"Mama? You rip my wubby?", he said with tears streaming down his face.
Exasperated I tried to re-explain for the 15th time. Talking too fast, I replied, "Yes, buddy. I did. But I was trying to help you. Look. Look, now you can rub it between your fingers the way you like to. I was trying to help you!"
He screamed at me...again... "No! No mama! You mean and bad! You hurt my wubby, MAMA!!!" Then in his loudest voice he unleashed, "I so very mad at you! LEAVE ME ALONE!!!!!"
I won't lie. I was so angry. "I am going to the living room. Come see me when you are done screaming at me". And I walked out. He was crying and kicking on the bed. He was just so incredibly pissed off and that made two of us. I should have stayed. But my blood was boiling. I was at my end.
So I walked.
I was over the end of the line. I had taken a sharp and sudden turn into Ripping My Hair Out-Ville. These two have been on fire lately. On fire. Fighting, yelling, melting, fighting, destroying and also fighting. They are frustrated and confused. They are learning a new routine and it is up-ending their center of security. My brain knows all of this. They are fighting for normalcy. My training in child development informs me that they need more tools to help them transition smoothly. And they need me calm and steady. But my ego and heart reel when for days I can't seem to go more than 5 minutes without needing to put out a fire. But let's face it, I'm the adult here. They are going through these changes without 38 years of life experience to draw from. I needed to bring back my head. I knew that.
But here's the confession... even though I knew I needed to show compassion and calm to bring us back from the edge... I wasn't. I was still angry. I wasn't breaking out of my "why do they hate me" pity party. And I couldn't be sure that I was going to anytime soon, either. I needed to stop walking aimlessly through the house and get a dang grip. I breathed. In and out. In and out. But there was really no time for it. Because Plum had joined us. The total confusion as to why everyone was freaking the hell out was enough to cause her to spiral down with us. We were in the shit. S.O.S.
We had come to this hysteria because I had ripped the wubby.
There are two wubbys in this house. They are identical grey pillowcases. One is split down the seam. That is the best of the two wubbys according to Mr. Pants. That is the one he wants. The other serves as back up. But as we approached bedtime, I couldn't find The One. It was missing. So, in a desperate attempt to calm the quickly escalating situation, I took the other wubby and split the seam to make it just like the one he wants. I thought it was a great idea. I thought is was more than a great idea. I was pretty sure it was actually a genius-level idea.
Mr. Pants did not. Mr. Pants only saw me ripping and maiming his back-up wubby. And he unleashed Holy Hell on me for it.
My reaction was far from stellar. My reaction to his reaction was basically to be offended by his reaction and well....you know how well that went. So after 30 minutes of total every-single-second chaos, screaming and sweating, I gathered us all up and we went to bed. I hit the lights, closed the curtains, turned on the fans and tucked them in as they both continued to cry. In a desperate attempt to keep our bedtime routine semi-normal, I asked them what their favorite part of the day was. "I NO HAVE A FAVORITE PART!", he yelled at me from inches away. "I NO WANT MY BLESSING TOO! GO AWAY MAMA!!"
My heart fell.
I felt like a failure. And as I nursed Plum to sleep, Pants just stared through me. Then he noticed the tears I was trying to hide. Tears that I could not keep at bay. It sucks when you realize that you failed, even for just a short time. He saw the tears and inched over a bit closer. "Mama, you cry?", he whispered. "Mama, my favorite part was I play da Legos".
Mercy. My four year-old was showing me mercy. Then quietly, so softly with his chin trembling and tears bubbling up he asked me,
"Mama? You rip my wubby?"
A lump rose in my throat. It was almost impossible to speak. I knew what I needed to do. I knew what he needed from me. I needed to see his hurt feelings. I needed to own up to what I had done wrong. I needed to tell him that I was truly sorry.
With Plum asleep between us, I said to him, "I did, baby. And Mama is so sorry that I ripped your wubby. I am really sorry. Mama was wrong." He thought about for a minute. He looked into my eyes. "Is ok, mama. Is ok. You wan lay with me?"
I did. I did want to lay with him. I slipped out from under Plum and walked to the other side of the bed. And lay next to my boy. My sweet boy who had just shown me such mercy and had forgiven me. I whispered into his ear that I loved him as my tears still fell silently onto his hair. He turned his head and looked me right in the eyes. "I wuv you too, mama. I meed you".
Oh baby, I need you too. Thank you for showing me mercy tonight and for trusting me with your heart. Thank you for being my teacher. I promise to remember this lesson.
Sometimes I fuck up. Not because I am trying to be mean. Not because I am trying to be hurtful. I am a great mom but even still, I fuck up. And my adult self says that I should explain and rationalize and qualify and repeat and try to drive home reasons. But none of that will work. None of it. And it shouldn't. Not for a four year-old. Not for a child. My child, it seems, just wanted me to stop and acknowledge his pain and then what he deserved was an apology. And for me to mean it. Not "I'm sorry but.... ". Nope that will. not. do. I needed to stop and see that no matter my reasons, I had hurt my child's feelings. I had hurt him. I didn't get to feel sorry for myself for that.
And when we come to that and we genuinely apologize. Without explanation. Without grandstanding. Without qualifying. Then we cultivate a chance for our child to feel heard. Understood. Believed. Validated. Valued.
And isn't that what we all need?