I stuffed up today. Not in any remarkable way, just in one of those everyday parenting moments that we have a tendency not to notice until we look back on them later.
I overreacted to something and snapped at Bodhi in the process. He responded with harsh words and upset. In the heat of the moment I started to get annoyed… I started to say something back… then I stopped myself. I took a breath, sat down and opened my arms to him. I did what I try to do whenever I don’t get it quite right – I owned it. “You know what?” I said, to my red-eyed, angry boy. “I can understand why you’re feeling frustrated right now. I messed up didn’t I? I didn’t handle that well, but I’ll try to do better next time. I’m sorry.” And my boy, like he so often does in these little everyday honesties, wrapped his arms around me and said “No, that wasn’t nice. But I’ll help you do it better next time. I really love you. Mum, do you think you could help me respond nicer too?”
Sometimes I sit down at the end of a day and I reflect back on what we did. I think back on the moments that worked and the ones we didn’t, and I find that every day, every single one, has both. Along with the moments we’re proud of come the ones that we aren’t. I’m facing the fact that they’re likely to stick around. But the thing that makes some days better is when I remember to be honest with my kids – to own my little stumbles, even as I help them with theirs.
Bodhi struggles with emotional maturity at times, but when someone else lays their own struggles before him he steps up in a way that never fails to surprise me. It might be me just “needing a minute” (after intense toddler wrangling or general madness) and little hands bringing me a cold glass of water and a kiss as he slips away to build some lego, or me saying “Sorry I rushed you kids, I should have gotten us ready earlier.” and him replying “That’s ok Mum, remember you can ask me to help next time.”
An old idea lingers that for our children to respect us we need to be in control all the time. The thing is, no one is, not you, not me, and not our beautiful kids.
I want my kids to respect me not because I’m perfect or always in control, but because I’m authentic and kind. I want them to know that they can trust me to own my mistakes as much as I expect them to own theirs and that my advice means something because I’ve earned my lessons along the way. I want them to know that their advice is just as important.
Bodhi and I talk about a lot of things together. We talk about space, dinosaurs, lego or what’s happening around the world. We skip down the street together sometimes and have ‘evil laugh’ competitions in the kitchen. But we also talk about the bits we could have done better. I want him to know that the obligatory stuff ups don’t take away from all the good that makes us who we are.
I find that when I’m a truth teller my son is more inclined to be too.
Shaming children is slowly becoming a thing of the past, but we forget that if we hold onto guilt or shame they learn to do it to themselves.
Today I have done a lot of things right. So have my kids. And we have all, at one moment or another – been jerks. That’s ok, because we’ll do it better next time. And even when we don’t quite get there, we’ll respect and love each other for trying.
Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013