Dirty dishes were piled on the kitchen counter. I had three full bins of clean laundry to fold, and my 5-year-old son was throwing a temper tantrum.
“Mom, I don’t want to live in this house anymore. I want to move.”
“No, I don’t want applesauce [or cereal or yogurt-covered raisins or a banana]. We don’t have anything to eat!”
“MOM … I’m so grumpy because I didn’t get to sleep at 8 last night.” (For the record, it was 8:10).
I tried to stay calm. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and waited for serenity. That peace never came. As I searched for a clean fork in our dishwasher, my eyes started to burn. I slammed the dishwasher door and retreated to the couch. There, I started a big, ugly, uncontrolled cry.
At that moment, I felt everything I did was wrong. I was ashamed that I couldn’t keep up with the housework. Frustrated that I could do nothing to make my kid happy. Embarrassed that I was falling apart. I felt … like a failure. Negative thoughts raced through my head:
“I’m a horrible mom.”
“Why can’t I keep it together?”
“What would Supernanny say about me now?”
Unexpectedly, my son stepped up. He walked up to me — a whimpering ball on the sofa — put his arms around my neck and leaned his forehead on my cheek.
“I’m sorry, Mommy.”
At that point, I cried harder, because instead of consoling my son, he was having to comfort me. A few days later, I mentioned my guilt to a friend, and she brought up an interesting point.
“Your son showed what kind of parent you are.”
I didn’t get it.
“Kids are the best mirrors,” she continued. “If you were a mom who told your son to toughen up each time he cried, he would have said the same to you. But you don’t do that. Instead, you comfort him and hold him when he’s sad. That’s what you taught him to do.”
Often as parents, we don’t know how we’re doing. Kids give us little feedback, and when they do, it’s usually in the form of a temper tantrum, a sassy comeback or an eye roll.
But in those little moments — those little surprises — you can find proof of the true good we are doing raising little humans, even through our “mistakes.”
- Big-picture parenting: Consider your long-term goals
- Parenting hacks: Going from one to two (or more) kids
- A week of easy go-to family meals