There’s nothing like yelling at your child at 4:30am for wanting to snuggle with you to make you take a cold, hard look in the parenting mirror. That’s what happened to me last night.
I don’t yell much as a mom. I use a stern voice when necessary and I set boundaries and carry through on consequences that we set. But, it’s very rare for me to raise my voice to the point of a yell. So when this monster emerged from my throat last night, I think it equally startled my four year-old daughter and myself.
Yes, I was exhausted. Yes, I am nearly nine months pregnant. Yes, I have an unrelenting cold and sore throat. All those factors, though, do not take away the guilt and sadness I felt when I saw my daughter’s face last night after I yelled at her. She wouldn’t cooperate after I explained to her why her baby sister couldn’t sleep on the edge of the bed to make space for my first born to snuggle closer to me. And somehow, apparently, this gave me license to yell.
What happened after the yelling, though, was wonderful. At 4:30am, while the my younger daughter snored in the middle of the bed, my four year-old and I had a mature heart to heart. I apologized to her and explained why I had gotten so upset, and took full responsibility for my actions that didn’t match the situation. And she listened, processed, and explained why she hadn’t cooperated in the first place. Like, really explained… in a way that a mature child, not a little girl, would. Together we discussed and came to a clearer understanding of where the other was coming from, and then together came up with a solution to the snuggle issue that worked better for both of us, which included setting up some pillow buffers for the baby and me sleeping between the girls.
This morning, out of our sleepy haze, we talked about it again. Where I worried that I’d either scarred her for life or that she wouldn’t remember the teachable moment we had together, she surprised me and articulated a summary of our discussion. In that moment, I realized that showing some humanness is okay. It’s okay for my daughters to know that I have vulnerabilities and breaking points. And while that doesn’t mean I intend to yell at my kids again any time soon, I will take this experience as an opportunity to show them that just because I’m mommy, doesn’t mean I’m not me. It doesn’t mean I don’t cry or make mistakes. Seeing my vulnerabilities from time to time actually helps them, and me, to be stronger.
Have you had an experience that made you take a cold, hard look in the parenting mirror recently?