Sometimes as parents we are shining examples of how to behave. We are patient and kind and never act out of anger, frustration or exhaustion.
But most of the time, we're not. This was the case today when instead of teaching my daughter how to act in compassion and love, I showed her what a google image search of "out of control mother" looks like.
I'm happy to report that I've made it all summer being home with these kids without losing my cool but today was just too much. They are going back to school in exactly one day and apparently, that was one day too long because one finally grabbed a hold of the steering wheel and drove me right into crazy town.
I hate it when that happens. It makes me feel like a horrible parent.
My youngest daughter took my phone...for the gazillionth time. She loves to pretend that she's "texting" on it by sending messages to either me or my husband. Turns out that a 5 year old's writing skills translate well to texts. So when she writes, "can I wtch tv latr ples", we totally get what she's saying.
The borrowing of the phone in of itself wasn't an issue. It was that she lost it...for the gazillionth time. The girl can't remember where she left her shadow much less anything that isn't permanently attached to her body. Then she had the audacity to give me a diva punk face when I told her that it was her responsibility to find it.
Up until that point, my anger had been a contained fire, simmering safely behind my self-control. But that diva punk face was the equivalent of throwing a bucket of pig fat and a gallon of lighter fluid on it at the same time.
I yelled and carried on in ways that every parent reading this has done when that switch flips and the only reasonable thing to do is pull your hair out in fistfulls.
It wasn't pretty. I believe her exact words were, "you guys are the worst parents in the whole world!" Imagine a gorilla screaming that while flinging feces and pounding it's chest and you'll get the picture.
I'm not a bad parent but at that moment she totally called me out on my crap and she was absolutely right! It wasn't my finest hour.
After we both marched into our respective bedrooms and slammed our doors (oooh menopause and the teen years are going to be a BLAST!), I had some time to think. And I felt awful. I had really over-reacted and messed things up. Instead of being an example of how to handle a stressful situation, I showed her how to let her anger get the better of her.
But all was not lost.
I still had a choice. I could still be mad and refuse to back down; after all, she had been the one who started the whole thing! Or...I could redeem myself as a good parent and set an example that even though we all mess up, what's most important is that we acknowledge our mistakes, take responsibility for them and apologize.
And that's exactly what I did. I tucked my tail between my legs, marched into her bedroom, sat down on the floor and said, "Mommy really handled that badly! I'm so sorry!" She ran into my arms and immediately apologized too.
My mom never, ever, once honestly apologized for all of her mistakes and it drove me crazy that she heaped that responsibility and guilt on me. Her inability to apologize permanently stymied our relationship. It made me stubborn and set me up to struggle with being humble in my mistakes. I don't want that for my kids.
I think it's fantastic when we do all the right things as parents. A good example is a powerful thing. But it's just as powerful to show your kids that we aren't perfect, that we make HUGE mistakes, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and own up to them. My daughter is guaranteed to make bad choices in life but hopefully after today, she's learned a little bit about how to recover from them.