Yesterday I had a moment that I wasn’t proud of in my parenting. When I sat down the girls and apologized for how I behaved we talked about why I yelled and the issues I was struggling with behind it (lack of sleep, back pain, sad about sending Earth Baby off, frustrated with the broken AC and 110 heat index…) and explained that it wasn’t their fault and it wasn’t fair that I took that stress out on them. They extended me sweet, sweet forgiveness and support, lots of hugs and offers to cuddle with “poor mommy!”
But I was conflicted about it. Was I burdening them? The reasons behind why I acted in a way I didn’t like aren’t their problem, they’re mine. I shared them because it came up in conversation and because we try to help our children see what could be behind their own reactions when they are having a hard time. Was it necessary for me to model that? Or is it just making excuses? I tried to be open and genuine and they seemed to care very much while still admitting that I hurt them. While I want to model how to handle conflict, it sure would be great if I could avoid modeling screwing up.
This morning, I witnessed an interaction between Squiggle Bug (5) and Smunchie (3):
Squiggle Bug: “Mommy, Smunchie is saying mean words to me and Lollie.”
Me: “I’m so sorry Squiggle Bug, that must really hurt your feelings. I wonder why Smunchie is saying those words, maybe she is hurting in some way?”
Squiggle Bug: “Maybe because I didn’t want her to play with me before and now I do. I’ll ask her… Smunchie, why are you saying mean words? Are you hurting? Your words sound like you are hurting, how are you hurting?”
Smunchie: *makes a face and gets quiet.*
Squiggle Bug: “Was it because I didn’t want to play with you and I said mean words for you to leave me alone?”
Smunchie: “I was sad. I want to play with you but you not my friend any more.”
Squiggle Bug: “Apparently I was mean and it hurt your feelings and then you were mean and it hurt my feelings. We shouldn’t be mean any more. We’re still friends, ok? Want to play with me now?”
Smunchie: *lighting up* “Yeah!”
Side note: it cracks me up every time Squiggle bug, who is quite articulate, uses words and uses them well like “apparently” in conversation. Every time I’m a little surprised with her ever increasing vocabulary and the little orator developing.
I don’t want to encourage my children or myself for that matter to make excuses for how we behave but understanding how other factors influence us can help us develop more control in relating. Naming the hurt or stress is powerful and can lead to soothing, healing, and developing greater communication skills. Owning my emotions and acknowledging where they are coming from can be freeing. My mistakes serve a purpose beyond my own growth, they help my children learn to handle their own emotions and mistakes as well. How I’m handling my screw ups is important. I don’t always handle them well, this has inspired me to work harder not towards being perfect but towards being healthy and gracious towards myself and my children. I don’t have much of choice anyway, I’m going to keep screwing up (hopefully less and less) so I may as well aim to learn how to handle it well and my children can help me along the way. And maybe they’ll be further along in their journey of handling their own mistakes.