Why I Make It A Point To Apologize To My Kids When I Screw Up

by Katie Cloyd
Originally Published: 
I'm Not A Perfect Mom, But I'm A Mom Who Apologizes
Scary Mommy and August de Richelieu/Pexels

I know I can’t be a perfect mom, but I can be a mom who apologizes. This week I called my kid a brat. I have never called him a name before, but he was trying my patience, and it just flew out of my mouth.

Here’s the story: I walked into my bedroom to find that he had pulled all of the pillows off my bed to make a big pile on the floor that he could jump into. I’ve asked him not to do it about five million times.

I have a lot of good reasons for this rule. First of all, I don’t want my bed pillows on the floor. I don’t want little kid feet on my bed pillows, and I sure don’t want little kid butts on my pillows. I just want to sleep on clean pillows that have remained on my bed where pillows belong, and that’s a reasonable request. He has literally ten pillows in his own bedroom that he could use for this activity, so he can still jump off a bed to his heart’s content — just not my bed and not in my room.

He knows all of this. I’m not a “because I said so” mom. He always has the freedom to ask why any time I tell him he can’t do something, and I’ve explained my reasons every time I’ve told him to knock it off.

Right now, when I’m calm and my kids are not driving me bananas, I know that this pile of pillows thing is not the end of the world. I realize that he’s just being a kid. His impulse control sucks because his brain is still working on developing that skill. I do know that.

I’ve never lost my temper about it before. But when I walked into my room and saw the pillows everywhere for the seven gazillionth time, it just triggered a response in me that I didn’t expect. We are home and together all the time since COVID-19 hit, and I admit I am not at my best.

Exasperated, I exclaimed, “I’ve asked you not to do this a million times! You know it makes me upset! You’re such a brat!”

I immediately regretted it. I am sick to my stomach even typing it. In my seven years as a mom, I have never called my child a name. Never.

Until now.

Sadly, I can’t undo that moment. I can’t erase that memory from my child’s mind. Sure, the name itself could have been worse, but the fact is, name-calling is never constructive, we don’t choose to allow that in our home, and calling him a name was my failure.

I immediately stopped in my tracks and half apologized. I mumbled something about how I was wrong to call him names.

He didn’t really seem to notice, to be honest. He picked up the pillows and went back to whatever else he was doing without really acknowledging the conversation.

I tried to go back to whatever I was doing, too, but I couldn’t let it go. I knew I owed him a real apology, and I wanted to make sure he got the message loud and clear.

So, I went and got him. We sat on my bed together, and I said, “I am sorry I called you a brat a few minutes ago. I chose to call you a name, and that was the wrong thing. You are not a brat. You are a good boy, and you try hard to do the right thing. Taking my pillows off my bed for the millionth time is not the right thing because you know you’re not supposed to do that. But even when you do something that is annoying or against the rules, it doesn’t change who you are. You are not a brat. You are still good, and I shouldn’t have called you names. I apologize.”

He said, “I forgive you.” I gave him a big hug, he smiled devilishly and with a sparkle in his eye, he said, “Calling me names was kind of bratty, huh, Mom?”

I laughed and agreed that yes, name-calling is pretty bratty.

We laid the incident to rest. It still hurts my heart to think about it, but I think talking it out helped. Apologizing isn’t a magic mistake eraser, but modeling humility and kindness is a good practice, even if I can’t undo my poor behavior.

I know that calling my kid a brat one time when he is seven years old is probably not going to ruin his life. I don’t think my moment of frustration is going to fracture our relationship beyond repair.

Doing the same annoying thing over and over when I’ve asked him not to is pretty bratty, TBH. He needs to take responsibility for his actions, too. That’s why he had to pick the pillows back up and remake my bed himself. It’s why he hasn’t been allowed to play in my room since. If he can’t respect my things, then he can watch Team Umizoomi with his little brother in the living room. Sorry about your bad luck, dude, but you’re going to spend a few days feeling the mild inconvenience of not having a place to escape from toddler television. Maybe then you’ll remember to follow my rules for my belongings.

But even if my kid has done something legitimately annoying, he deserves to be treated like a human being. I wouldn’t call anyone else in my life names just because I’m angry, and he shouldn’t be the exception. He isn’t my property. He’s a whole person, and I am teaching him how he deserves to be treated. If I want him to recognize disrespect, I can’t pretend I am incapable of it. I have an obligation to call out my own shit, and tell my kids that I’m sorry when I act like a jerk.

Unfortunately, I can’t be a perfect mom, but I can be a mom who apologizes.

I know I will make a zillion more crappy choices while raising these kids, but I will make sure I apologize every time I realize I screwed up. Every single time, even when it pains my ego to have to do it. I’ll do it immediately, even if I’m still mad.

Inevitably, my kids will remember the times that I fell pitifully short of being an ideal parent. I hope that they will also remember that when I sucked, I owned it.

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