I have a strong-willed daughter who is very opinionated and outspoken. She gets this from me, and I’m so proud. However, she gets this from me, and it drives me crazy. Some days, when she tests limits, I struggle to keep my cool. I feel my humanity on these days and realize there is no such thing as perfect parenting.
Last week, we had one of those rough days. No matter what instruction I gave, she said no. No matter what I had to say, she defied it. She would say she was sorry and we would talk about what she could change for the rest of the day. The rebellion would start all over again five minutes after our talk.
I tried so hard not to lose my cool. I used all my therapist phrases like “I need a break” and “I feel sad when you don’t listen”, but it was futile. My blood was boiling. I could feel the anxiety rising. A few hours into the day of going back and forth, my anger boiled over.
I yelled. I let loose on my kid and expressed my frustration in an unhealthy way. As much as I want to say this is the first time that’s happened, it isn’t. But I never feel less bad afterward. She’s at an age where she banks those memories, and I fear they become any part of her childhood narrative. However, I believe in apologizing to children. I want to model for her what I’m sorry means in order to change the behavior.
I talked with her about why I was sorry. I told her that no matter how frustrated I was about her behavior, yelling is not okay. She said, “Mom, I’m sorry you’re frustrated. It’s going to get better.” She forgave me and we decided to move on with our day.
Two hours later, we got in the car. She started singing her made up song as she often does to soothe her baby brother to sleep. But the song was different. “Mamas the best, she’s the best in the world…” Wait what? I was floored. She was singing how great I was only a short time after I seriously flubbed up as a parent. Then I began to think about forgiveness.
The way she forgave me was so beautiful. She accepted my apology, believed I would change my behavior, and when I did, she moved on. Why as adults do we not do this? Yes, there are toxic people that offer apologies without change. I’m not talking about that. When people mess up and display they learned from their mistake, why are we slow to move forward? When we hold onto the list of wrongdoings, we only hurt ourselves. We keep others from becoming close and having deep and meaningful relationships. We can move forward with others if we choose to see the change instead of waiting for the next mistake.
Sometimes we learn the biggest lessons from the smallest humans. She saw the bigger picture, and at the end of the day I was still the greatest mom in her eyes. No one is without hope to do better next time, not even me.