It’s a sultry July afternoon, and in a spontaneous moment of inspiration, I decide to squeeze in a trip to the bike path before naptime. Bekah’s five, and she no longer naps. She’s been on a quest to learn to ride her little pink bike with rattling training wheels. Caleb’s almost two, and he’s the one who needs the nap in approximately 27 minutes. I strap her helmet over her pigtails and plop Caleb in the stroller. If we move at a decent pace, we can conquer close to two miles in our allotted time frame.
The expedition starts out at a decent pace; however, about 300 hundred yards into the journey, Bekah’s tire meets the formidable obstacle of a fallen acorn. The slight bump is startling, and the tears come. “I can’t do this!” she shouts, her enthusiasm waning.
“Sure you can, sweetie. Just keep going slow and steady.”
I’m now pushing the stroller with my left hand and bending to hold onto her bike handlebar with my right hand. An elderly couple saunters past. I smile politely and pretend we’re having fun.
The minute I let go of the handle, Bekah’s in tears again.
“Come on, babe! If you make it around the loop I’ll give you a treat at the car!” I’m getting desperate now.
“I can’t! I just can’t!” She’s in full-blown meltdown mode now.
Despite the excitement, Caleb nods off. I tickle his leg, “Stay awake, buddy.” (He doesn’t transfer from stroller to car or car to crib. A 20 nap will ruin the next seven hours of our lives.)
After three more attempts at encouraging my precious daughter, I lose it. “You get on that bike and pedal your way around this bike trail, or there will be serious consequences!” I’m not yelling, but I’m close to it, and the tone of my voice attests to my frustration.
Looking back, it was a low moment as a mom. I aim to be diplomatic, loving, and gentle. Completely losing it because my child was fearful on her bicycle was unwarranted. Little Bekah sobbed the whole way around the bike path that afternoon. By the time we were packed into the car, her sobs were more of a quiet whimper, and I wanted to whimper with her. What should have been a fun, child-centered activity was ruined by my explosion.
We managed to keep Caleb awake until he reached his crib, and I held my daughter on the couch and reconciled with her while he slept.
Anyone who has spent more than five hours with a child has probably at least experienced a patience-testing moment. As parents, most of us have lost our tempers with our children. Here are three things to say to your child after an explosion:
I’m so sorry.
Modeling a heart-felt apology is one of the most important lessons any parent can pass on to a child. When a child sees sincere remorse in a parent’s eyes, he learns what it looks like to truly seek forgiveness. Letting our kids see that we make mistakes too is important in guiding them to become honest, caring, empathetic adults. Everyone blows it sometimes. The best we can do is sincerely apologize.
Here is what I love about you . . .
I blew up on Bekah because I was frustrated with her pace and her fear on her bike. When we walked away from the bike path, she felt less-than, ashamed, and she believed she didn’t measure up. Our explosions often come on the heels of our children’s mistakes and shortcomings. For every explosion, it’s important to deliberately affirm and encourage our children. I looked straight into Bekah’s big blue eyes and said, “I got frustrated because I was trying to keep Caleb awake, and our bike path adventure was taking longer than I had planned. I’m so sorry. It wasn’t your fault. You’re doing a great job on your bike. You’re also so great at helping me care for Caleb, showing compassion, and being a loving daughter.”
Let’s not wallow.
While part of me felt like wallowing on the couch for an hour with a bag of chips, we need to teach our children not to get stuck in a pit of despair over every mistake. Once reconciliation has taken place, it’s time to move on. Bekah and I got out our favorite coloring book and worked on coloring a page together. We talked about an upcoming trip to the zoo and all the reasons we love summer.
Most likely, there will come a time when you blow it big time. Extend grace to yourself and then take responsibility for it. We’re not messing our kids up by being human—we’re modeling what it looks like to walk in sincerity, love, and compassion.