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Teachable Moments: Hurtful Words

September 19, 2012

It was a long day. Every ounce of his self-control had been used up by the time he got home from Kindergarten and all that was left was pure, raw, unadulterated and completely human selfishness, self-centeredness and will.

An enormous, unyielding will.

I hadn’t been feeling well, and wasn’t at the top of my game, but I’d kept my voice even.

I kept my voice even when I repeatedly asked him to wash his hands.

Or stay seated at the table. To stop kicking his brother and teasing the cat.

To finish his food. Put on his PJs. Stop teasing the cat.

Every action took so long that much of his free time was used up in time-outs,  mulligans, and cleaning up messes he had made.

By the time bedtime came around, I was all used up and so was his free time.

He was NOT happy. I tucked him in to bed – as well as I could with his back to me and arms fiercely crossed across his chest.

As I walked down the hall, I heard him holler after me: “I don’t want you to be my mommy any more!”

Did I hear that right?!

The second time more softly, not quite as emphatic.

“I don’t want you to be my mommy anymore.”

By this time he had thrown all his blankets, pillows, and stuffed buddies onto the floor in protest. I stood in the doorway.

“OK. If that’s what you want. Good night.”

And I walked away.

It stung, I admit it. But I didn’t let it show and kept my voice even.

A little bit later, as I was coming back down the hall, I peeked in and found his bed remade and him in tears, sobbing like his heart was broken. (Which, evidently it was, as he had drawn a picture of it on his chalkboard for me to see.)

I went in.

“Lovey, who is more upset? You or me?”

“Mee-eee-eee-eee!!!!” Hiccup. Sniffle. Sob.

“Who is hurting, you or me?”

“Mee-eee-eee-eee!!!!” Hiccup. Sniffle. Sob.

“When you say ugly things to try to hurt someone else…you usually are the one that ends up hurting.”

“I’m soo-ooo-oooo-rrr-yyyyy!!!” Sob.

We hugged and kissed and cuddled and my boy learned a lesson about how much it hurts us when we hurt others. I learned that I can hold it together, even under major strain and button-pushing. We both went to bed calm, content, and loved.

At least for tonight. Tomorrow, we’ll probably do it all over again.

Another night like this one (there are many), only he must have decided it was too much trouble to put everything back on the bed and just fell asleep on the floor instead.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. sylvia judkins permalink
    September 19, 2012 8:36 am

    Hat’s off to you for keeping your cool. I think that’s the hardest part, but at the end of the day that is the most rewarding part. I am always humbled when it happens, because of course it is by no strength of our own that we are able to do it.

  2. September 19, 2012 8:49 am

    I am ashamed to say I lost it the other day…I just lost it. Both of us did. But he is ten years old. And I should know better. I should be better. We had a long talk afterward to apologize, and understand what happened, why it happened, and to promise to try harder in the future. It was just one more instance of me not measuring up to what I should be. Some days it is hard to believe I am the person I am. I want to be so much better…

    • September 19, 2012 9:12 am

      Kristen – I think you’re mistaken! It’s just as much of a teachable moment when our kids DO see us lose it…because it happens! It just does! To all of us, and me included! But what is important for them to see is how you recover…the fact that you reconciled, you both wanted something different, you apologized – that is also a teachable moment. If our kids never see us handle failure, how will they learn to handle it themselves? Blessings to you as you strive to be the best parent you can be. You are doing a GREAT job – even with mistakes (and we all make ’em. next post I write should be about how many I’ve made!)

  3. September 19, 2012 8:57 am

    It sounds like you handled that really well!

  4. September 19, 2012 11:24 am

    Whew, as the mom of a nearly 1-year-old boy, it’s daunting to read your post and picture what I have ahead. I hope I can handle situations like this one with so much grace!

  5. Stevie C permalink
    September 19, 2012 12:17 pm

    I have three children, and yes I have dealt with my fair share of meltdowns, mine and theirs. However, maybe I am just lucky. I have never had any of my children say they hated me, didn’t love me or wanted a new mom/family.

    Here is one rule that I developed with my oldest son (now 20) and still use with my younger children (11, 9) We have a pre-arranged setup for situations that feel out of control for both of us. If I am scolding (or yes yelling, it happens) and at anytime my child does not understand why I am upset, what they did wrong, or what I am wanting them to do in the future I have asked them to simply raise their hand and I do the same when I am not understanding their needs and they are crying/yelling/throwing things around their room. A raised hand is an immediate signal for either party. It is a great way for anyone in the situation that needs a moment to clarify what is going on, and a much needed breather for both sides.

    This method really only works after 5 or 6, but it works like gang busters in our family.

  6. Freddie Fortier permalink
    September 19, 2012 2:33 pm

    I remember those days. Some days I kept my cool, others not so good. The bad days are the ones that stick in your mind when the guilt hits you. Thankfully there were more good days than bad ones, but, the most important ones were the days the kids would run up to me and say how much they loved me with lots of hugs and kisses given. Thankfully, love covers all our mistakes.

  7. Melanie permalink
    September 19, 2012 2:58 pm

    Once again, I love reading your posts, Adelle. Cooper is quite a strong-willed 5-year-old and this post reminds me of some of the things we go through throughout the week. I used to lose it, often – I’ve learned to keep my cool and boy does it work much better for the both of us (and everyone else in this house). Thanks for sharing!

  8. September 19, 2012 3:04 pm

    Well done, Mama. It’s hard to be 5 or 10 or 35 or 67 and lose your cool, isn’t it? You kept yours, under difficult circumstances. You won’t always, and that will be okay, too. But that night? Yeah, you did good.

  9. Erin McCabe permalink
    September 19, 2012 3:08 pm

    Gosh can I relate and mine are 10 and 8 and I am still dealing with this (although slightly different). I am told I am strict, I am told I am mean cause I make them do there homework before watching TV, that because of this they have no time, the list goes on and on. And I will admit, I don’t always keep my cool like you did (this morning was an example) but before my son (10) left for class he stopped to make sure I knew that he loved me and that he knew I was doing what was best for him. (Makes me cry just thinking about it). I LOVE your posts and thank you for the mom you are cause I like knowing we all have these challenges.

    • September 19, 2012 3:56 pm

      I think I need to write a post about how many times I DON’T keep my cool! Sounds like you are doing everything right – glad your boy is sweet enough to tell you so, too!

  10. Bethany Hall Fitelson permalink
    September 19, 2012 4:13 pm

    Wow, what a great lesson for him. Great job keeping cool under major frustration and hurt. That will be memorable for him, I’m sure. Hugs, and hoping that the rest of the week is more harmonious!

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