Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Perfect Parent

"Sunshine without rain makes a desert." - Arab proverb

It has taken me almost two weeks to summon the courage to write this post and share it with the world. I promised to share the sunshine and the rain...

Last week we didn't go to church. I can't remember why. This was a mistake. Since my  morning was suddenly free, I decided to go to the grocery store. Hubby could watch Grace, making it easier on me. My grocery total was $66.66. I should have high-tailed it home right then and gotten our back-ends in the nearest church pew. But I didn't.

When I got home from the grocery store, Robert gave me one of those "looks". The "I-need-a-break-from-our-offspring-pronto" look. Apparently while I was gone, Grace decided to try out some new tactics on daddy to see what the reaction would be. I didn't get the details, I just put away the groceries as quickly as I could and went to distract Grace in the hopes of keeping the peace.

Grace was in rare form this day. In hindsight, maybe it was good we didn't take her to childcare at church... they may not have let us come back. We went to run an errand, and Grace was unbelievable. She wouldn't obey, wouldn't come when I called her, and would scream "No!" if I went to pick her up or tried to stop her from destroying anything in a two foot radius. (Note: Just because she behaved this way, does not mean she didn't receive any discipline. She did. It just wasn't working. Is this what they mean by "Terrible Two's?")

Robert and I were pretty exhausted from the week prior and neither of us were exactly long on patience. We were tired, stressed, weary parents who had a long list of things to accomplish that weekend, and our teething son and testing daughter were not helping matters. So we did what any loving, supportive couple would do. We argued.

When two people are so completely drained of energy and sanity, they tend to fight about the things that are most important in the relationship.

We fought about Raisin Bran.

It started in the way many arguments do, with more attitude than words. We both knew the other was irritated, but we hadn't quite gotten up the gumption to turn it into anything more than that. Unfortunately, this was the moment Gracie decided she needed to use the potty.

I took her to the potty, as I am the "preferred poop parent" for some reason. The day had begun to take its toll on me though, and as she fluttered around the bathroom, checking out everything from the step stool to the bath toys, I began to lose patience.

I told her to "come here" and "put your pants on". And she didn't. A simple task that should take just a few minutes was turning into an ordeal, and I had lots of other things I needed to do.  So I got angry.

Very angry.

The problem, of course, is that I wasn't really angry with her. I was angry with Robert. But I was yelling at her. "Stop wiggling!" "Sit down!" "Pay Attention!" "COME HERE!" Yes, she was disobeying, but I knew in my heart it was unjust for me to be treating her the way I was. Even as the words tumbled out, I regretted what I was doing.

This is the point Robert came and paused in the doorway, adding another layer of irritation for me. Thankfully though, it stemmed the flow of words towards my daughter. Grace and I quickly finished up in the bathroom, but this became the catalyst for Robert and I to now argue in force.

This fight ended up being different from all previous arguments though. You see, this fight was the first one that Grace really noticed. As Robert and I argued with one another, Gracie began to cry.

"Mama! Mama!"

She was locked behind the baby gate, so Robert picked her up and told her it was OK. We were not mad at her and things would be fine. She calmed down, but as Robert and I continued, it was clear that Grace was affected. So I just walked away. I didn't know what else to do.

Because our argument was unresolved, I was still furious. As I prepared dinner, I banged pots and slammed cupboards. I could hear Grace playing with daddy though, and every once in awhile I would hear "Mama!" coming from the front room. After just a few minutes of venting in anger, I broke into silent tears.

My heart broke as my mind replayed the scene in the bathroom where I yelled at Grace. Tears streamed as I envisioned my little girl watching her mommy walk away while daddy held her. I didn't even look back or give her words of encouragement. What kind of a parent was I? How would I ever repair our relationship? She was so little, not able to understand my apologies or explanations.

I began to fear what was going to happen when she saw me next. What if she ran away, or didn't want me to touch her, hug her? The next twenty minutes were filled with anguish. Terrible scenarios ran through my head, even as the tears abated.

Finally, I heard the baby gate open, and turned to see Grace walking into the kitchen. Still afraid at what she might think of me, I began to cry anew as she simply walked up to me and raised her arms for me to lift her up.

Oh, sweet baby girl! I hugged her tightly, and as I buried my face into her hair, I whispered "I love you". With that, she put her small hand on my cheek. I pulled back my face to look at her, and she said:

"Nana! Cheese!" and pushed my face toward the banana lying on on the kitchen counter.

I know. Kind of anti-climatic. She didn't even look at me because she was so excited about a snack. After only a split second, the shock wore off, and I began to laugh. I loved this little one! While I was busy mentally torturing myself, she never once doubted that our relationship was anything but okay. And you know what? She was right. I love her with everything that I am.

A child is so quick to forgive, so quick to forget. Yes, there are many situations where their forgetfulness and lack of understanding can be frustrating. But it is so wonderful when those qualities combine with your shortcomings.

Before she went to bed that night, we snuggled on the couch and I looked into her eyes and apologized for my behavior. It saddens me to know this is not the last of my failures as a parent. I can only hope that with each one I'll learn how to do better next time, and always have the opportunity to apologize. Maybe there will even be snacks.


Tracey said...

Let me be the first to warn you, in case you did not already know...This will happen again. And, again. And, again.

We are human, as are our spouses, and our children. Since we can not eliminate all anger or friction from their lives or our relationships with them, we must fall back on "I'm sorry," and forgiveness.

And since Grace will grow up to live ina real world with real, human people, these are probably the most important lessons.

You are a good mommy!!

Kim said...

Tracey is right this will happen again and not just while they live in your home. I cried with you while I read this post. I apologize, more often than I like, to my kids for my attitude and shortcomings. We can't be perfect but we can model repentance and forgiveness. Love ya.