Apology Vs Abuse

For about a week now the girls have been getting roughly an hour less sleep per night than they should. Plus a cold’s been lingering around. Everyone’s a bit irritable. Today I took the girls out  all day. Shopping. It wasn’t a fun day, but things went remarkably well, until…

We were at Micheal’s getting some cake decorating supplies  when we passed a display with overpriced books. Ella wanted one. I pointed out that she already had the books on the shelf she was looking at, but offered her a different book instead. She got angry. I explained that she could either get the book I offered or she could leave without any books. She got angrier and demanded both books. I said no.

She screamed louder.

People checked to make sure she was okay.

I hugged her as she screamed, she gratefully accepted. However, the screams didn’t stop and neither did her demands. As we left the store (with her under my arm), she tried to hold onto shelves, carts, anything she could reach. When we got outside I tried talking to her again, but she tried to run back into the store. So I picked her up and carried her to the van. Up until this point I was calm, I was reassuring her as we went. Though I didn’t bring her tiredness to my attention, which I should have.

As I put her in the van she screamed that she didn’t want to be in the van, she didn’t want to come with me. I opened the door and told her she could leave if she wanted. She stayed in the van, but screamed as I buckled her up.

When we got home she screamed that she wouldn’t come into the house. I brought everyone else in first, then came back out for her. I was a horrible parent and told her that if I left her in the van it would get as hot as an oven and she’d get roasted like a goose. I also told her that the police don’t let mommies leave children in vehicles, and if I did the police wouldn’t think I was a good mommy and they’d find her a new one.

Oh boy. Angry or not, frustrated or not, it doesn’t matter. There are so many better ways I could have handled the situation.

As it was she took it well. Said she wanted to stay in the van so she could get a different mommy. She just wanted to be alone. I heaved a sigh of relief and told her she could have alone time in the house. She crumpled and let me pick her up to carry her to the house. Once inside she took off to her room where she ranted and raved about me and the situation for about fifteen minutes. I then knocked on the door and said I’d like to give her a hug.

At first she didn’t want me there, but I told her I loved her and explained to her how I was feeling and what I thought about what happened in the store. We realized we’d had a misunderstanding and she asked if we could try going back to the store again a different day. I said “sure.” She then told me she was tired and wanted to go to sleep. So I helped get her tucked in and settled her toys just the way she wanted them. She was asleep by quarter after five.

I feel drained after that episode. And very much like a failure. Over all things could have been worse, but I crossed the line. Our relationship broke a little bit. I tried to scare her, to manipulate her into doing what I wanted her to do. I could have remained calm and found a better solution to MY problem. Instead I hurt her emotionally.

Yes, I apologized. We kissed and made up. But what about next time, or the time after that? How many times can a parent apologize to repair damage done? When is it no longer an apology, but part of the cycle of abuse?

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3 Comments

Filed under Parenting

3 responses to “Apology Vs Abuse

  1. I think (apart from the end bit about the goose and the police) you handled the situation really well (you made the stand and stuck with it in the calmest, kindest way you could). It *is* hard when children perform like that – plus I’ll bet you’re exhausted with the baby and the move and everything else going on.
    Children are remarkably forgiving and accepting of us and all our mistakes. From what I’ve read here, I’d say you are a very loving mother who is doing her very best and when things don’t go how you’d like them to go you reflect and make changes. It is difficult when you realise you’ve said something dreadful to a child, but please go easy on yourself. It’s true when they say it’s the hardest job in the world.

  2. it sounds to me like you did a fine job. hang in there!!

  3. Thanks.

    The biggest problem is the feeling I had. I WANTED to scare her, I wanted her to MAKE her stop. Having those feelings even if I didn’t fully act on them leaves me questioning where the line is. Can I have feelings like that and still be a loving mother without causing irreparable damage?

    The answer isn’t so simple as a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The feelings in and of themselves aren’t a problem, but what I do with them. A brief moment where I say something mean, or grab a wrist too hard, or, or, or… those moments add up. There is a time when an apology will no longer fix things, but when?

    This morning everything is okay. She talked about what happened and everything seems okay. However, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t internalized my moment of meanness. It doesn’t mean her trust in me is the same as it had been.

    It is so incredibly important to take these moments to reflect on actions and figure out a better way to handle the situation should it arise again. By making sure it doesn’t happen again, and making sure moments of disconnection are fewer and farther between allows our children to see that our apologies are real, and not just lip service.

    An apology is more than saying I’m sorry. It is the intent to not make the same transgression again. If Ella sees me doing the same things again right after an apology, then she’ll stop believing my apologies. She’ll then disconnect even more, and the cycle would continue.

    However, if a similar situation arises and I do something different, more gently, she’ll believe my apology and we’ll grow closer together.

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