… and why I always say sorry to my children.
I am almost certain that all parents will have been here: I’m stacked up with laundry, have tripped over a fluffy toy and consequently trodden on Lego. Almost instantly a little face appears as if from nowhere and drawls “Mammmaaaaa” in the sort of high-pitched whine that shoots straight through to my internal blood pressure monitor. They’re met with a short, sharp “what?” and whatever words were going to follow disappear. Maybe they’re no longer important or maybe the pin that has punctured my little one’s balloon has also sent a tremor through their confidence. Whatever the reason, I carry on with the laundry and they go back to what they were doing.
The reality is that everyone in a family needs to learn to use their eyes and ears to support each other. To understand each other, learn empathy and respect. These skills are basic building blocks of positive familial or social relationships. I feel that my children need to learn, just like my parents taught me, when is a good time to make a request, for example.
So perhaps my “what?” is not entirely misplaced. The irritable tone with which it is delivered is most likely linked to an immediate mood of annoyance. Arguably that is also not out of place.
But I say sorry.
Always. Whether it’s this sort of situation or any other where my patience is short or my tone is sharp. I know not all people will agree, and everyone parents differently, but there is a reason behind my apology.
Pause for a moment and tip the situation on its head. My child is in their little bubble, playing. They need something. Perhaps they are playing with Lego and one of their brothers has used the last blue brick of a certain size that they can find and they would like help in looking for another. Perhaps they’re wondering when lunch is. Perhaps they would like to go into the garden. What I can be certain of is that they didn’t see me struggling with the laundry, tripping over a toy and stepping on Lego. They did not time their “Mammmaaaaa” deliberately to coincide with that and cause any annoyance. They come to me with natural enthusiasm to continue their play or ask their question, and for no apparent reason I snap at them. In that moment, they needed my support, and I needed 30 seconds of peace to launch the dirty clothes into the machine before tending to their needs. They didn’t see that though, they simply haven’t quite learnt the order of the house and how things get done and when to time their questions. So I need to say sorry. And I do.
I say that I’m sorry for being snappy, and I explain in a careful and gentle manner why their interjection at that particular moment in time made me feel irritated. I try to help them to understand. To help them to learn. To read signals in a safe family environment that will set them up for their future life.
I anticipate that there will be several more “Mammmaaaaas” over the months and possibly even years to come but I hope that me saying sorry and having that conversation with them will support them with their learning as they develop from very young children into kind and respectful adults. That it will model the type of behaviour that I expect from them. It feels easy as a parent to insist that they say sorry when they make a mistake, so why should I not do the same when the mistake sits at my feet?
Don’t get me wrong, in all of this I would never expect them to behave as mini adults now. But much like minding manners or being kind, I would never demand that they apologise for their mistakes if I do not. That is not my parenting style. My boys are free spirited independent children who are enjoying their childhood. Our family life is overflowing with love and consideration and I hope that if I always explain things to them, if I model appropriate behaviour and respect them, say sorry to them when I need to, then I will help to reinforce those key values. And if that means more “Mammmaaaaas” along the way then I’m cool with that.
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