I’ve received a lot of parenting advice over the years. Some bits, solicited. Others not. Some have been helpful. Others not. Some have “worked”. Some have not. Some in fact, have backfired. There have been certain tidbits that I have downright ignored. Some that I maybe even took for granted.
Just recently, one of those items came back to bite me.
It had been a long, painfully boring, yet somehow stressful weekend. Alone, for yet another stretch of days as my law enforcement husband was off at work. For a long period these times had fallen on weekends, which was starting to take its toll, to say the very least. After 40 hour work weeks and mounds of stress, the prospect of long weekends being the sole parent to two boys under the age of 4 was less than exciting.
On this particular day, my nerves were fried, my patience was gone and my emotions were running high. I knew it would take just the smallest thing to completely break me. So when our “smart” washer decided to flash up an error message (which never make any sense to me) and then proceeded to shut me out of actually doing anything about said message, like just shutting it off and re-powering (isn’t that the solution to everything?)… I lost it.
What followed was a loud, rage-filled, embarrassing display that included me banging my fists against the washer door, screaming, “Come on you stupid thing. Work! I hate you!”, kicking it repeatedly and then subsequently crying. Yes, I cried. Over a washer.
What I wasn’t aware of was that my precious little then-3-year-old was watching from just a few feet away. He didn’t seem to react and instead just innocently asked, “What’s wrong mama?” I recoiled at scene that had just played out, and the fact that my child had just witnessed my outburst.
I tried to whisk the thought away and worked to distract him, likely by an episode of Paw Patrol or encouraging him to play with his little brother. But I was embarrassed beyond belief.
Weeks passed and I thought nothing of it, until I caught sight of my 3-year-old playing with his lunch box one day. He opened it, placed a few items inside and closed it. What followed was a loud, rage-filled outburst that included banging his fist against the box, throwing it on the floor and screaming, “Come on you stupid thing. Work!”
(Insert extremely wide-eyed embarrassed emoji here, right?)
I was horrified. In that moment, those sage words passed down by parents before me flashed through my mind. “Be careful of what you say. Children are always listening. They will repeat everything you say. They are little sponges. And they have an affinity for ‘the bad stuff’. Oh…. my…. gosh.
I couldn’t believe it. My children WERE listening. They WERE watching. They were starting to REPEAT. And it wasn’t good at all.
I felt like a terrible mom. I felt like a terrible person. I felt like a terrible everything. I couldn’t believe that was even a representation of me. And yes, these moments happen. It happens to everyone (please tell me it happens to everyone?). But it made me weigh out the way my children see me, and I truly believe that 80% of what they see is really and truly good, kind and respectful. But even 20% bad is not good enough and I must work on my words. I must work on my actions. I must be the best kind of water that these little sponges soak up.
As cheesy as it sounds, they are the next generation. You’d have to be living under a rock to not think that our society needs some pretty serious work right now. I hope I can contribute to making it better. To making them better. I have to.
Because, they’re listening.