This morning did not go as planned. Like many mornings where school and work are involved.
For that reason I reprimanded my kids over simple things that should have been addressed, but weren’t as important as I acted like in the moment. My oldest took the brunt of it, as my expectations of her are higher due to her age.
When she stood to her feet as she climbed out of the car to walk into school, I could see in her face that she was dejected. Understandably, as this morning followed closely on the heels of a stern but necessary conversation yesterday about the tidiness, or lack thereof, of their bedrooms. While both cases were warranted I still found myself with my eyes low as she walked in to school, thinking how I should have, and could have, handled it differently. I kept thinking that I should have allowed her to start her day on a more positive note and addressed any concerns I had when we got home this evening. I often stress to my kids that they need to quit being hung up on what is fair and what isn’t. That life isn’t fair. But in this case I wasn’t fair. If anything or anyone should be fair, it should be me.
The specifics of the conversation aren’t important. Neither, honestly, is the context. In retrospect, the only thing I find important is the way I handled it. Incorrectly, to be more specific. I didn’t yell or scream. I didn’t use profanity. I didn’t physically harm anyone. More importantly, I wasn’t compassionate. I wasn’t understanding. I didn’t hold or hug or physically reassure anyone.
Before she walked away I knew I should do something to ease things a bit, so in a quick, underwhelming effort I told her to have I good day, that I love her very much and that it was going to be a good Monday. She choked back tears and said simply, ” I hope so,” as she turned away. Her sullen walk to the door, head down, lips curled into a frown; her walk that said, “I’m in a hurry to get where I’m going but I’d rather be hiding under a blanket in my bed”, hurt me to watch.
Would that I could blame it on the moment. It was the heat of the moment. I was caught up in the moment. The moment was fleeting. Before I’d realized what I said the moment had passed. I wish I could blame it on the moment, but I can’t.
Life is a series of moments.
Nothing more, nothing less. To blame it on the moment would be a fallacy. The moment had nothing to do with it. Sure I was emotional in the moment, but she was too wasn’t she? Were there not the exact same moments in her morning as there were in mine? I’m certain they weren’t as pleasant, but I’m equally certain they were the same. How many of her moments could I have handled better? How many times have I done the same to her younger sister?
I spent my ride to work thinking about it.
I have two daughters. They have messy rooms. They fight with each other. They are sometimes irresponsible.
THEY ARE ONLY EIGHT AND ELEVEN.
They also have, in the last few years lost a grandmother they were very close to as well as two great grandmothers. They have seen their parents separate and eventually divorce. They have been put in the middle of arguments between said parents by one of said parents. They have suffered harsh and extensive criticism, even being subjected to a volatile domestic situation before being removed from it. Their trust has been betrayed. They have fought depression, self doubt, and fickle friendships. They have spent days wondering why they don’t have more friends and why none of their friends can understand or relate to the “grown up problems” they have to face.
THROUGH IT ALL THEY SPEND MOST WAKING MOMENTS WITH A SMILE ON THEIR FACE, ARE LOVING TO ME, EACH OTHER, AND EVERYONE IN GENERAL, STILL ARE TRUSTFUL OF PEOPLE, AND STILL MAKE GOOD GRADES.
What more could a parent ask for?
So here it is, an open apology to my children, who very much deserve it.
Dear Jasmine and Alyssa,
The events of this morning have brought much to light in my own mind. About me and you and us and especially me. I often preach that things aren’t fair and ask, nay, tell you to quit seeking fairness in everything. While I stand behind this as sound advice, I think that you should be able to trust in fairness from me, if nowhere else. Given all you have been through and are going through, perhaps my expectations have been a bit too high. I still expect you to clean your rooms, to follow the rules, and to be kids. What I need to do, is encourage the last one more.
What I want you to expect, is that I will be gentler, more understanding and reassuring. I will go the extra mile and carry more weight so that your load can be lighter. I will remember that though we are a team, we are a team composed of one adult and two kids. I will endeavor to allow you to be kids more often and have “grown up problems” less. I will effort to let my frustrations with myself wash off onto you as little as possible.
I would like for you both to know that I always try my best, some days it just falls short. Though never your fault, there are certain things I really struggle with. The predominant one being that I see myself so much in both of you. While I believe wholeheartedly that I have a lot to offer and teach you, there are ways I don’t want you to be like me as well. When I see these occur, my natural reaction is to try and right the ship immediately – often through attempting to guide you or correct your behavior rather than to actually be an example for you to follow and have the patience to let you do so. I’m not a perfect dad. I have a lot of patience, but once it runs out, it stays out for a little while. I’m working on that.
Just know that I LOVE YOU BOTH VERY MUCH. I only hope as you grow that you continue to be happy, trust people, and that you find a belief in yourselves like I have in you now. I know you both have the ability to be strong, amazing women, each in your own right. You just can’t let the world, or anyone, step on your hopes along the way.
I will always encourage you to have big dreams and chase them, whatever they may be. Life is too short to let your aspirations wither in a corner while you “grow up” and “get a life”.
You two continue to be the wonderful kids you already are. Keep dreaming. Keep growing. Keep trying. I will effort to be a dad who deserves everything you may never know you have given me.
With all my love,
I told her it was going to be a good Monday.
As I sit here typing, choking back tears, I think, ” I hope so.”
Children, I say to you, go forth and be awesome. Don’t let anyone hold you back.
Not even me.
A small hole not mended in time will become a big hole much more difficult to mend.