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Those Times We Need to Tell Our Kids We're Sorry

Photograph by Twenty20

“But that hurt my feelings, Mama.”

I looked at my bright-eyed daughter and smirked. My goodness, it’s true what they say when it comes to raising these kids. If you blink, they will grow up right before your eyes.

It sounds incredibly cliché, but it was at this moment that I realized my baby was an actual person. With real feelings.

You think you’re prepared for this motherhood thing until your kid, at 3 years old, can verbally tell you that you hurt her feelings. What am I supposed to do with that? I mean, how does she even know what those words mean?

Seriously? Kids have emotions and feelings THIS young? I’m kidding. But only a little bit because when you were raised in a household where you were told to stop crying the second a tear formed in your eyes, being fluffy and talking about feelings with a child so young is, well, different.

“I don’t like when you do that.”

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The THAT she’s referring to is the tickling of her belly button. What used to make her giggle uncontrollably is now something she doesn’t like.

Really, kid? Because the other day you were a ball of laughter over this and now you don’t like it?

I don’t expect her to get it or to understand and empathize with Mama. But I do want her to see my vulnerability.

But it doesn’t have to make sense. That’s the thing about feelings. People don’t have to understand them to respect them. And so, in moments like this, I apologize to her. I get down to her level, I ask her for a hug, I let my daughter know that I’m sorry for doing something that she didn’t like.

It really is that simple.

In a world that makes women feel insignificant if we do or don’t look a certain way, I need my daughter to be strong. I need her to know that her voice not only matters but should be respected. And I start with sending her the message that I’m OK with telling her I’m sorry.

And I don't just apologize when she makes me stop and think. I also do it when I NEED to apologize to my kid. Sometimes, I’ve been so frustrated with her that, instead of getting my feelings and emotions together, I raised my voice at her. Instead of walking away and taking a deep breath, I was snarky and harsher than I should have been to her. I don’t expect her to get it or to understand and empathize with Mama. But I do want her to see my vulnerability. I want her to know that, yes, I make mistakes and that I’m woman enough—and person enough—to apologize.

Finding the courage to be this open and honest with my children is so important to me.

While I’m one of those stickler parents who likes to create a very clear line between mom and friend, I find it so incredibly hard to be vulnerable enough to open up to my daughter this way. I can count the times on my hand when I heard my mother apologize to me. There were times I felt like she should have said something, but I never got apologies.

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Finding the courage to be this open and honest with my children is so important to me. And, hey, I’m just glad I can verbalize “I’m sorry” now—before it’s too late. I’ve got a fabulous relationship with my mother now but, man, those angsty teenage years could have been less tumultuous if Mama would have said, “Hey, kid. I’m sorry I flipped out on you for not cleaning the stove correctly.”

Parenting is so damn hard, but I’m determined to get this part right.

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