I’m a witch. I just need to admit it, and then I’ll feel better about myself. I didn’t mean to be a witch. When I was a little girl, I was kind and gentle, meek and happy. Then I went to college. I was kind and gentle, meek and happy. Then I got married. I was kind and gentle, meek and happy. Then, I had children, and a witch was born. (Not the baby, it was me.)
Suddenly, all of my kind, gentle, meek and happy methods of life were of no use. My college-student, never-ruffled, perfectly-poised, polished persona went out the door when children entered my life. My sleep became irregular. My meals were taken over. My daily bathing and personal time were put on the back burner. Raising children has been compared to being pecked to death by ducks, and I completely agree.
After several years of caring for children, I glanced in the mirror. There in the reflection, instead of my kind, gentle, meek and happy self, I saw an old woman. My unwashed hair was disheveled. My bathrobe looked like a cape (it was already noon), my face didn’t show any signs of make-up, and my eyes were swollen from lack of sleep. In my hand I held a … spatula (or was it a broom?) and pancake batter slowly dripped down my sleeve. “Who am I?” I called. And then the truth hit me. I was a witch. It was very depressing.
My image in the mirror wasn’t the first sign that I had turned into a witch. I’ll never forget when my oldest son was 5 years old. He was a good boy. Except, one day, he wasn’t. I opened my mouth and suddenly, my Mom was coming out of my mouth! Every disciplinary phrase from my childhood that I had solemnly promised myself I wouldn’t say came tumbling out! I clapped my hand over my mouth and went to stand in the corner. “How could this be happening to me?” I wondered.
Another time, my 3-year-old daughter refused to finish her dinner. The rest of the children gobbled up the fresh bread, the spaghetti and the peas. Although her bread and spaghetti were soon gone as well, her peas wouldn’t disappear. She sat there, quietly, staring at them. It was time for dessert. I retrieved the ice cream from the freezer. All of the children licked their lips in anticipation. My 3-year-old did too. And then I reminded her, “Dinner must be finished before dessert.” Her puppy dog eyes welled up with tears, but her mouth refused to eat the peas.
She missed the ice cream that night. It was terrible. I couldn’t enjoy my dessert. I wanted her to have some, but the witch in me refused to give ice cream when vegetables are uneaten. Like I said earlier, I’m a witch.
Then there was the time my 10-year-old daughter dawdled and didn’t finish her homework before she left for school. “If you just sign here, I’ll finish it on the bus,” she promised. But the witch in me said no. I cried after she left, knowing she would miss her homework points at school that day.
I’ve found that maintaining standards as a mother has often dubbed me “the bad guy.” Over the years, I’ve grounded, spanked, reprimanded and withheld privileges from my misbehaving children. However, despite the fact that I’m sometimes labeled as mean, I believe that the best children will come from homes where a standard is maintained — whether that be a standard of discipline, a standard of values, a standard of respect, a standard of religion, or all of the above.
I don’t like being a witch. I don’t like saying no, withholding privileges and letting my children fail. It’s painful. “This hurts me more than it hurts you” is absolutely true. However, I’d rather have my daughter miss out on ice cream than on life. I’d rather have her lose homework points in 5th grade, rather than lose her scholarship in college. I’d rather have my son learn to respect me, so that he can respect the law and his future bosses. Teaching children right and wrong on an elementary scale is much easier than teaching right and wrong on an adult scale.
The day after my 5-year-old son got into trouble, he went out of his way to complete his chores. The day after my 3-year-old missed out on ice cream, she ate up her vegetables. The day after my daughter lost homework points, she did her assignment first thing. The witch that had been present the day before was also gone. In her place was a beautiful fairy godmother (me!). I smiled sweetly when the children came home. I hugged them and told them I loved them … and I meant it with all my heart. The happy children and eaten-up vegetables and finished homework made our entire house run more smoothly. In fact, I’ve noticed that if the witch comes out of hiding every once in a while, the fairy godmother seems to be happier and appears most of the time.
I never meant to be a witch. But motherhood surprised me. It requires not only coddling and love and floating around the house bestowing praise upon everyone, it also requires some firmness and fairness and (OK) a little bit of flying around on a broom once in a while. When those moments are over, and our home becomes happy valley once again, I can honestly say that those are the best of times. Nothing compares to being a mother. Nothing compares to a happy home. And nothing compares to the lasting fulfillment of raising good children, even by a witch.