Let’s establish the
facts first. Yes, my daughter did tell me I’m the worst mother ever. She’s
5. She can be sassy, but she's a sweet kid overall. And no, I didn’t do anything about it. At
least not right then and there. But if there’s one thing my kids know about me,
and you should too, it’s that I may not react in the moment, but I always do eventually. Sometimes when my kiddo least expects it, I
bring down the hammer. And in this case, bringing down the hammer was something
much worse and much more effective than yelling at my kid or embarrassing her
in public could do.
My family joined another
family at a beachside restaurant one Sunday afternoon. The kids played at the beach for hours before
we all sat down together to have lunch. With any group of kids there are all
sorts of dynamics to be expected. And so as my daughter and her buddy seated to
her right were distracted from eating lunch by a game they had started, I asked
her to take some time to eat lunch. I knew my kid is prone to hangry meltdowns
and I wanted to avoid it.
Too late. My kiddo was already there and lashed at
me. “You are the worst mother ever!” she
said. She said it with such conviction
it was almost funny. Except it wasn’t funny, and even a 5-year-old’s words
can sting. I was hurt and embarrassed, but I didn’t let on.
The table grew silent
with just an audible, “Woah!” coming from everyone’s mouths. All eyes were on me. What would I do? I knew
my daughter’s eyes were on me, too. She wondered what would I do? She was pushing
the boundaries. She was trying to get my attention.
I always try to remember I’m the
mom, and it’s my job to act better than my children.
“Can someone pass the
ketchup?” was all I said. Everyone else at the table sat stunned. The other mom
in the group even said, “Aren’t you going to do anything? I’d smack my kids if
they spoke to me like that.” I smiled at her and said, “Just wait.” Because that’s
what I was doing, I was waiting.
A few minutes later, my
daughter asked me to take her to the bathroom. She had probably forgotten her
unkind words. Kids have short-term memory loss. They forget the mean things
they say as soon as they say them. Sadly, moms don’t. So as my little one sat on the toilet doing
her business, totally captive, I crouched down and got down to business.
Eye to eye, I said to
her, “I just want you to know that I have never been spoken to so unkindly in
my life. Not by anyone, ever. You hurt
me very badly. Your words are very powerful.”
I stood up and waited for her to finish. But she was stuck stewing in
the one thing that every kid hates to feel: guilt.
She instantly began to
cry. And as much as I wanted to comfort her, I wanted her to feel the ramifications
of her words. A few minutes later she
said, “I’m so sorry, Mommy. I didn’t mean it.”
For the rest of the day, she was delightful
and lovely just like she usually is. And
she still remembers that day and knows that she crossed a line, a line from
which it’s hard to recover.
As a mom, it’s sometime
hard not to react in the moment especially when we’re on the tail end of our
kid’s bad moods and emotional outbursts. But I always try to remember I’m the
mom, and it’s my job to act better than my children. Screaming at them never helps
and sometimes reacting right then and there isn’t that effective.
So the next time you see
a mom not reacting to her children’s bad behavior, don’t assume she’s a wuss
mom or a pushover. She’s probably just waiting until her kid needs to go to the
bathroom. That’s when she’ll lay down the hammer.