Erin Stewart: When our kids let us down (and why it’s not their fault)

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Erin Stewart shares about the moment she realized she was putting her parenting idols above her children.

I growled at my daughter this week.

Not yelled. Not scolded. Growled.

I had felt myself becoming increasingly frustrated throughout the week. The house was a mess. No one seemed to be pitching in to help. And for all my checklists and nagging, we couldn’t ever get everything done by bedtime or be on time for school in the morning.

So, when my daughter told me she wanted to change her outfit when we were already late for school and she should have figured this out the day before but she waited until the last second, I growled. It was kind of a half-yell, half-guttural/animalistic response that surprised myself as much as it did her. She stared at me with wide eyes and then scurried away. I stopped buckling the baby into the car, sat on the edge of my minivan and cried.

All morning I felt terrible. So terrible that I went to have lunch with her at school because I couldn’t wait until the end of the day to apologize. I even did a real apology, one that didn’t end with “but you really should have XYZ.” I just said I was sorry. I was wrong. I felt awful.

She, of course, told me it was OK because kids are awesome and resilient. But deep down, I knew my response had disturbed her, maybe even made her feel a little less safe with me. A little less sure.

I’ve been trying to retrace my steps that built up to this moment. Why was I so mad? Why did I snap? What I realized was that I was inflicting my standards on my children. All week, my frustration was building because I expected my children to behave how I needed them to behave. And when they failed — because they’re kids — I got mad. They let me down.

When I stood there growl-yelling at my daughter, I let her down right back. I let her down because I fell into a trap that I had just…

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