She had been waiting for this all day long. “When daddy comes home, we’re going to make our confetti craft, right mom? “How much longer til daddy gets home because I am so excited to make my confetti craft!” All day long, she talked about it.
Daddy came home. “Can we do our craft now?”
“After dinner, mama.” He answered.
Dinner was over and she immediately ran to her room to get the toilet paper rolls she had been saving. I gathered the supplies we’d need and we both set them up on the table.
“I’m so excited!” She would say. “Me too!” I’d say.
We began to prep, carefully checking the supply list. Within a minute I realized we’d forgotten to buy a tool we didn’t have on hand– a crafting needle. My husband, ever the genius, was all “never fear! I can make one! Out of a nail.” Myself, ever the doubter, scoffed at him. “A crafting needle out of a NAIL? How?” “Don’t you worry about it. I’ll go make one.”
After 18 years of being married to him, one would think I’d stop doubting him. He has a solution for every problem, big and small. (Unless we’re talking about “money problems.” But every other problem, he will fix it. He has tools and he’s not afraid to use them!)
G followed him into the garage, while I sat at the table waiting, with the laptop open, mocking him on twitter.
He returned 5 minutes later with the solution to our problem.
After we had all of the supplies we needed, we started to make the confetti rockets. We were cutting, gluing, measuring all the while talking, being silly and laughing.
It was wonderful, really, the 3 of us, in our crafting bliss, but then I realized we needed tape. Tony went to find a roll of tape, while G and I continued cutting and gluing. He found a brand new roll and brought it to us. “I’ll open it, Daddy.” G said. “Oh, no, baby girl. Daddy will do it. It’ll be too hard for you.”
And that is when all hell broke loose.
He opened the tape, she got upset and started to cry. He didn’t realize what the big deal was, really. “Honey, it would have been to hard for you, that’s why daddy opened it. Come on, let’s finish our craft.”
“But I’m a big girl daddy! I can DO HARD THINGS!”
Not intentionally trying to hurt her, I laughed while looking at Tony. “She’s so independent. She wants to do everything herself. That’s what happens when you doubt her ability to do something.”
She didn’t find it as amusing as we did.
She ran to the sofa, picked up a picture of a unicorn that she has colored for me. She had taken so much time on that picture, being careful to stay in the lines and “choose beautiful colors for mommy.” She held the picture in the air and ripped it in half.
“I wanted to open the tape!” She cried as she ran towards the trash can. She opened it up, threw the picture in the trash and slammed the lid down.
My immediate reaction was to be angry with her. She was acting like a brat. I completely understood why she was upset in the first place. But the resulting Dramatics were over the top.
She walked over to the table and sat down. I frowned at her, because I wasn’t happy with what she had done. She looked up at me and said “are you sad that I tore your picture?” Then she hung her head down in shame. She got very quiet. And then, she broke.
“That was the picture that I made for you, because I love you. I’m sorry I ripped it and threw it away.”
She realized that she had done something that wasn’t very nice. And she was remorseful.
I picked her up and hugged her. “I loved that picture, G. I wish you hadn’t ripped it and thrown it away. But I know you were angry and sometimes we do things we shouldn’t when we’re angry.”
In that moment, I knew exactly what she felt like. I’ve done things I immediately wish I hadn’t when I was angry with a someone that I loved. I’ve said the most hurtful thing I could think of out of spite, I’ve thrown things, I’ve hung up on people.
She apologized, I forgave her. We hugged, she and her daddy hugged and we all took a few deep breaths so we could refocus. We all decided it was best if we put things away and finished the craft tomorrow. It was late, we were tired and even the girl agreed it would be best to go to sleep and come back to finish when we were nice and rested up.
Tony took her into the bathroom to brush her teeth while I began to pick up the mess we had made. I gathered a handful of trash, opened up the trashcan and saw the torn, wrinkled picture. I got all choked up when I saw it there. I remembered her little fingers working for hours to make that for me. I remember how proud she was when she finished it and handed it over to me. “I made this JUST for you, Mommy. And look! I stayed in the lines!” I picked up the pieces out of the trash. I began to put it back together. Then, I carefully taped it together. I smoothed it out as much as I could. By the time I was finished, you could barely tell what had happened earlier.
I couldn’t wait to show her. I put it behind my back and walked into the bathroom where she was still brushing her teeth.
“I have a surprise for you.” I said, in the same way she did when she first gave it to me.
I pulled the picture out and held it up.
Her eyes got THIS BIG. “My picture!” She screamed. “But, how did you fix it?” She asked, slightly bewildered. “I just taped it up in the back, see?” I showed her where I had put the tape.
A smile swept across her face. She ran over and hugged me. “Thank you Mommy. I love you and I promise I’ll never rip it ever again.”
Being a parent is so unpredictable. One minute, you’re happily cutting tissue paper, stringing beads with twine. The next you’re holding your weeping daughter in your arms, knowing what you say or do in that very moment will impact her delicate heart, mind and soul for days if not years to come. You do your best to make the correct choice in your response, take a deep breath and trust that it was the right one. And if it’s not, you own up to it, you say you’re sorry and vow to do better next time.
I think this time, I did the right thing.

