A few weeks ago, I was feeling fed up with my son’s whining (he just turned 3 but was 2 at the time). More than once, I calmly asked that he stop and offered constructive suggestions for using a different tone of voice. When he instead continued to whine, I rudely snapped at him. I’m not proud of what I said.
“Is there a baby in this house? Because you sound like a baby. And babies don’t get to have 3rd birthday parties. Should we take the presents back?”
I wasn’t surprised to see his lip quiver and his eyes fill with tears. You may be thinking he was upset about the birthday present threat, but you would be wrong. It was the “baby” comment that landed. I knew it would. My son had told me before, tiny voice breaking, that an older child had said to him “You’re too little to play with us.” I knew this type of insult hit home for my son. And in my moment of rage and frustration, I used it against him.
My son could barely get words out in response to my calling him a “baby.” “That hurt my feelings” he finally choked out, beginning to sob. My anger melted away, replaced by a flood of guilt and sadness. I did hurt his feelings. I had no doubt. While my intention was to stop the whining, I went too far. Way past the mark.
I scooped up my son in a tight embrace. “I’m sorry sweetheart,” I said. I looked into his tear-filled eyes. “Mommy made a mistake,” I explained. “I should not have said that. It was not a nice thing to say. I’m sorry honey. I won’t call you a baby again. Can you forgive me?” He offers his forgiveness readily, along with wet kisses.
Despite my embarrassment writing this now, I actually felt good about this exchange. Obviously not the first part where I meanly taunted my toddler, but the second part. The part where I owned up to my mistake. Where I made repairs and modeled for my son how to make a right turn where you’ve made a wrong one. Where I showed him that mommy is not perfect (and no one can be).
I’m not going to pretend this incident had magical effects. I still snap at my family members (especially the four-legged one who insists on eating out of the trash–but that’s a story for another day). And my lesson to my son has backfired in some ways. Consider for example:
Me: “Honey, no! You cannot climb on that broken, jagged fence post.”
My son: (hangs head and pouts bottom lip) “You hurt my feelings.”
As you can see, we are still experimenting with the correct use of that phrase. But that’s okay! Because in this house, we make mistakes. And in the end, we always make up. And that’s the important part. Remembering that at the root of all the daily chaos, our life is built on the decision to love each other and to give each other the benefit of the doubt.
I’m thankful every day for the chance to make more mistakes (and hopefully corrections!) with my family. When I started this blog a year ago, it was out of the desire to speak my truth about parenthood and all it’s ups and downs, as well as to suss out what this all MEANS. What am I taking away from this experience? And the answers are overwhelmingly different every day. Some days, I have no answers. But it’s been invaluable to me to have this space to sort it all out. And I thank those of you who have been reading (or even if this is the first post you’ve read!) for joining me and being a part of this journey. A quick note: I’m not planning to write as often this summer. I’m hoping to take more time to be present with my family, but when something is weighing heavily on my head or my heart, I know I’ll bring it here.
There’s so much more to come! My son just turned 3! And his pediatrician said it best at his check up this past week: “He’s now more concerned with pleasing himself than pleasing you.” She nailed that one. It seems that overnight, to go with his bigger shoes, clothes, and tricycle, our boy has these very BIG feelings, needs and desires that are difficult for him and for us all to understand. But I promise you son, Mama will try. I will keep trying (and making mistakes) every day. And I hope many of you will come along with me!
Stay imperfect! I love you all.