I made my children cry today. Actually, it was two days ago, but I still have an aching gut from the guilt of what I did.
I’ve apologised profusely to all three children, age 7 1/2, nearly 5 and 2. I explained why I was in a terrible mood; ‘when Daddy’s away it’s sometimes a lot for mummy to cope with’, ‘I was cranky from having Baby’s toes digging in my ribs for most of the night – I clung to the edge of the bed like a rubbish mountain goat’, ‘no-none was doing anything I asked this morning…at all!’. Their relief at my change of stance was palpable. Their forgiving faces and tea saucer wide eyes were drinking in and accepting my reasoning, but we all knew these were not valid excuses; I wouldn’t have accepted it from them. I teach them that there are no valid excuses for losing patience, for raising our voices, for being dismissive or unkind. And that if we do those things, then we are entirely accountable for our actions. Being kind is all that matters. And in that moment I was a hypocrite. And in that moment, they knew it.
The issue was ‘resolved’ and we’re back to our normal cheery selves. Moving on, we’ve since shared the best loving cuddles, belly laughs and sweet exchanges. The metaphorical chalkboard tally of ‘Days mummy hasn’t shouted for’ has been restarted at ‘0’ (now at 2), it’s amazing what a deep breath and a clean slate can do to boost my mummy motivation.
Yesterday I was researching some other blogs and parenting websites for another project when, still guilt ridden, I was drawn to a number of articles and posts and authors whose appeal was built upon the notion that we’re all actually a bit crap at motherhood. And we are at times. Accepting this may be self effacing and heavily tongue in cheek, which is great, no-one likes an ego. But article after article and blog after blog, whether it be a subtle undertone or not so subtle overtone, I felt overwhelmingly that, as a whole, there is a strong narrative of celebrating ‘epic fails’ in the mum blogosphere. This is echoed in mum circles of our generation, who are so used to ‘sharing’ as a concept, and have found so much validation for bad parenting both close at hand with friends as well as at arms’ length through internet forums.
While we find comfort knowing we’re not alone in our shortcomings and faults, just because everyone else is doing it too, doesn’t make it right.
Our adult level of emotional intelligence is able to see the bigger picture as we try to sweep things under the carpet after a fall out with our kids. But what we have to remember is how things are so much more black and white for them. Children live so vitally in the moment that when we lose it with them, they question our love for them. Simple. However overdramatic it seems to us, it feels very real to them.
We communicate these episodes in our well accustomed sing-song chatty way, often laughing at ourselves; confessing, admitting we’re ‘terrible’, making it about us while we rest assured ‘they’ll be alright, kids are resilient’. But when we do this, what becomes apparent is that we are forgetting about our priority, which is the welfare of our children and the bond we have with them.
We should bring back a little gravity with our remorse, while fighting their corner at all costs. We must not be disrespectful to their sensibilities, which are so raw and honest and needing of our support. We do inevitably leave emotional scars on our children, which chip at their sense of security, we just need to be grown up enough to acknowledge it so that we don’t break them. Kids are smart, they don’t forget. Also, behaviour is learnt, so do we want them to become emotionally detached when feelings run high? Of course not.
We may not be perfect, but the least we can do is be constant by loving our children, respecting them at all times and perhaps not making light of our indiscretions. I think it’s right I feel such awful guilt after shouting at my children. It’s heartbreaking, and it ought to be.
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