Monday, July 12, 2010

Confession and Absolution, Family Style

As a parent, there are many opportunities--every day, in fact--to make mistakes. These can run the gamut from completely inocuous ("oops, I forgot to pack your lunch for school") to Lifetime-of-Therapy level ("sorry, honey, I forgot mention that we found you as an infant in the woods being raised by wolves and took you in"). Fortunately, most of the blunders fall in the garden-variety "geez, I wish I could take that back" category.  For example, I can't even count the number of times I've heard myself lecturing or reprimanding one of the boys, as though I was an outsider observing the conversation (Parental Out-of-Body Experience, very X-Files) and fervently wished I could just stop talking right now. It's as though I can recognize, from that spot over in the corner where I'm watching, that I'm being too harsh, or too sarcastic, or just beating the subject into the ground unnecessarily. Then I'd like to swallow the words right back up, rewind, take a breath, and start over.

Riley and I had one of those encounters the other day. He was trying to pull the foil cover off an individual-serving cup of applesauce, probably talking at the same time and not paying full attention to the task (this IS Riley, after all.) Anyway, he had to tug really hard, and when the lid finally came free with a jolt, it splashed applesauce all over the floor. Not a big deal, right? "Of course not! It could happen to anyone, we can wipe that right up in 2 seconds!" That's how I SHOULD have handled it. Instead, irritated already from the long morning of refereeing rumbles and squelching brotherly bickering, I snapped at Riley. "Can't you be more careful, you do this all the time, (and here comes the Mother of all Final Insults) you are the worst applesauce-opener in the world!" It sounds ridiculous, and another kid might have laughed it off and broken the tension, but Riley is ultra-sensitive and easily-injured. And even as the sentence was hurtling out of my mouth, I already wanted to snatch it out of the air before it reached his ears and hurt his feelings. But it was too late, as his eyes filled with tears, his lip quivered, and he stomped out of the kitchen, leaving the sad pile of applesauce and his regretful Mom.

This is one of those times that I think "thank goodness for boys"...because after a brief cooling-off period in his room, Riley resumed playing as though nothing had ever happened. I calmly told him he could eat his applesauce when he was ready, and that seemed to be the end of it (except for the guilt still gurgling in my gut, but as a Mom, I'm somewhat used to this by now). However, at the end of the day, Riley came into my room to find me, sat down, gazed into my eyes very seriously and said, "I forgive you for saying I'm the worst applesauce-opener in the world, Mom." Feeling completely awed by his thoughtfulness and generosity, I hugged my not-quite-seven-year old tightly. And as we put this incident behind us, I am grateful for the resilience of kids in general, the non-grudge-holding nature of my own boys, and the universal healing power of forgiveness. (Also the fact that this turned out not to be a Lifetime of Therapy Offense! Whew!)

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