw his toy cars across the kitchen, while wailing. He was in full-blown tantrum mode. ‘Just wait until your father gets home,’ I sternly told him. He looked up at me with his teary blue eyes and I could tell that my words, ‘Wait until your father gets home,’ scared him…for an entire five seconds.
I felt like an alien had taken over my body, because what kind of strong, independent woman and mother, in the year 2017, says, ‘Wait until your father gets home,’ as if I couldn’t handle and punish my own son on my own? It’s not like I haven’t been a single mother before. For the first seven years of her life, my eldest daughter Rowan lived with me and only me, and I never once uttered, ‘Wait until your father gets home.’ Possibly because it would take a four-hour flight and then a 40 minute drive from the airport for her father to get to our home, since he lives in Calgary and I live in Toronto. Then again, my daughter was an easier kid. That or I was much younger so had far more patience and energy. All she had to do was see my ‘Mad Mommy Face,’ to know when I was upset with her. Once she witnessed my ‘Mommy Mad Face,’ she would immediately change her attitude and that was that.
With my son, however, who does have a father living with him full time, it obviously makes sense that I could say, ‘Wait until your father gets home,’ because usually Daddy arrives home about an hour after I do. Still, in the year 2017, the phrase seems utterly ridiculous to me. I mean, really, what would his father do that I couldn’t? But my other methods were failing, the ‘Mommy Mad Face’ just wasn’t working, and he’s very strong and stubborn so getting him into his room for a time-out is akin to me picking up a Sumo wrestler who downed 18 Red Bulls.
I asked my mom friends if they have ever uttered those words, and I was very surprised to hear from many of them that they do. But when pressed why, not one could answer.
I honestly don’t remember my mother ever saying those words to me, so it’s not one of those incidents where you realize you’ve turned into your mother. But, of course, I am aware of the animated sitcom, produced by Hanna-Barbera, Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, which ran from 1972 to 1974. (Even though I was one when it aired.) The show was inspired by the show, All in the Family, another show I have never seen, but sort of remember my parents watching.
In any case, my son and his father get along fabulously, and Daddy also believes that our son acts out simply because he’s four. So what the hell am I thinking (or not thinking) when those words come out of my mouth. I’m still stumped.
Pretty much, I am admitting, both to myself and to my son, that I have no power when it comes my son and his tantrums. And that somehow his father has all the power in the world to put our son in his place. And I don’t like the good cop/bad cop style of parenting and it’s not the way I want to raise my children. The thing is, even though, ‘Wait until your father gets home,’ doesn’t work, I find myself saying, ‘Wait until your father gets home,’ more and more, only recognizing it after it comes out of my mouth, even though by the time father gets home, I don’t even remember why our kid had a tantrum in the first place, I just can remember that he was acting up. And my son, too, doesn’t remember that only 20 minutes ago, he was whipping his Hot Wheels toys against the wall, furious with me for making him eat his dinner.
Not only does saying those six words make me feel old-fashioned and old and unrecognizable to myself, it also makes Dad ‘The Bad Guy’, who should be feared. So, yes, I feel a little guilty about that too.
Have you ever uttered the words, ‘Just wait until your father gets home?’ And does it ever work? And even though I find myself saying the phrase, I know that I will never open the door and welcome Daddy with a stiff drink as soon as he gets home. After all, I’m a modern mom. Aren’t I?