It was the kind of morning when a mom can feel henpecked to death before she takes her first sip of coffee. I’d worked late in the emergency room the night before and fatigue made a cat toy out of my mind. All I wanted in life was to sit quietly for a minute with a cup of coffee and wake up.
My kids didn’t seem to notice.
The six-year old came downstairs in a funk complaining that daddy had the audacity to put Sun Chips in his lunch when daddy knows he doesn’t like Sun Chips. He then demanded to know what happened to the snow boots we’d ordered for him. I calmly explained that they hadn’t been delivered yet and told him he could wear the hand-me-downs from his big sister or his tennis shoes to school. Sun Chips and pink snow boots proved too egregious to handle at 6:30 AM and he began wailing in protest.
The nine-year old stumbled into the room mad as hops that her howling brother had woken her up. One look at her knotty, disheveled hair told me all I needed to know about how the rest of my morning would go. She acts like I am trying to murder her every time I run a brush through her tangled mane. And she covered her head with her arms and stomped her foot when I told her she had to brush it before school.
Just then, the middle schooler wandered in, hefted his science book onto the table and slunk into the chair, mumbling he needed help with some of the questions due that day for his co-op class. “Some of the questions” turned out to be pretty much all twenty of them. And when I asked why he didn’t ask daddy for help while I was at work the day before, he merely shrugged his shoulders and gave me an expectant stare.
I glanced at the clock. It was only 6:45 AM.
I drained my coffee and got busy. I tossed my daughter a brush and told her she had exactly ten minutes to tame that hair or I would do it for her. (Her worst nightmare.) I shooed the wailing six-year old upstairs to put on his school uniform all the while explaining that pink boots would not turn him into a girl and for the love of all things holy it wasn’t even snowing so his tennies would work just fine.
I turned around and skimmed over the science assignment, figuring it would be a cinch to explain – seeing as how I am a licensed science teacher and all. But this particular chapter involved Greek translation of words that affect interpretation of Bible passages. I was stumped and annoyed that his book does such a thorough job of explaining all the different perspectives on how we date artifacts. I set him to work on a different question while I started breakfast.
As I stirred scrambled eggs to feed this brood, I mulled over how to best explain the connection his science book was trying to make. My teenage daughter walked into the kitchen bright eyed, bushy tailed and totally oblivious to the chaos around her. She launched into a cheerful narrative about some recipe she found on Pinterest and I lost my mind. My hand went up and I snapped at her that I didn’t have time to listen to her prattle on about a recipe and couldn’t she see I was busy?
Her eyes lost their sparkle and she quietly sat down at the table. Clearly hurt.
In that moment, as in so many before as a mom, I recognized that I had blown it. And I needed to apologize.
I set the spoon down and wiped my hands as I approached my daughter. I knelt down and admitted I was just having a bad morning, which is no excuse to snap at her. I apologized and asked her for forgiveness. She smiled softly and said she understood then gave me a sweet hug.
This type of exchange is not uncommon in our family. Despite our best efforts, there are times when we bark at the kids. But very early on, we determined that our home would be a place of reconciliation. Starting when they were just toddlers, we cultivated a habit of apologizing and asking for forgiveness of our children if we snapped at them, overreacted or were unreasonable.
We also urge our children to make sincere, intentional offers of apology to each other and encourage the offended party to forgive. We see the fruit of this practice play out in both our relationships with them as well as their relationships with each other.
We get into disagreements just like any other family. But we are not a family that holds grudges or drags our feet to apologize. My kids are quick to forgive each other and move on. They are quick to forgive their parents and move on. And I am so glad we’ve cultivated this culture of forgiveness in our household.
My kids know my intent is to be the best, most loving and calm mom I can be. But they also know I am human and I will screw up sometimes. When I do fall short, I am not above admitting it and apologizing. And I hope they continue to learn to do the same.
“An apology is a good way to have the last word.”– Unknown