Hugs.Last week I had the worst day in my life as a parent. It started out with the usual irritations: wake-up call at 5:30, incessant whining, refusal to use good manners, complaining, picky eating. The three-year-old bullied the baby, took away his toys, and tried to ride him like a horse. My nerves were already on edge when we went to do some errands. At the paint store, my son kept running away, had a tantrum when we left, and screamed "No!" when I told him to say goodbye to a friend. As I prepared lunch, the kids had a fleeting moment of happiness while they drummed on the new paint cans with stir sticks.
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I should have known better than to let them near the paint cans. Before I knew it, an entire gallon of deep, dark orange paint got knocked over and started oozing all over the floor of the entrance. The baby sat in the middle, joyously mucking with his hands. My other son dabbed his fingers in it and rubbed the paint on his face and new shirt. Orange paint ruined my mother's antique chaise lounge, stained the toe of my running shoe, and destroyed my favourite trench coat. I fell onto my knees and scooped handfuls of expensive paint back into the can.
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After a lot of elbow grease, a roll of paper towels, and numerous wet cloths, I managed to clean up all the paint. The black-and-white tiles will always have a slightly orange-y hue, but only if you look closely. Fortunately the paint is still usable. The chaise lounge was on its way to the thrift store anyways and my coat can retire after five years of use.
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What I can't fix, though, is how I lost my temper at my kids. I yelled at them. I told them to shut up. I broke down and cried. I ranted loudly. In retrospect, I cringe to think what passersby must have heard coming from the house during those minutes. The guilt came later. I had let them drum on the cans. It wasn't my baby's fault that the lid wasn't on securely. I felt terrible for being so reactive, so angry, and probably very scary from their little perspectives.
When I wrote about this on my own blog, a reader offered a helpful comment: "I have had many of those days. We can't take the words back, but I use those moments to teach them that even Mommy says sorry sometimes." She's right. All of us parents have days when we utterly fail at being good parents. We all screw up and handle situations poorly. That's part of the journey. The important thing is to say sorry to our kids and to keep it in mind the next time round. In retrospect, that paint spill will become a notorious memory in the history of our family, and one that hopefully has made me a better mother as a result.