Despite every intention of a great day, I found myself beyond practicing what I preach daily with our children and beyond turning back.
Arguing had been redirected, wild energy during another of daddy’s virtual stay at home meetings, too. Coloring turned into a chance to practice writing their names. Knowing how frustrating creating his name on his own is for one of our children, I thought I was ahead of the game writing it out, so he had the opportunity to trace it multiple times. It slipped my mind how frustrated he can be to recreate a letter at all. It slipped my mind how close we were to rest time. It wasn’t enough when I told him that he was doing good just to try, that he was learning. He needed a break, but I didn’t see it soon enough, like I didn’t notice all the dimensions coming to take the same place in my brain at one time.
Looking at the scowl and the repeated, dark lines in the place where his name was meant to be, I reacted. “You need to do something else, just go outside then. Ride your bike.” I decided I would go outside too with the fussing baby. I didn’t want us on bad terms after all. I was met with a scowl, as he carried on in yet another activity he clearly didn’t want to do. My mistakes stacked before me, and all I saw was, “Not enough!”
“Your friends write their names. I tried to help you. I gave it to you to trace, and you were still angry! You have to learn this! You have to want to try!” I scolded. Of course, his scowl deepened as he fiddled with his bike. “Wipe that face off, for goodness sake. You don’t have to act like a punk.” The children throw names all the time, names they didn’t get from me, I often consider in frustration, but from media that apparently isn’t as innocent as I deemed it. This time, it was me, all me.
“Don’t call me a punk!” my little boy raged at me, and rightfully so, I knew even then. “You are a punk right now,” I lashed. “Go to your room!”
This was the space we needed when the circumstances first started to escalate. How many times do I preach just that to my children?
But it was too late now.
“My brother is not a punk; I love him!” his brother had exclaimed at me, hearing my last words.
All of this echoed in my mind as I departed to my room. Our children deserved space and respect then, and they deserve it now too.
“What does that look like now?” I wondered, even with the advantage of a fully developed brain that my children don’t have.
I had again the chance to practice what I preach with our children.
I would want my children to know, even as the adults they will one day be, that they can try again. I want them to know their place as loved, always, wherever they are. I want them to respect themselves and the ones they love, to thrive in healthy relationships, even though they make mistakes, because they will.
I went to my son in his room first. “I don’t want you to think you have anything you should try again in right now,” I told him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t talk to you with respect, and I used mean words. Mom didn’t say true things. I’m sorry,” I told him.
“I forgive you,” he told me, all too readily. I reminded him how smart he was, that we all are good at different things and learn in different ways, just like we always talk about. I know he will learn to write his name, and I am proud of him for trying. He beamed. I went on to practice what I preach in apologizing to his brother, letting him know that he was right about my choices being wrong, thanking him for standing up for his brother.
They eagerly accepted me into their company.
While It shouldn’t have been a place I put us in, it was an opportunity to practice what I preach even in the hard places, and such a humbling picture of how big they love, even when they are so small.
I left encouraged to look for all of the small ways these boys display this big love, even amid the chaos as they grow so very quickly before my eyes.