March 18, 2011
By Ekta R. Garg
Earlier this week my husband and I had a disagreement. Like most regular married couples, we have fights occasionally and as much as we try to shield the kids from our differences sometimes the kids become inadvertently involved. When that happens, I become more aware than ever of my role as a mother and a woman.
I’d been thinking about the fight my husband and I had had, and all of a sudden everything started to annoy me—including the kids. Little things that I normally wouldn’t give a second glance suddenly zoomed into full focus, and I let them cloud my vision just as the fight with my husband was clouding my mind.
For about 36 hours I scolded more harshly than I usually would, I snapped when I should have just shook my head, and I raised my voice more than once. Or twice. Or ten times.
Kids are perfect barometers of the family climate: when something changes, their emotional well-being rises and falls in the blink of an eye.
Four is at an age where she’s starting to assert even more independence in certain respects than Two, and sometimes that assertion translates into misbehavior. I understand this and try to keep that in mind when she engages in unapproved actions or uses a wrong choice of words. But this week I had trouble remembering her developing personality because of my own troubles, and her bad behavior increased dramatically in the space of a day.
Yesterday morning all these things came to a head, and as I drove both kids to school I began to think seriously about what was wrong with me and how I could fix it. After all Four and Two are just little kids; they will only respond to and learn what I do. As I drove and the kids chatted and played with each other in the back, I pondered whether I really wanted them to reenact my behavior in the future. Normally one to have a decent amount of patience with them, all of my patience had evaporated in the previous two days and the kids had been paying the price for it.
As I went about my morning, I decided I need to apologize to the girls. Two wouldn’t necessarily fully understand why I was apologizing, but Four would and I decided both of them needed to see and hear me say I was sorry.
Normally when the girls come home, I have them wash their hands and then lie down for nap/quiet time (nap for Two, quiet time for Four.) But when I brought them home Thursday afternoon, we washed hands and then I sat both of them down. I explained to Four that I didn’t like the behavior she’d been exhibiting in the previous two days (not talking to her sister or parents nicely, lashing out when things didn’t go her way, crying unreasonably at the drop of a hat.)
Then I told her in a calm, collected voice that I also didn’t like the way I had been treating her, that it wasn’t right of me to get so angry so quick on the small things. So we made a deal: we’d both try harder to be nicer and “behave.”
“Okay,” she said, ending the matter.
As quickly as that. And once again Four reminded me that children have a great capacity to love and an even greater capacity to forgive. They don’t learn until much later what it means to hold grudges or to point fingers or to execute revenge. They take us adults at face value and expect us to live up to that face value. But if we fail to do so, they accept our sincere apologies graciously.
For a minute I wished we adults could do the same for each other.
I felt much better afterwards, and within hours I saw two dramatic improvements: Four’s behavior had improved markedly, and my patience level with the tantrums and challenges of the day had increased exponentially. I found myself using calm reason and action in situations that had caused me to bark two days earlier.
And once again I learned the power in the two simple words “I’m sorry.” By taking ownership of my right and my wrong actions, I hope I’m teaching my girls to wield that same power in a positive way and also teaching them to be strong women who don’t need to be afraid of an apology to really make things right.