As a parent, there are many words that we speak to our children on a daily basis. Positive and negative words. There are highs and lows involved in being a parent, much more so than the experience of being single, or married without children. Which I know, because I have experienced all three phases of life.
Nothing prepared me for the roller coaster of being a mom of two little boys.
Especially at an “advanced maternal age“.
When one loses their temper with their own child or children, at times it can be an act of complete and utmost restraint to stay sane, patient, and above all, not say the awful words that pop into your head in a moment of sheer frustration. But as it so happens, there are days or times that get the best of us, and we are only human.
I won’t forget the day I said those awful words to my own son. The oldest of the two siblings, he has very certain ideas of how things should go and what everyone should be doing at any exact moment. The fact that his little brother, now three, discovered the joy of pushing his buttons by either:
- Taking what he was playing with or
- Being a stinker and poking at him with something or
- Just in general being a three year old
Did not factor into his plan for a good day.
So, there we were on a typical Saturday afternoon, where after a day of soccer/building/food shopping/birthday parties or the usual weekend mayhem, in our kitchen at the table. Older son, M. was building something on the table, when little brother, C. came over and messed with it. As what can be a response to this, M. decided to grab/push/yell at C. to get him away. C. started crying, dad started yelling, I got upset, and then those awful words came out of my mouth.
Words I never thought I would say.
What. Is. Wrong with you!
Okay, I know what you’re thinking… this really is far from the worst thing I could say to my child. But if you know me and you know what I do, you would know that I would never imagine saying this to any child, let alone my own. As the words came out of my mouth, it was almost as if time slowed down, you know, like in the movie A Christmas Story where Ralphie is helping his dad change the tire and says, “Fuuuuuuudge” but it’s not really fudge it’s the other “F” word?
It was kind of like that. As I was having this out of body experience watching my mean mommy self say these things, I also watched as the face of my six year-old crumple and then first his head, and then his body droop onto a chair. It was his reaction to what I said, the hurt in his face, that made me feel as if what I said was pretty bad.
I couldn’t take the words back.
Nope, I couldn’t take them back. What I could do, however, was after the dust settled and tempers cooled and C. stopped crying, was to say to my child,
“I didn’t mean that,”
“I love you.”
I know my child. He is a lot like myself. He struggles when plans deviate from what’s expected and when he has an idea in his head about how something should go, he can become unregulated when plans don’t go that way. But he is six and I am 44, and I have the executive functions in place to navigate these changes in my day. On most days, anyhow.
He does not yet have these functions and is working on gaining them, as most young children are.
So as with most of these experiences in parenting, we pick ourselves up and move on and keep this new knowledge tucked away in the back pockets of our minds, and we learn from them. We don’t forget what it can feel like to hear words like that. We don’t forget what we feel like when we say words like that.