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Apologizing To Kids

Posted by Patience on July 30, 2010 at 7:24 AM in life lessons
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It was day four into the move, but it felt more like day forty-five. A sea of brown boxes filled the living room, and it had been a week since any contact with the outside world. To say we were all tired and grouchy may be the biggest understatement of the year.

I was trying to paint the boys new bedroom a beautiful shade of lazy blue. If only I could be lazy myself. My first mistake was attempting to do such a thing with four kids under foot. I often take on these kinds of ridiculous scenarios as some sort of inner parenting challenge. Am I capable of doing it all? Moving, unpacking, painting, settling before my partner walks in the door that night. I wear it like a badge of honor when I'm done, thinking I have some super parent status when really it's probably just stupidity to begin with.

The kids were dying to help paint. I let them help me paint a dresser the week before which was a comedy of errors, so this time I said no. Josiah has his own strategy though, he kind of hangs around, lurking, reminding me of his interest, while the other kids without the same determination scatter to play. I must admit, it does work sometimes.

After meticulous taping and drop cloth laying, I spilled some blue paint on a baseboard.
"Josiah, can you run and get me the wipes in my bedroom?" I asked, because wipes are the secret solution to almost every problem in the world. He ran off, finally getting a job closer to being able to actually paint.

"They aren't here!" he yelled. Now my children rarely are able to find anything I send them to hunt for and yet I always send them. We joke in our family that I am the family finder, able to spot the needle in the haystack or in plain sight on the bed. I gave about fifteen more instructions yelled to the next room with no luck.

"Mom, they are not there." He said plain as day.

"Ugh! Josiah! Come on now!" I returned in my most pissy, annoyed voice feeling the weight of having to do everything for everyone all the time. I stomped down the ladder and into my bedroom to prove him wrong. I looked exactly where I told him they would be, no wipes. I looked under the bed, no wipes, under the clothes, no wipes. I instantly remembered they were in the kitchen. He looked at me, turned around and walked away.
I found them and went back to painting feeling like a total jerk. Stomping around to prove a kid wrong, to shame him? Really? I found him downstairs playing Legos.

"Oh Josiah, I'm sorry I was such a jerk. You were totally right, I didn't believe you and then I was mean to try to prove you wrong." I said. "It's okay mom." He said plain as day once again.

I thought of all the moments, even small ones when I have dismissed feelings, given a curt answer or just even put out a vibe of annoyance. I started to reflect how many more times I should apologize, but sometimes do not, because of my position of power as a parent.

I tell myself it's okay, because kids are tiring and because I have already given so much; like somehow I deserve to respond that way every now and then. The truth is they know, and they are very gracious, but I don't want to be that kind of parent. I want them to know how to accept responsibility for their own moments of unkindness; I want them to know how to say they're sorry and make amends. I want kids to know adults make mistakes and that we can all be forgiven, even the fumbling family finder.

Do you apologize to your kids; do you find it easy or hard? How do you handle your own mistakes in parenting and relationships with your kids? Please tell us in the comments.


Kelly writes...

Well, that's my one claim to fame as a fabulously imperfect parent...making amends. I never ever remembered my parents ever apologizing for any of their mistakes, bad behavior etc. Thanks to that and being a card carrying member of a 12 step program I do own my stuff. Plus it's good modeling right?

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

yep. I agree, it comes easy to me too. I just wish I didn't have to do it so much...always learning and growing I guess.

Jen writes...

I apologize to my daughter when I have done wrong. I find it easy to apologize to her. What I find difficult is creating an environment that keeps me from committing the offense to begin with. I often snap at her, or don't take the time to really listen to her when I am rushing to get ready in the morning or attempting to be the perfect mom. Sometimes I ask myself am I teaching the right lesson if I apologize but continue the behavior?

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

So true....I think half my problem is a lack of self care most of the time. I find it hard to ask/take it for myself yet it always helps me love those I care about most around me better...gotta work on that one.

Amber writes...

I apologize to my kids. I am human and make mistakes. So are they. I want to model how to make amends for them, and I don't find it that hard.

But what IS hard is how often I get to model that skill. Ouch.

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

I totally hear you, I carry that part around with me too, so much lately it seems. I'm hoping the intent of my heart stays with them as they grow and I continue to learn.

Anna writes...

I seem to apologize left and right to each of my three kids. I hate that I have to apologize all the time but then again, it shows them I do not know everything, that I mess up and that I am willing to apologize.

My parents never did and I remember times when they should have. So I figure they will at least remember I said sorry.

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

so right there with you Anna! Hoping it cuts the costs of future therapy bills. :)

Jess writes...

Being able to own up to my mistakes and apologize to the kids is hugely important to me, so yeah, I do it. Like Kelly, I find apologizing easy. Like Jen, I find it hard not to commit the offense to start with.

My parents still have difficulty owning up to it when they have hurt their kids. In their eyes, the parent is always right, no matter what. To me, that is one of the most damaging things an adult can think/demonstrate. We all make mistakes. How we act after the mistake makes all the difference.

Karen writes...

Thanks for this post! It is a great reminder and an encouragement to keep my heart in the right place. I do apologize, but not as often as I should. And often when I don't, it's for the very reasons you share-- I'm overextended and feel entitled to be annoyed and snippy. But I'm proud that I have learned how to offer my kids a sincere apology and making amends, since my own parents never modeled this. My mother very occasionally would do the "I'm sorry you reacted that way" kind of fake apology, and that's as close as it ever got during my childhood. I hope my kids will forgive me for not being perfect at it, and grow up to be better at it than their mother too :)

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