I’ve always been an open book. One who wears her heart on her sleeve, so to speak. I’m usually not afraid to say what’s on my mind, but in those rare times when I do hold back, unsure of how others will react to my honesty, it doesn’t matter; my face says it all anyway, so I might as well be honest.
It probably stands to reason that I’d be the same way when it comes to parenting. As anyone who’s been a parent longer than five minutes can tell you, raising your children is the most beautiful mixture of joy, frustration, pride, sorrow, and a plethora of other (most of the times unexpected) feelings. And while other people are really good at managing them – or even appearing to manage them – I’m not, and never have been. If my four-year-old is pushing my buttons, the whole world knows it. If my toddler wakes up three times a night and then chooses to start the day at 4:30AM, I can’t pretend everything’s okay. I’m grumpy and screechy and a force to be reckoned with.
And sometimes I lose it. And, yes, a lot of the times I lose it in front of my kids.
Maybe you’re not like me. Maybe you’re wired to control your emotions more efficiently and maybe you’re lucky enough to make it to the bathroom before you scream your head off. If so, can you come over and hang out with me? I’ll brew you less-than-awesome coffee and apologize profusely for it and you will tell me all of your secrets.
But maybe you are like me. Maybe once in a while you lose your cool in front of your kids and maybe you feel a little (or a lot) guilty about it.
If that’s true, I’m here to say to you it’s okay. It’s more than okay.
While I’m never exactly proud of how I handle these situations, there are two reasons why I believe that occasionally letting my kids see me in shambles is actually beneficial to them.
First of all, it humanizes me. It keeps me at an approachable level. I remember that when I was growing up I didn’t see my mom really lose it all that often, and when she did, we wouldn’t speak of it. We wouldn’t even go there. It made me scared to really be myself in front of her when I was struggling with my feelings. Now that I’m a parent and I lose it around my kids, I acknowledge it. I embrace it. I kneel down and look my kids in the face and admit I was wrong. I tell them I made a bad choice and I am so sorry and will try and be better next time. I ask for forgiveness and love. What’s good about this is that when my kids screw up, they don’t cower in shame from me. They come to me, admit they made a bad choice, and ask for forgiveness and love. They trust me this way because they’ve been on the receiving end of it. They’re comfortable losing it in front of me, too, because they know my love is not contingent on them managing their emotions. (For what it’s worth, I’m hoping that this carries on well into their teenage years when they turn their hobby of “Making Bad Choices” into a full time job.)
The second reason is even more important than the first. Most good parents spend a lot of time fretting over whether or not they’re doing a good job of parenting. They spend so much time making sure that every second of every day in their house is “Pinterest-Perfect,” that their kids get only the appropriate amount of screen time and sugary snacks, and that they always have the perfect homemade lunch to bring to school with them (including a sweet, different-every-day, love note). But I feel like maybe – just maybe – the bar is set a little bit too high sometimes. Imagine what that’s doing to our kids; if their childhoods WERE actually perfect, how much pressure would they feel the moment they become parents? It might actually crush them. By being realistic in our approach to parenting our kids (and, honestly, just being a human being on the planet Earth in 2017) we’re helping them to set a realistic expectation of parenting their own kids. They’ll be able to find grace in themselves and in their children, and hopefully they’ll be better at it than we are.
So to the mama out there who’s crying to herself in the shower over how she acted in front of her kids today, let me just say, CONGRATS! You’re not perfect, and your kids know it! Now, cry it out, finish your shower, dry off, and go hug those babies. Tell them that you’re sorry. Tell them that hey, you’re human. Tell them that even when you lose your cool you still love them to the moon and back. Tell them you’ll try better tomorrow. Ask them if they forgive you. I’m betting they’ll say yes.
And who knows – maybe they’ll apologize for making you lose your cool in the first place. I mean, that toilet paper roll didn’t completely unroll itself, now did it?