Have you ever met one of those people who will swear up and down that they have never yelled at their kids? It’ll be sanctimonious and no doubt made you feel like shit, so you will probably remember this incident. It no doubt made you second guess your own interactions with your kids and try to slide the dust bunnies back under the couch because along with their “I never yell at my kids” admission is also the heartfelt assurance that their house is spotless. Here’s a secret, they are lying to you. It’s not to make you feel bad (it might be), rather they want to believe and erase the memory of being the one to cause the kind of pain that comes from being a jerk that makes a child cry. And, every one wants a clean house.
But we can all be jerks. It’s part of being human. It’s what we do afterwards that counts.
This morning, Boy wouldn’t go to the bathroom by himself. This has been an ongoing battle for the last week. Until some time last week that was a kid that scurried off to do his business on his own. There have been a myriad of excuses: He’s afraid there are robots in the bathroom. He’s afraid of monsters or Edward Scissorhands (note to self, Miss N was mature enough for Johnny Depp, Boy was not – lesson learned). There is a common theme here, the kid is scared of the bathroom. He knows there aren’t robots, monsters or Edward Scissorhands but he does have an older sister who would sneak into the bathroom, around the corner to the secluded toilet and yell “BOO!” at him until he shrieked.
No one thought this was funny but Miss N. She would risk the naughty step in favour of scaring her brother because… well, because she’s 6 years old and she is well practiced at scaring her brother. It’s well known that she is tough and not really scared of anything, Boy is a little more sensitive.
This morning, at 730 when I just wanted to peck at my cereal and make her lunch, I was fed up with having to drop everything to escort Boy to the bathroom. His reluctance to go without a chaperone is directly the result of Miss N’s actions and I made that clear to her. Loudly and in no uncertain terms. Rationality was gone, I was upset, Miss N was upset and Boy still had to pee.
Our quiet morning was left in a bit of tatters because I lost my temper. Miss N wasn’t acting in absolute malice when she would scare her brother but now there are lasting effects and I was mad. Very.
As we left to catch the bus, just the two of us, I felt like a jerk. More than a jerk, an asshole. Miss N has a similar temperament to my own which means that we know precisely which button to push, each and every time and while it is up to me to diffuse the situation (because I am the adult), it can be stupidly easy to rationalize not doing that. So I apologized.
I apologized for yelling at her, for breaking apart our quiet morning and for hurting her feelings. I explained how I felt. Remember those “I feel” messages from elementary school? There is a reason why your teacher drilled those into you, they tend to come in handy throughout your life. I explained my side of the situation, gave her the space to talk about how she felt about it and then we tried to talk about what we could do differently next time. Because there will be a next time.
And then we had to stop kicking rocks down the road and run the last few metres for the bus. The morning was hopefully not a complete bust, though I do still feel like a jerk but I’m not afraid to apologize to her, because I’m not perfect or always right just because I’m her parent.