The baby started spitting up, then slung his head in the other direction, also slinging spit up all over his shirt. Then he spit up again, the slung his head back the other way again, adding more spit up to the mess. As it dripped down my leg and I said, "Oh great," I heard a giggle behind me. No, not a giggle. A taunting laugh. A "Haha, that's what you get." My blood started to boil. I got up to change the baby, and myself, and as I walked past my still smirking 8-year-old, I raised my leg to tap his hip and get his attention, signaling that what he was doing was not appreciated. I was going to give him the stank eye.
Instead, I missed his hip and kicked him right in the gut. Immediately he grabbed his belly and said ow, and I knew I'd messed up. I apologized but was still really angry. I told him the laughing was disrespectful and not appreciated. He told me he was laughing at the creature he was fighting in Prodigy, his math game, not me. I felt sick. How could I have jumped to the wrong conclusion so quickly? How could I think the worst of this sweet (and yes, mischievous) boy. My anxiety was still peaked though, and honestly I didn't know if I believed him. I didn't want to believe, because that would mean that I was wrong, and that I'd REALLY messed up.
As I took the baby to the room to change him, I started to spiral. I felt the mom shame start to swallow me and I knew I had to stop it in it's tracks before it consumed me. I cleaned the baby up quickly, brought him to his dad and told him I needed a minute. He tried to hug me and I bristled. I didn't need a hug. I didn't need sympathy. I needed a minute alone. As I went back into the bedroom and closed the bedroom, I felt the white hot tears sting my eyes. I was mortified, and even more so because my husband had witnessed my unfair treatment of our son. All I kept seeing was my son's hurt little face, the surprise that mom just kicked me for no reason. I felt like puking.
In all honesty, I didn't even want to write this today. I didn't want to share my mom screw up with anyone. But I know I'm not the only mom who's ever screwed up. It certainly not the first time I've ever screwed up, and I'm sure it won't be the last. And I wished I'd seen someone share this ugliness so that I felt less alone. So I'm sharing with you, so that the next time you do screw up with your kids, you will hopefully feel less alone.
I knew I needed to make it right, but how? I didn't want him to see me crying. I didn't want him to see how embarrassed I was. But something inside me kept pushing me to invite him in. Something kept telling me that this was a great teaching moment for him, even as crappy as it made me feel. So I obeyed. I got up, opened the door, and called him to come in with me. We closed the door and sat together on the bed. I apologized and told him how sorry I was. I told him that I didn't mean to hurt him, just get his attention, and that it was still no excuse. I should've used my words. I should've asked him if he was laughing at me. I should've assumed and expected better from him. I asked for forgiveness, and I forgave myself too.
That's the key to disrupting the shame spiral. Recognizing that you are human, that you are expected to be good but not perfect, and giving yourself grace when you mess up. Asking for forgiveness, and forgiving yourself regardless of whether someone else forgives you. Teaching your kids to forgive others and to forgive themselves. This moment was incredibly painful for me, and for him too I imagine. But by taking action quickly, we created purpose from it too. And we are both better off because of it.
If you are looking for other ways to disrupt the shame spiral, which is usually a product of anxiety, grab my Grounding Guide. Print it out and keep it close. Give yourself grace and kindness. You are good enough. You are enough.
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