It’s tiring being a parent. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very happy-making and satisfying – but tiring. As a parent you are on duty 24/7 and it so happens that a beeper came with the baby. The light of my life is six years old (and going on 15). She is an angel – except when she’s just being five…and when I am being an irritated…ahem…adult.
Not only is it tiring, but parenting can also be anxiety provoking. Every decision and everything that comes out of your mouth having to do with the little one(s) is up for second-guessing and wondering whether it will create permanent damage. There have been times when I have wondered if, in addition to an “educational fund”, I should also be starting a “therapy fund”. You know, a savings plan that accumulates interest and which she can access when she turns 18 for the purpose of seeking out a professional that will fix the issues she has because of my less than perfect parenting skills.
I can see it now. She’s all grown up and on her 18th birthday there’s a lovely card with a statement outlining her fund as I smile lovingly and say, “Happy Birthday, dear. Here’s something for all the ways I have scarred you.” (There’s a business idea in there somewhere.)
There are so many times when I am with my daughter that I mess up because I didn’t get a good night’s sleep, I’m frustrated, I’m angry, and yes, even when I’m hungry. Then, later, I beat myself up. And the internal chatter goes something like this….
“You should know better.”
“What would clients think if they saw how you really are at home?”
“How can I make her feel better…fast!”
And, the inevitable, “I’m an awful mom.”
Yup, mother guilt is huge. And, from what I hear, father guilt isn’t far behind.
I am stronger, bigger, faster, and smarter than her. I am literally a superhero in her eyes. But, sometimes, I abuse my powers and use them for evil in little ways: pushing her out the door when we’re running late, raising my voice, demanding, sometimes cajoling, not listening, threatening…. Did I forget anything?
I’ve learned, however, that even these moments can be used to give my daughter a gift.
The gift begins with me, an adult, humbling myself in front of a six year old child.
As an adult, I don’t have to do anything in the presence of someone as powerless as her because she is young, small, innocent, weaker, easily manipulated, and has no other way, but through me, to meet her material, emotional and physical needs. I have a lot of power.
Instead, I often choose to give up power to my daughter after acknowledging that I am not only speaking to a child but, I am in relationship with another human being.
When I mess up, I have decided that I will choose to ask my daughter for forgiveness and let her direct me as to what will restore our relationship to one of trust and care. Some of her responses to my contrition have included:
- “Mommy, you need to sit on the steps – one number…I mean minute… for each…how tall you are.” (Graciously, I’m just a little over five feet.)
- “It’s okay mama, everyone makes mistakes. You have to promise to try hard not to do it again.”
- “I need a hug.”
- “Can we cuddle and watch a movie?”
- “You have to sit on the steps. But, I will sit with you and we have to talk about it.”
- “I don’t know. I’m still mad at you…you hurt my feelings.”
I used to struggle with humbling myself in front of my daughter. I wanted her to believe that mommy was a superhero, someone who could do no wrong, would save her from trouble and that I might somehow live up to her love for me (which is “bigger than anything in the whole world…and even bigger than that”). I have seen that apologizing to her has helped her to learn how to receive an apology and to forgive while also helping me to learn how to ask for an apology and receive the forgiveness and grace that comes so readily from a child that knows nothing of how to hold a grudge.
Sometimes, I wonder who is parenting whom….
…and the realization hits. The gift I think I am giving her is, in actuality, a gift to me.
For further thought:
What has your child forgiven you for?
How easy or difficult was it for you to get down eye to eye with your child and admit that you made a bad choice?
How did asking forgiveness shape or contribute to the kind of parent you are today?