You got upset. You lost your temper. You need some space.
Your meals aren’t organic. You didn’t even serve a vegetable today at supper. You chose to turn on the TV instead of read them books. You haven’t done a craft in weeks. Kid #3 gets their own snacks. You haven’t folded socks in months. There are playdough bits on the floor from yesterday. You cannot see the floor in their room.
You don’t do all you think you should.
You could be nicer. More fun. More engaged. More creative. More intentional. More organized. More perfect.
You worry you are wrecking your kids. Scarring them long-term. Giving them a reason to be in therapy as an adult.
But, mom, you worry you are wrecking them, you worry that you are failing, because YOU ARE DOING A GOOD JOB.
And, dad, you worry you are wrecking them, you worry that you are failing, because YOU ARE DOING A GOOD JOB.
Here’s what you have done right.
You have given your kids food. You have a house filled with more than they need. You have made eye contact. You have kept them as safe as you possibly can. You have smiled. You have laughed. You have been silly. You have initiated hugs.
You have said sorry. You were contrite after you lost your temper. And you made sure they felt loved.
Here’s the reality. Being a parent is hard. Kids are frustrating.
Trying to get them all out the door when they would rather zip around on scooters in their superhero capes playing cops and robbers and you’re going to be late for their immunizations and nobody can hear you and you are actually becoming the villain… that is real frustration.
Your oldest is probably going through a stage of being super annoying, your youngest is experimenting with pinching, and your middle just wants to be seen. You are dealing with their very real emotions and behavior experiments. Trying to stay even-keeled in their behavior laboratory is truly taxing. You get frustrated.
But do not be frustrated about getting frustrated. You are not a robot. Acknowledge the frustration, and if you make a bad choice in expressing that frustration, own it. Apologize. Make sure they know you love them. Talk about how them not listening to you is very frustrating, that they need to listen better, but that you are sorry for handling it like The Hulk.
You are modeling how to handle emotion and maintain healthy relationship well. You are showing them how to communicate effectively. You are putting their needs first.
How can that be a failure?
Kids can be wrecked from malnutrition, neglect and abuse. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re not doing any of those things. Chances are, if you’re reading this, your kids love you more than anything and feel really attached. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you love your kids and are truly setting them up for a great future.
Popcorn and hot dogs for supper won’t wreck them. A routine bedtime won’t wreck them. Putting on clean laundry out of a basket instead of a drawer this week won’t wreck them. Expressing emotion in a way that hurts them once in a while, and then genuinely apologizing for it because you have realized their pain, won’t wreck them.
In Finland they give each baby a cardboard box to sleep in. And they have one of the best school systems in the world.
You ate bologna sandwiches and Dunkaroos for lunch every day, and your carseat was literally a plastic bucket. You are fine… mostly.
Think in averages, not moments. Over the past week have they eaten more healthy food than junk? Have you laughed with them more than you’ve yelled? Have you engaged with them more than ignored?
If you need to make a change to balance it more towards the positive, then change it. But again, chances are, if you are reading this you are already averaging toward the positive.
You are a great dad. You are a great mom.
You are teaching them to be human. Empathetic, caring, confident, individual, expressive, relational humans.
You are not teaching them to be perfect. You are teaching them to love.
You are not wrecking your kids.