My 7 ‘Mommy Mulligan’ Moments

In golf, a Mulligan is simply  a “do-over.” Hit a bad shot?  Take a Mulligan and replay that stroke as if it never happened.  In life, we Moms all have moments when we’ve wished fervently for a Mulligan.  Times we’re not proud of, reactions we’d like to take back the instant they happen.

This may not be the list my kids would post — it’ll take years of therapy to reveal those — but here, for better or worse, are mine.

  1. There was the time Older Son’s harmless pet garter snake got loose in the house 2 hours before my mother-in-law was due to arrive from Florida for a visit.  After finding the offending reptile relaxing under the clothes dryer, and trying every possible method to remove it without success, I somehow decided that Grammy’s impending terror outweighed the sanctity of life.  A huge can of Raid pest killer was applied with intent to inflict mortal damage. Really? Did I really do that?
  2. When the kids were small, hubby traveled for business a lot.  There were some months he was gone half the time.  On one of those single-motherhood evenings, I got home from a scary-busy day at work and (no, I’m not proud of this, and it isn’t even the bad part) caved in to pleas for McDonald’s Happy Meals.  Upon returning from our trip to the drive-through, we discovered that they’d gotten Younger Son’s order wrong, and he began to whine about the mistake.  Ashamed to be feeding my kids garbage in the first place, and frustrated by the all-around crappy evening, I threw his burger against the kitchen wall, errant ketchup and all.  I did.  Complete silence, as all 3 kids watched the remains drip down the semi-gloss latex.
  3. When Daughter was about 6, my sister (who lived across the street) and I hired a cleaning woman who had been recommended to us by her sister, a lovely woman who worked with me.  After a few months of once-a-week visits, it became inescapably clear that the woman in question was really bad at cleaning.  She meant well, and was reliable in all other ways, she just couldn’t clean stuff. Instead of explaining the awkward truth of why we were letting her go, my sister and I made up a story about how our husbands (who worked together at the time) were being laid off, and we couldn’t possibly afford cleaning help any longer.  Daughter overheard, and for years afterwards our talks about the importance of truth-telling would be met with “But you lied to the cleaning lady!” Truth be told, my regret lies in being overheard.
  4. One winter we took the kids on a ski trip to Colorado. We stocked up on all the necessary gear before leaving, but forgot to buy kid’s goggles.  Once we got to the mountain, the price of goggles at the rip-off chalet shop was shocking, so we decided to buy less expensive protective sunglasses instead.  The next day, as the kids were up on the mountain in their respective ski lessons, it began to snow. Hard.  Older Son got separated from his group, unable to see clearly in – um – sunglasses.  Down at the bottom, a kind woman found him and bought him a cup of hot cocoa, but it was a terrifying 15 minutes while we combed the ski school for our lost child.
  5. During one of those wacky, wonderful “what do you want to be when you grow up” conversations, 7-year-old Older Son offered up his current frontrunner careers.  “Either an astronaut or a pro basketball player, Mom”.  Without thinking, (and please keep in mind that his parents are 5′ 10″ and 5′ 2″) I blurted out “I’d go for the astronaut, you’re probably not going to be tall enough for pro ball”.   What ever happened to ‘you can be anything you want to be’?  You may be thinking ‘so what’s the big deal?’, but Older remembers this boo-boo more clearly than any other.
  6. For Daughter’s 7th birthday, we planned an outing to Disney’s Little Mermaid On Ice for her and several friends.  I applied heavy, guilt-laden pressure for her to invite a little girl in her class who was the troubled child of a friend of mine, even though I knew Daughter truly didn’t like her.  The result was, of course, a disaster.  The child in question behaved badly, Daughter was resentful while trying to be a good sport, and the party was full of awkward tension.  All the players, including my friend, ended up unhappy.  Lesson learned.
  7. I’m MOST ashamed of this one … and some of you may remember it from a past post.  6-year-old Older Son went through a phase when it seemed like every little thing caused him to burst into tears. If I asked him to pick up his toys … tears.  If I reminded him it was time to do homework … more tears.  He was just learning about responsibility and stepping up, and it was a hard transition.  One day, as we were driving home after T-ball practice, I asked what I thought was an innocent question.  When he burst into tears I heard myself say …”WHY are you crying?  STOP IT!”  I immediately wanted to stuff the words back into my mouth. Had I really just  told my little boy (emphasis on boy; male) to bury his emotions?  Sadly, I had.

So there it is.  My list of Mommy Mulligans.  And believe me, there are a few more I’ve failed to mention.  I did my best to repair them, and have forgiven myself for most.

Can you forgive yourself?

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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?


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2 responses to “My 7 ‘Mommy Mulligan’ Moments”

  1. You may be an out-of-bounds parent if …

    […] not. None of us do it right all the time (for a look at some of my personal boo-boos see My 7 ‘Mommy Mulligan’ Moments), but if you stay mindful and be present you’re way ahead of the game. As Woody Allen once […]

  2. You may be an out-of-bounds parent if …

    […] not. None of us do it right all the time (for a look at some of my personal boo-boos see My 7 ‘Mommy Mulligan’ Moments), but if you stay mindful and be present you’re way ahead of the game. As Woody Allen once […]

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