Not a day goes by without a moment where I think, yup I have scarred my kids for life.
Words sound a whole lot different coming out of my mouth than my five year old's. Sometimes I can't tell how harsh something sounds until it's parroted back at me.
The other night my oldest daughter was playing with her little sister. Apparently a two and half year old does not grasp the finer nuances of whack-a-mole and my preshcooler took issue with that.
"If you can't play right, you don't get to play," she shouted and threw the game across the room.
I took issue with her behavior. My reply was angry and scolding, "If you can't play nicely, you won't have any friends and no one will want to play with you." Then, since it was close to bedtime, I sent her off to her room to chill out and go to sleep early.
Alas she did not go quietly in the night. For the next half hour I could hear her screaming from her bed. "I don't want to go to sleep. I hate you. I'm going to go find a new family." A little while later I heard the phrase that broke my heart. "I don't want to be alone. I need friends."
Somewhere along the line I had screwed up. I had made a colossal mistake in motherhood and made my daughter feel unloved. It had not been my intent to hurt, just a frustrated attempt at correction. So What was I gonna do about it now?
I felt it would be an even worse mistake to let my child go off to sleep thinking that no one loved her. So I sat down with her, gave her loves and took the 2 minutes to explain why her behavior was unacceptable. Basically what I should have done in the first place. Afterwards I got my kiss goodnight and she was out like a light.
Not so much for me. I sobbed to my husband that I was the worst mother in the whole world. That we should start saving now because my kids would end up having huge therapy bills. He reminded me that kids were pretty darn resilient and my daughter would get over it. And the next time I got angry, I should just love 'em to death.
Sure enough, the next day my daughter gave me oodles of love and hugs. Telling me she loved me, that I was the best mommy ever. What I learned was that everybody makes mistakes. In particular, I will continue to make mistakes. It's what we do afterwards that defines us as a parent.
I for one am going to apologize to my mother for the time I packed up my stuffed animals and ran away to my best friends house. I don't remember what she did that made me so angry, but I remember the tears in her eyes when she couldn't find me. Sure when I was discovered I got grounded, but I also got nearly hugged to death.