I lost it and shouted at my kids – but what I did next mattered most
It was last Friday evening, and due to numerous things, I was running late with our usual bath/change-of-bedsheets/reading/then bedtime routine.
The kids we watching The Parent Trap on Disney+ for the millionth time, I had just burned the pizza I had in the oven, there were fights over the remote control and I just tripped over an elaborate car track my little boy had just constructed all over every inch of floor space in our not-very-big kitchen. Then my phone rang and as I was trying to have a five-minute conversation with my best friend, who lives thousands of miles away and who I hadn't spoken to properly in weeks, I heard a crash and upon inspection realised that the kids had somehow, in a battle over the remote control, managed to topple a flower pot and break it – spilling soil and cracked pottery all over the floor which I had just hoovered an hour before.
And so I snapped. And shouted. I turned off the TV, flung the remote down on the table while declaring that there would be no more TV for the rest of the weekend – rest of the month, even, as I angry-cleaned the mess.
My little boy cried and apologised for the flower pot, and even went as far as go looking for his own little wallet, and stood there counting out copper coins with his sister, the two of them promising me that they would buy me a new pot and a flower to put in it.
And then I started crying too – because what the heck was I doing, shouting at them over what had clearly been an accident, and here they were, feeling so upset and wanting to fix things – counting out their money to buy me a new flower pot. And in that very moment, I couldn't care less about the stupid flower pot, suddenly all I wanted to do was to make sure they knew how much I love them and how perfectly OK it is to make a mistake – we all do it.
We sat down in a heap on the hallway floor, with me hugging them and explaining that the flower pot can be replaced – it wasn't even that important. And that I was so sorry I had shouted at them – I shouldn't have. I told them the truth. That I was stressed because it was getting late and because I had burned the pizza and I was tired. But that I was sorry, so sorry, I had shouted and could they please forgive me.
They nodded, and we hugged some more, and then the rest of the evening was lovely and calm. And as I tucked them into bed a little later I still felt sad over having shouted at them – but also like maybe, hopefully, I had managed to show them that even if you do loose your cool and say things you don't mean, you can fix things and apologise.
A while back, I read the really amazing The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (And Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did) by Philippa Perry. In it, Perry tackles many topics around how to build and maintain a deep and loving relationship with your children, and I really loved the part about repairing after rupture – in other words, how you handle it when you have shouted or said things out of anger. Which we all do – we are only human, after all.
"The relationship with your child can still be treated as what it is – the most precious thing," explains Perry. "It might be quite a robust relationship, but little tears still need repairing."
She goes on to explain that we all make mistakes and allowing our children to see this doesn't make them love us any less or think less of us, rather the opposite.
"Children need to see us being authentic."
In other words, apologising when you have made a mistake is showing them you are not perfect, and it's OK not to be, none of us are. But that we all can correct our mistakes and promise to do better the next time.