It happened in the living room, I think, in the afternoon. One sentence that has set off a chain reaction of questions in my mind. As each word came out of her mouth, the shadow of those words slowly eclipsed the memory of the breakfast we shared at her school that morning leaving me feeling lost and empty, most of all, sad. Part of why her comment affected me so much was because it was out of the blue, completely not related to the events that were transpiring around her. This meant it was really on her mind. Another reason they were so powerful was because they dug up some of the very details of the previous weekend I was hoping she had forgotten, details I previously tried to cover up, but which I will always remember, and obviously she has, too. Now I will explain.
When I told them to clean up their room after quiet time, I stood there barking out orders at my son (only two and a half, I forget that sometimes…)
“Pax, pick this up. Put it there. Now pick something else up, look at your feet, no right there. You just stepped on it. Here! Now put this away. Ella, pick something up and put it away. Now, pick up something else, Pax, that. Yes, that! Pick it up. Pax! Pick it up, now where does it go? Put it away. Pax! Stop playing and put it away. You too Ella, keep picking up. Pax, stop playing and put it AWAY. Ella, what are you doing? You’re supposed to be cleaning up!?”
My blood boiled, my anger burned. I finally yelled and slammed the door behind me, leaving them with the threat that if it wasn’t picked up when I came back, I would take it all away.
And then I came back, only with a garbage bag this time. I piled it in, and grabbed some larger toys for added effect. On the way out, I picked up her Dora suitcase that was laying in front of the door and took it all downstairs to the back.
It was the suitcase she cried most about, and it would be the first thing I would change my mind on. It was more than a suitcase to her, she knew we were planning on going on vacation later this summer and to her, if her suitcase was gone, she wouldn’t be able to come with us. It was truly devastating. Not only had I thrown her toys out, I had sentenced her to a week at home alone while everyone else went away without her. She was upset and cried and wouldn’t let it go. In the moment, that wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but eventually I came to my senses and gave her the suitcase back.
That’s the back story to what she said to me in the living room. What could she possible have said that would shake my world?
She told me she was sorry that she got upset with me about the suitcase. She, apologized to me? I had done the wrong, in my anger taking something so important from her, which unjustly caused her pain. Now here she was, out of the blue asking for my forgiveness.
It prompted me to hug her, and tell her that sometimes it’s OK for her to be upset with Daddy, and it’s also OK for her to tell me she’s upset. I want her to always be able to talk to me if I’ve done something wrong.
I asked her how she felt about last weekend. She reminded me that I had slammed the door and how that had scared Pax. Now I called Pax over and hugged him, and apologized for slamming the door and for scaring him. In usual Pax fashion, this prompted a litany of apologies from his lips for things I never knew about, but I tried to steer it back to me apologizing to him. I asked if he forgave me. I think I heard him say ‘yeah’ as he slid off my lap and walked toward the kitchen.
Is it just that easy for children to forgive?
When do we learn to hold grudges?
Why is it so hard to forgive yourself as a parent?
Should I let these regrets motivate me to be better?
Is it bad to be at least a little motivated by parent-guilt? Or should love simply be enough?
Then there was the painting of her and daddy…I’ll pick it up there next week after a break for Mother’s Day