Here’s what your kids’ memories do with the times you thought you were a good mom, but you weren’t: They turn them into funny stories. That’s if you’re a good sport about it and—this is crucial—if you ask forgiveness as soon as your realize your mistakes, which, in my case, was often. I asked forgiveness in the moment for my losses of temper and other lapses in maternal conduct. And I asked forgiveness later when I had the perspective to know my general character and personality flaws probably did some damage. Forgiveness is important. It can almost turn you into a good mom. Almost.
I have no accurate memory of this, but my sister and I love to tease my mom about the time she threw water on one of us while we were in mid-tantrum. The way we tell it, I was wailing and writhing on the floor over something unreasonable, like having to take a nap or being denied ice cream before dinner. This could have just as easily been my sister, but let’s make it me. In our memory—which is faulty—my mom is standing over me with a childrearing book in one hand and a paper cup with one-quarter inch of water in it in the other. She explains, maybe even quoting full paragraphs from the book, that this is a very modern, humane way to deal with tantrums such as this one I am having at the moment. And she douses me. (Or maybe it was my sister.)
We think it’s hilarious now. The funny thing is, my mom probably thought she was progressive, and the water probably worked. Or maybe not, since neither my sister nor I remember this happening more than once.
Grown kids love to give their parents a hard time about their well-intentioned errors in judgment.
Young parents: You will someday wake up to find you didn’t get it all right. In fact, some of your most intentional parenting decisions may provoke some of the wildest laughter around your dinner table when your kids—who will love you anyway—discuss their take on those decisions years later. Get ready for this.
I’m sure some of my missteps were due to peer pressure or mom guilt—which had more influence on me than was right. But some of my mistakes popped out of the thin air in my own head. Like The Story of the Mom Who Always Said Yes.
I thought it was brilliant. A teaching moment in the form of a fairy tale. Our boys, like most humans, did not like to hear the word “no.” Someone has said the best indication of a person’s character is how he or she responds to the word “no.” It was my job to develop character in these young savages, and how else does an imaginative, story-telling mom do that?
I fancied myself a Hans Christian Anderson or the Brothers Grimm’s younger sister. And maybe that alone should have been a warning. Have you read those original versions of our most beloved fairy tales, the ones before Disney got a hold of them? According to our boys, The Story of the Mom Who Always Said Yes scarred them for life. What I thought was a teaching moment was a terrifying one. And I told it over and over. I bludgeoned them with it.
In The Story of the Mom Who Always Said Yes, a boy asks his mom a series of questions and the eponymous mom answers yes every time. He asks if he can play with the carving knife and the matches. He asks if he can stick a metal hanger into the electrical socket. You get the idea. As the story evolved with numerous retellings, the boy’s requests got more bizarre. And every time, with the relentless predictability of a dark night, haunted houses, and horror movies, his mother said yes. The story always ended, the boys have since reminded me, with the barely-alive young boy asking his mother if he can play in the street.
I don’t have to fill in the plot for you. But come to our house for dinner when our family is gathered, and our sons may regale you with it. They’ll all but shout it out with an inflated sense of utter shock that I could have thought this story was a good idea and with the offended tone of members of the Adult Children of Messed-Up Parents Society.
A friend told me about a book I want to read simply because of the title: Laugh Your Way to a Good Marriage. There needs to be a parenting sequel to this book, I’m sure of it. So, I’ve been wondering lately, what if we share some of our stories here? The ones that indict us, not as bad parents, but as good parents with some decidedly bad moments?
I’m not asking for teeth-gnashing, sack-cloth-and-ashes confessions. I’m just asking you to share a good parenting idea turned bad that you can laugh about now. A story your kids can laugh at. Or something you are certain they will tease you about in the years to come. Am I the only one with these stories? I don’t think so.
Share yours with us on Facebook. Let’s laugh together.
Don’t miss this episode of This Grit and Grace Life Podcast You Are “Mom Enough”: How to Stop Feeling Like a Failure – 017.
You’ll also like Here’s to Strong Men, and Here’s How to Raise One, How Boys Show Love, An Unexpected, Wonderful Moment on Your Son’s Wedding Day, Why Girls Aren’t Just “Drama” and How to Raise a Strong One, and How to Handle Little Boys Who Think They Know It All