The Story Behind My “Worst Mom Moment”

Thursday night as I was getting ready to go to bed, I popped onto our Facebook page and, in the spur of the moment, decided to share this photo:

toddler tantrum

It’s a picture of me, nearly ten years ago now, carrying my screaming son Isaac away from a photography session at my brother John’s wedding to one of my best friends, Jenna. This is the message I included with the post:

“Speaking of hard parenting moments, I wanted to share this picture I ran across in a box recently. It’s me, at a family wedding, largely pregnant, carrying my completely-freaking-out three-year-old away from the professional photo session. He was a real handful back then, but he is now 13 and a more lovely young man you could not imagine. I just want to take my old self from this picture, give her a big hug and tell her everything really WILL be OK.”

When I went to bed the picture had been shared a few times and I had a handful of nice comments. But by the time I woke up the next morning and checked Facebook, I was astonished to see that the picture had been shared hundreds of times and seen by about 60,000 people. As of this writing that number is more like 135,000.

What? It was just a simple photo. Why did it strike such a nerve?

In reading all the commentary, though, I could see why: because all moms have had a moment like this one,  either due to a day that went quickly, horribly wrong or perhaps several years that went slowly, mind-numbingly wrong.

In the above photo, I was sort of in the middle of both. Not only was I dealing with an ill-timed pregnancy, but I was in the middle of raising an exceptionally challenging child: Isaac, my sweet-cheeked second son, chubby and bright and adorable and absolutely hell on wheels.

And we got it on film. After seeing my post on Facebook, my stepmother Brenda was kind enough to scan and send me some other photos from that day, as photographic evidence of just how hair-tearingly bad parts of it were.

For example, on that sweaty, max-stress-level day, my usually well-behaved son Jacob also decided to completely lose it.

tantrum at wedding

This photo was taken about five minutes before the one of me carting Isaac away. See how sweet – and shocked by his behavior! –  his little cousin looks?

And then there was this one, taken after the ceremony. It’s me, speaking intently to my Aunt Paula, who I believe was saying something along the lines of “Honey, we’re all worried about you. This is an intervention.”

wedding photo

After seeing the reaction the photo of me carrying Isaac away football-style from the photo session received, I approached the Huffington Post and asked whether they’d like an essay on the story of me, of Isaac, and the lessons that raising a difficult young boy – and watching him grow into a sweet, calm, wonderful teenager – has taught me about motherhood. And, to my delight, they said yes.

It’s up there now. Here’s a little sneak peak:

Truthfully, I couldn’t tell you why Isaac was so difficult then or why he’s so easy now. When he was a young child I got the impression that he was a mass of impulses and sensations he couldn’t control. Maybe what he needed most was simply time to grow into himself, and the acceptance of those around him while he was figuring out how to navigate the world.

I do know that I can no more take total credit for the way Isaac is today, than I can take all the blame for the way he was then.

I’d love for you to read the whole essay, but first I want you to see one last picture, another that my stepmother sent me that I’d completely forgotten about. This picture is one of me, smiling, dancing with my baby nephew Harry, holding adorable chubby-cheeked Isaac by the hand.

I guess in the red-faced heat of embarrassment over the kids’ photo-session behavior, I’d kind of forgotten this moment.

But it just goes to show you: there is always another side to every memory, isn’t there?

dancing at wedding with kids

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas going through tough times. No matter what you’re facing, it gets better.

And maybe – though I know it’s so hard to see right now – it’s already better than you think.

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