Confession: I will probably cry while writing this post.
Confession, The Sequel: Last night, after a perfect storm of frustration, I lashed out (verbally) at my little Bug in anger, and never have I ever wanted to take back two tiny words so badly.
Two screaming kids, one screaming in outrage because she Still. Wasn’t. Asleep. yet, the other screaming out of some deep-seated need to be constantly noisy (obviously feeding the other kid’s wrath), one otherwise-preoccupied husband far removed from the chaos (as in, downstairs and not within earshot), one frazzled mother trying to alternately soothe a fussy baby and get the other clean and ready for bed…eventually it will come to a head, and I just knew that every problem, including world hunger, would be solved if Bug would just please Shut Up!
And so I told him so.
Let me back up. These days, “shut up” is probably spoken between most parents and children more often than “I love you.” But not in our house. We have never before used those words to our children, and after six years of trying, Hubs and I have pretty much deleted it from our vocabulary even between the two of us. As a writer and a reader and a talker, I know the power of words. So after conveniently forgetting the power of words, I let my frustration bubble up and out of my mouth, and, sweet mother Mary, it worked. He fell absolutely silent. It probably took me a full thirty seconds to even notice that I had “used the S-word,” and consequently, half-heartedly apologized.
That’s when I realized that my Bug wasn’t silent out of obedience, but out of full-fledged fragility. I had hurt his feelings, and I had to watch him crumple beneath the weight of two thoughtless words. He was quiet because, quite frankly, he was stunned. Stunned that his mother could speak so harshly and meanly, and all because of some sound effects to the imaginary war he was fighting in his playful mind.
It’s one thing to see your child get hurt. But it’s a whole new ball game to know you were the one who delivered the blow.
I spent an hour last night, curled up beside him, trying to undo the few seconds it took to break his heart. When he looked at me, with tears in his eyes and a hand on his chest, and said, “You hurt my heart,” I literally would have cut my own out and given it to him, if he had but asked me. It took an hour of hugs, and kisses, and prayer, and, most importantly, words…words reassuring my love, words communicating my earnest regret, words requesting his forgiveness…whew. Safe to say, it was a hard, hard lesson to relearn.
And even after speaking all those new words, as if they were mortar to the cracks I caused, I knew he was still hurt. Despite his active forgiveness, despite his promise that he knew I loved him and that he was no longer angry with me, I knew my Bug was still nursing a throbbing heart.
But then he crawled in the bed with us early this morning and whispered again, “Mom, I forgive you,” and I wanted to open up my chest and put a piece of him inside me, next to my heart, because I want to be just like him.
Confession, The Trilogy: I now need a box of Kleenex.