Last week I did something pretty sucky.
It had been a long day. I had work done on my teeth that morning and the medication that had kept my mouth numb throughout the day had completely worn off. I could feel the soreness of every tooth and the left side of my face was pulsating.
Still, I kept our normal bedtime routine and I read my two-year-old daughter and four-year-old son two books. I definitely skipped pages and shortened about every sentence just trying to get to the last page.
I said prayers with my daughter, kissed her forehead and quickly left her room.
One down, one to go and I was home free. I was already envisioning ice cubes in my mouth, anything to get this throbbing to stop. I was on my second dose of extra-strength Tylenol which was basically ineffective.
As I tucked my son in and he started whining for the one thing I knew he would ask for. Water.
We had just argued about this water fifteen minutes prior. I asked him multiple times to find his water cup so he could bring it in his room, like we do every night, but each time I asked he swore to me that he wouldn’t need it. The reality was that he was just being lazy. He didn’t want to look for it, he wanted me to do the hunting.
This is not uncommon for my son and something that my husband and I are trying to crack down on. Making him do things for himself.
You lost your water cup? Then you better go look for it! You can’t remember where you threw your shoes? I asked you to place them by the front door, you didn’t, so now you need to go find it. No, YOU pull up your pants.
It’s really never ending. I’m told that’s typical behavior of a four-year-old boy.
Then there is my two-year-old daughter who insists on doing every thing alone, from dressing herself to swimming without assistance in her swimming lessons (she can’t swim so this request is problematic).
As soon as prayers are over and I am walking out the door, he starts up. The whining. The whining for water. I try to keep my cool and explain the issue at hand. Explain to him why I asked him to find his water multiple times before bedtime.
But he wasn’t having it. He started screaming.
I instantly whipped myself outside his bedroom and slammed the door shut.
I froze and closed my eyes realizing what I had just done completely out of anger.
My son started to cry.
I quickly ran downstairs to get my son water because I would never deny him this before bed, I was just upset at the principle of the matter on top of an already long day and a face that was throbbing. It wasn’t my finest moment.
I went back into his room, handed him the water, told him goodnight, and left his room.
He had stopped crying as I sat down on the couch, remote in my hand and ice cubes surrounding my swollen gums.
It wasn’t long before it hit me… guilt that was too heavy to handle. I could have stayed on the couch and convinced myself that slamming the door wasn’t a big deal, that he’s so young he had probably already forgotten about it, or the worst, that he deserved my behavior for being so whiney and disobedient.
But I knew that I needed to apologize.
I went back up into my son’s room, kissed his forehead and told him that I was sorry for slamming the door.
“That wasn’t the right way for me to act. I shouldn’t act like that when I am upset, it makes people feel bad.”
I fully expected him to start fake crying in order to really milk this situation for all it was worth.
I braced myself for the theatrics.
But he was quiet.
He silently sat up, kissed me on the lips (something I have to ask for these days) and calmly said, “It’s ok, Mommy. I really love you.”
“I will always love you.” I smiled.
“Just don’t do it again, ok, Mommy?”
I couldn’t help but chuckle.
I think it’s so important for us to apologize to our kids. We mess up. We get mad and do stupid involuntary things. We have emotions that get the best of us, just like our children do.
Aren’t we constantly trying to teach them empathy? To apologize to their friends when they don’t share a toy or hit them out of anger?
It’s bedtime, he’s four years old and I’m expecting him to handle his anger when clearly I don’t always handle mine in the classiest fashion.
It’s good for us to show our kids that we are human, that we make mistakes, and model correct behavior when we do mess up. Apologizing to our kids doesn’t give them the upper hand or make them entitled, but I’m willing to bet that not showing our kids how to be humble and admitting our flawed character probably will. If we can’t get over ourselves and apologize when we suck, how on earth could we expect them to?
I am in no way saying that parents should apologize for disciplining. I am specifically talking about the instances where we lose our cool and do things that we wouldn’t want our kids to do to us. Would I ever allow my son to slam a door in my face when he’s frustrated? Of course not, so why would I do it to him? Kids watch and mimic everything we do. We are their primary role models which holds us to the highest standard.
I don’t know which makes me more embarrassed of myself, that I slammed a door in my son’s face over water or the fact that it took me a good ten minutes to realize that I needed to apologize to my first born. I had, what I thought, were a few good excuses as to why I didn’t owe him an apology and if I would have stuck with those excuses I would have missed out on an amazing teaching opportunity.
This was obviously not the first time I had done something that needed a follow-up apology but for some reason, it was the first mistake that haunted me days later.
Teaching our kids how to do chores, get dressed, and clean up their rooms is very necessary but isn’t teaching them how to be a kind and decent person the most important of all? We want kids who can easily apologize in a world that seems to be filled with people who are concerned about their own feelings before anyone else’s.
But it all starts with us.
We, the parents, make all the difference.
Everyone’s pants are on and I’m wearing a bra. How delightful!
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