Today was such a good day. It was gloomy and cool outside, but we were all in great moods and had a lot of fun together. Gideon slept in until 8:30, which got us both off to good starts. With plenty of rest under our belts, we hit the morning running and I got my morning routine done by 10. Gideon seems to behave better, and is better able to play on his own when distractions are at a minimum. So we enjoyed some peaceful silence without music or TV, and had an especially fun time playing and talking.
To top off a good morning, he took a two hour nap after lunch! Gideon’s naps have been a little shorter than usual, and I really missed having that extra time to catch up on chores or have “me” time. We’ve been really targeting the landscaping and privacy of our home this season, so Daniel and Gideon spent some time in the backyard planting a new juniper tree we bought yesterday. There are few things I love more than watching the boys outside working together. Gideon had his little shovel, and stayed close to give Daniel a hand.
The day was going great, until I had a parenting moment I’m not so proud of. During Gideon’s bath tonight, he decided to impulsively throw a pitcher full of water out of the tub and onto the bathroom floor. Water, went, everywhere. I yelled “Gideon!” so loud and angry that he burst into tears and was so upset that he peed in the tub. I immediately knew that I’d messed up. I knew two things: 1. Gideon knows better than to throw things out of the tub and should be reprimanded, 2. I had over-reacted, and set a bad example for Gideon as we try to teach him to regulate and express his emotions appropriately. The question was, what to address first?
Daniel and I are passionate and try our darndest to parent Gideon respectfully and positively. Although we fail at times, we try to always let him know what we expect of him rather than what we don’t want him to do. Explaining things to him this way seems to make more sense to him, and so is a more effective way to parent him. We try to avoid saying things like “you don’t need to cry” or “that’s nothing to cry about” or “you’re fine”, simply because we hate hearing that said to us if we are upset. The degree of severity of a situation in our minds vs. his is irrelevant. Who are we kidding? We all make big deals out of little things. What is a big deal to him should be a big deal to us, and we try to empathize with his little feelings as much as we can.
My momentary loss of self-control and burst of anger during bath time tonight might have slid right of someone else’s shoulder, but for my little tot, it scared and hurt him. It was a BIG deal to him. My son had just thrown a pitcher of water out of the tub. He had not touched an outlet, ran into the street, grabbed a steak knife, or let go of my hand in the parking lot. His life and safety were not at risk here, and yet I reacted like I would have in a life-threatening situation. If the pitcher had been empty, I would have reacted better. But now I had a huge mess to clean up. Therein lay the root of my anger.
I chose to apologize to Gideon first. I had wronged him, and that needed to be addressed before any further educating on “keep your toys in the tub or I will take them away”.
As if my heart was not already broken enough looking at Gideon’s distraught, tearful little face as I apologized for screaming and scaring him, he let go of our hug and signed “I’m sorry”. This broke my heart rather than melt it, because I don’t think Gideon understands that he can be apologized to. He thought I was saying “Mommy’s sorry” and signing it to him as a way of cueing him to apologize to me. I took a step back and made sure he watched my facial expression as I signed and said “mommy is sorry to Gideon for yelling”. I have to believe he at least understood that I was contrite and not mad at him. Once we’d done our share of hugging and wiping tears, I picked up the pitcher from the floor and told him “keep your toys in the tub”, and then reminded him to sign “yes mommy”. And that was that.
Right before we snuggled down in the rocking chair for our bedtime prayer and cuddle time, I apologized one more time. He didn’t even let me finish, and shared his pacifier with me. “I don’t even remember that mom. Let’s move on. Take my tete. ”
I’m so grateful for such a forgiving little boy!!
How do you deal with those moments when you get to be an apologetic parent?