“I’m not a perfect person, you know,” my 8-year-old managed to say between heaving sobs as we walked out the front door to wait for the school bus at the end of the driveway.
It squelched my anger in the moment. He had pushed it really far that morning in finding everything else to do on the planet besides getting ready for school as he had been repeatedly asked. My husband rarely has to intervene, but I had to enlist his help and Dad’s booming voice really got his attention and he got ready for school in a hurry.
I told him that I really need him to do his job in the morning because I have a toddler to take care of while he gets himself ready for school, and that it’s stressful and zero help to me when he pushes the clock to the last second to catch the school bus.
We could see the bus coming down the road from about a half mile away and he was still really upset, and I knew I couldn’t let him leave for school this way. Not just for him, but also for my mama’s heart that would surely take longer to heal throughout the course of the day.
I was short on time and I heard the bus driver pressing the brakes and moving ahead at the few stops just before our house, so I asked The Man Upstairs for quick healing words for both of us.
In a shaky voice, I managed to say:
“I need you to do your job in the morning and you didn’t do it, so I’m angry. But I love you no matter what. And Daddy loves you no matter what. That never changes no matter how much trouble you’re in. We did not have a good morning, but we can all still go on and have a good day. And we will all try again tomorrow.”
I gave him a big hug and I felt him relax; he really seemed relieved. I felt the tension leave his body and he stopped crying. The bus started making its way to our driveway so I smoothed out his hair and gave him an understanding smile. He smiled back and I checked that his backpack was zipped all the way in the back.
The bus stopped at our house and the driver opened the door.
“Bye mom! See you after school!” he said as he ran up the steps to sit with his friends. I waved goodbye as the bus drove away and I knew it was going to be okay.
Any time is a good time to tell your kids you love them, but for me, I’ve found the best time with a significant impact is when they have done something wrong.
As adults, we know we love them unconditionally and that conflicts will pass, but kids often take things at face value and may need a little “love booster shot” after a punishment, or in the heat of the moment, if we are able. It sends unconditional love into their little hearts.
Kids need to be held accountable for their actions and punishments should stand, but I also think showing compassion in the heat of the moment is a wonderful example to try and give them. Those words were just as healing for me when I knew he understood that he did wrong, but knew he was loved.
I also talked to him about this in a separate instance in terms of his little brother.
Having a little brother or sister can be hard when you’re older and you’re trying to build something and they knock it down, or they take toys because they haven’t yet learned how to share. Even though he may get angry with his little brother for doing those things, he never stops loving him. That was a scenario he could definitely understand.
He lost his cherished electronic privileges for the evening on that day and he was okay with it. I think we were all just happy to get through that morning.
He was exactly right that morning when he said he wasn’t a perfect person. We aren’t perfect parents either. And we all learn as we go, together. No matter what.