There are some days that I feel pretty great in my role as parent. Maybe I’ve handled a difficult situation calmly or I’ve made a meal that everyone enjoys and there’s no squabbling at the dinner table. Then there’ll be a day like last week that makes me feel like I’m failing as a parent.
My daughter sent me a text, clearly articulating all the reasons she was upset with me.
1) I had made her a sandwich that had cucumbers on it (she hates cucumbers).
2) The night before, I had forgotten that she was working and needed the car, and told my husband he could take it.
3) She’d had a really important day at school yesterday, and I hadn’t asked her about it at dinner.
Wow. Having all those things pointed out so matter-of-factly hit me hard and I did my best to try to smooth things over. I thought I’d deal with the lunch fiasco first, in a light hearted way. “Well, you’re lucky, I forgot to make sure your brother was up and out the door early for band practice, and he didn’t even GET a lunch!” and, “Wait, you hate cucumbers? I thought you hated CARROTS!” Then came my helpful advice, “Just pick the cucumbers off.” When attempted humour and defensiveness didn’t work, I turned to justification for the next two issues. “It’s so hard to keep everyone’s schedules straight,” and “I was going to ask you about your day, but you mentioned it before I had a chance.”
If it had been just one thing she wouldn’t have felt so upset, but THREE? That was a parenting fail Hat-trick! She felt unloved and for that, I was heartbroken, and I felt guilty. I asked if we could get together that night and talk about it. She said “whatever” but I took that as a positive sign (ever the optimist)! She had a poetry book that she’d ordered that had just arrived at our local book store so I made a special effort to pick it up and bring it home as a peace offering. When I knocked on her door with the book in hand, she was thrilled. We hugged, I told her that I loved her and that I was so sorry that I’d made her feel badly. She apologized too and assured me that we were good.
Here’s what I learned that day:
1) Perception is reality. My actions made it seem that my daughter wasn’t important to me so that’s how she felt, even though that’s the farthest thing from the truth.
2) Healing starts when you say you’re sorry.
3) It was never about the cucumbers. That was just the final straw.
Do you have any experience with parental guilt or parenting fails to share? Come on, we’ve all got ‘em!
About the Author:
Karen Pearson is one of the friendly voices you’ll hear on the other end of the phone when calling Customer Service at Mabel’s Labels. She enjoys writing about her family, which includes a husband, 3 kids and a rescue dog from Greece.