There are many nights when I go to bed thinking I could have handled things differently with my children. By the end of some days, when my nerves are raw, after the washing machine overflows and floods the basement, or after a visit to my elderly mother who is now finding it hard even to open a bottle of juice, I can snap. And at the end of one of such day, I found my five year old playing at my studio table.
He was spinning on my ergonomic chair, which I tolerate, especially since my fiber table is in the playroom – hard for momentarily bored child to resist. But then I found him strumming on my latest weaving . My new triangle loom, on which I’ve been weaving the shawls that I’ve blogged about here.
I had the loom flat on the table, with the next-to-last triangle for a shawl just about finished. Kenny was strumming on it. Strumming the warps like the strings of a harp.
And there I was in his face, with a spatula in my hand from mixing the rice for dinner: “That’s MOMMY’S. I worked HARD on that. Don’t TOUCH. What are you THINKING?!”
His little face crumbled. He mumbled a tiny crumpled “sorry,” and headed to the couch to sulk. Then he was crying.
I went back to making dinner, madly stirring the rice.
I had to think about this, even though annoyance was bubbling like lava in my gut. I had to figure out, frankly, whether I wasn’t more annoyed and angry with myself than with him, for acting no better than he could, when he would be the one to fly into a rage because his brother “touched” something of his, even some dried-up pen left on the floor, the cap long since lost. I mean, the fact was, he’d “strummed” the warps once or twice and gently. It had been a brief moment of daydreaming, of spinning on my chair, of reaching out curiously, to touch something enticing on a loom that was as knew to him as it was to me. But he’d touched something of MINE.
I knew I’d overreacted. I had to apologize. And I did. And he calmed down, and we were ok.
Still, that night, I went to bed thinking I could have handled the situation differently. Better. In my mind, I replayed the moment correctly, as the calm mother who would have more lightly, simply, asked my son to please get off my chair and not touch my weavings. On days when life goes as planned, when there aren’t the smaller and sometimes bigger surprise crises, maybe that is exactly how I would have reacted.
I draw some comfort from other moms who admit to this, that there are nights when they go to bed and reenact situations they wish they’d handled better. At least there is this: in that reenacting, we are reminding ourselves of how much we love our children. That we care deeply enough to deeply regret.
But perhaps we can regret too deeply – there is no good lesson in our over-reacting to our children. But perhaps there is in our apology; when we veer off course from our perfect behavioral instincts towards our children, our having to apologize can be a reminder to them that parents are not perfect. And in that reminder is perhaps a seed of responsibility that we can pass onto our children, even at the tender age of five – that they need to learn how to be as patient and forgiving of others and their imperfections, as we are expected to be patient and forgiving of them.