37 thoughts on “Pieces

  1. Melody

    That brought tears to my eyes. So many times lately I am realizing how much I make the wrong decision and I hate it. My kids are at ages now that they’ll remember my reactions to things, and I don’t necessarily want them to have the same memories I have of my mom. I need to have more moments when I am proud of how I handled something, and way less where I’m needing to say “I’m sorry.”

  2. Kat

    This was the perfect post for me to read right now.
    I had a major parenting moment here with my almost 18 year old, man, it doesn’t get any easier Y, but you’re right, you just have to do your best, say sorry when you’re wrong, and promise to do better next time.
    Thanks for this, seriously, right post, right time.

  3. Nicole

    Thank you so much for sharing that. It was the sweetest thing. I have tears in my eyes. I felt her pain in your words and was so excited that everything was fixed.
    Thank you.

  4. amber of theambershow.net

    Cool 🙂 I don’t have kids yet, but I’m bookmarking this one. It’s shit like this that I’m scared to deal with, and I think you handled it so beautifully.
    Thank you for telling this story!

  5. Jessica

    Thank you for writing this. My son is going through the, “I don’t like you and will say stuff to make you hurt” phase, and I know sometimes my reactions to his actions are over the top. This has made me stop and think about what I should say to his declaration of not liking me or telling me to go away. It is so hard sometimes though, and I know he’s frustrated because he can’t communicate what he’s feeling (speech delays) and I get impatient and act like a less than stellar parent.

  6. JCK

    You DID do the right thing. And you gave her that space so that she was able to feel her remorse. Lovely. Happy 4th!

  7. Chibi Jeebs

    I think you handled that exceptionally well! (says the girl with no kids *wink*)
    G’s tearing of the picture reminded me of a moment many years ago when my little sister (I think she was about 9?) tore a wedding picture of our parents into teeny, tiny pictures. Unfortunately, there was no remorse on her part. Thank jeebus she’s improved since then! lol

  8. Marcy

    You did it so right.. I can’t even begin to tell you..
    But I must say… even with “Kids”
    25 and 23 yrs old, both on the verge of getting married…It doesn’t get any easier.
    I still say calm, gentle love is the best way to go..
    even in moments that you know you could justifiably lose your *&%$@!.
    And that’s all I’m gonna say about that…
    ; )

  9. Debby

    Y, Thanks for sharing this story. It brought a tear to my eye. You did a great job. Letting her learn the remorse lesson and how to calm down on her own is so much better than trying to make her understand that when you both are angry. My daughter is grown and I miss these kind of “little girl” times together.

  10. Tammie

    Wow, what a wonderful story. Strange how it came full circle. Anger over not opening the very tape that would mend the picture and hearts.

  11. Helen

    I have 5 sons and one daughter, a fiesty girl who has been ready for a fight her whole life, the older she gets ( she is now 20) the more I see how fragile she is and how different things would have been if I hadn’t been so quick to give her the fights she was looking for.
    How clever you are to know how to deal with G’s tantrums, I think you did exactly the right thing.

  12. Kyla

    You definitely did the right thing, and you captured quite a moment here. I think we’ve all experienced some variation of the same.

  13. bethany actually

    I love those moments of parenthood, where I somehow manage to do the right thing and it seems like magic to my kid. Pure grace and joy, those moments. 🙂
    Thank you for sharing this!

  14. Lindsay

    You are such an amazing, talented writer. This is why you’re here, ultimately. Some day, your daughter will love reading this post. Remember that. 🙂

  15. MichelleRenee

    That was beautiful.
    Thank you for writing this, sometimes it’s best to say nothing in those few seconds after a tantrum.
    I forget sometimes.

  16. FireMom

    What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it with us… so the rest of us know what to do when the Dramatics break loose over here.

  17. denise

    Awwww, sooo sweet! I love that story – you can frame the picture she drew and when you get bummed about parenting skillz – you can look at it and know you are awesome!

  18. Vanessa

    My daughter is five and JUST like this. Her dad and I are divorced and it’s his night with her. I know what to hug her so bad I may go sleep with one of her stuffed animals. I shall choose Baby Panda.
    My God, that made me freakin’ cry!

  19. Rhi

    I’m weepy after reading this. My parents divorced when I was an infant and I really wish I had gotten to experience stuff like this.

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