The other day I lost it.
My daughter refused to walk down the stairs, to sit on the toilet, to wear pants, to put on her shoes. She complained about not being allowed to eat a donut for lunch, about having to wash her hands after using the toilet, and about having wet hair (after her long tresses dipped into the toilet water as she leaned in to watch her poop swirl into the abyss). When I tried to help her put on her shoes, she bucked and thrashed and managed to headbutt me in the face. I’m in that stage of parenting where it seems like I’m always getting headbutted in the face.
I remember reading somewhere that the supraorbital ridge, that bone beneath your eyebrows, evolved to counter the load put on the facial bones during chewing, and that eyebrows, located above that bone, evolved to stop sweat from pouring into the eyes, directing it down the sides of the face instead. While I imagine both would be useful for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, I propose a counter-hypothesis, that perhaps both structures evolved because children often headbutt us parents, and without the protruding bony bit they would punch out our eyes with their thick skulls, and without the thick brows, blood would pour into our eyes, preventing us from seeing the next blow coming. It’s plausible.
I might have been okay if it had ended with the headbutting, but then there was her refusal to stay in her bed, or even in her bedroom for that matter, during nap time. There was more, but my brain blocked it out to save my own sanity.
I snapped. I yelled. LOUDLY. I was exhausted and hormonal and at my wits’ end. It was a very ugly sight and it left both of us in tears. I was a bad mama that day.
So, I apologized.
While it might seem silly for a grown woman to confess to a two-year-old, that’s exactly what I did. After all was said and done, we ended the day with books, cuddles and kisses, and while I was glad we had smoothed everything over, I was still a bit gutted with guilt, playing over her words in my mind, “It’s okay, Mama. It was an accident”. Because it wasn’t an accident. I should have had more control. There are zero reasons to be a jerk to a two-year-old.
I’m a firm believer that if you have a lapse in judgement you acknowledge the mistake and do your best to prevent it from happening again. While it’s hard to apologize to anyone, and counter-intuitive to some to apologize to a small child, here’s why I think it’s important to do so:
Sometimes we screw up. And that’s okay, we’re only human. Learning the hard way that something doesn’t work is generally a precursor to eventually figuring out what does. Like when I used to look down at my phone every once in a while when my kids were running around the living room like wild bulls. I quickly learned to check my social media some other time, to keep my head up and my eyes on my little toros, so I would not get caught looking down as they charged towards me and CRASH! split open my brow. Again. Live and learn and Ole!
As parents, we strive to become better teachers, better negotiators, and better role models, but that doesn’t mean we achieve perfection on every attempt. If we acknowledge that we that we make mistakes, we show our children that it is okay for them to make them, too. Eliminating the myth that people are supposed to be perfect is probably good for all of us.
Providing structure and consequences doesn’t mean we need to resort to authoritarian (read: assholertarian) discipline. There are many ways to get the attention of your child, to make them comprehend the messages you are trying to get across. Some are founded upon the principle of routine, some are rooted in consistency, some are just plain old silly (I know I cannot be the only parent that has a rap routine called “We Brush our Teeth”, complete with horrible beat boxing and “spinning the discs” hand motions). Shock value works too. Sometimes, the only way we feel heard is if we yell. But there’s a definite distinction between needing to raise a voice every now and again and completely losing your cool. Trust me, even a two-year-old knows the difference.
Kids become who they are because of who we are. If we want them to become self-aware individuals who take accountability for their actions then we sure as hell better model what that looks like. Our children will only become bullish adults if we teach them to do so by example, leading only with our horns instead of also with our hearts.