Open letter to my 4-year-old: I’m sorry for being a hot tempered mother

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Mommy needs to learn to chill. Because at this age, you’re bound to make mistakes and test your limits - even if it means testing mine.

Dear kid,

Mommy’s going to tell you something very important:

I’m sorry.

You’ve been taught and constantly reminded to say that whenever you make a mistake.

But I don’t say it enough to you. It’s always the other way around: me demanding you to apologize for the littlest of things. “Say sorry for spilling your juice!” “Say sorry for leaving your toys all over the floor!” “Say sorry for breaking Mommy's lipstick!"

And now I’m saying it to you: I’m sorry.

Because I am a grumpy mom. A hot tempered one.

I am stern, strict, impatient. I yell, I scold in public, I squeeze your wrist (sometimes firm enough to make you squirm).

I recall one afternoon when my temper got the best of me three times in a span of two hours. We were in a shopping mall and, you being you, you were criss-crossing your legs as you skipped and hopped, playing an imaginary game by yourself. When you tripped and fell, I instantly yelled, “I told you to walk properly or you’ll fall and hurt yourself!” and yanked your hand to pull you up to stand.

Not long after that I gave you another tongue lashing inside a furniture store. You called out to me, “Oh, Mommy! A twirling ballerina in a jewelry box!” before you picked it up and dropped it, breaking the legs and scratching the varnish. After I paid for the damaged item, I howled at you, “I told you not to touch things that aren't yours!” in front of the store employees.

And I snapped once more while we ate dinner at a restaurant. Pinky finger up while drinking from your glass, you were pretending to be a princess, and then, “Oopsie, Mommy. I spilled the water,” you quietly confessed. I knew you expected another scolding, which I didn’t fail to deliver. “I told you to hold your drink with two hands! Now look at the mess you made!” I snarled.

I didn’t care then, too absorbed in making you understand that you made a mistake and shouldn’t make it again - but each time I spoke sharply to you, I saw the brightness in your face dim by a fraction.

We came home that day - I was haggard and cranky, and yet you remained your easygoing and chipper self. “Home sweet home!” you exclaimed, while I groaned, shuffled myself to the bedroom, and fell face first onto the bed.

At that moment, all I wanted was a break from you, from dealing with your little accidents, from having to scold you constantly for your little blunders.

A few minutes later you lay down beside me. You were all smiles and still wanted my company even after the surly ways I berated you. Brightened up by your sunny mood, I couldn’t help but feel thankful for having a kid whose spirit couldn't easily be broken. And I realized then that that the break I needed, really, was a break from myself.

I don’t want that to be that mom - quick-tempered, angry, impatient, yelling all the time. I don’t want my ill behavior to become the norm in your eyes, for you to accept that that’s the way a mommy is. It’s not.

Mommy will now get off her uptight high horse and remind herself (over and over) that you’re just a kid. Only four years old. At this age, you’re bound to make mistakes and you’re meant to test your limits - even if it means testing mine.

How else can you know the difference between what's right and what’s unacceptable? What better way to learn the consequences of your actions if not to allow you to make your blunders and face a few mishaps?

Parents want to protect their children from all types of harm, but sometimes we don’t realize that we could do more harm if we don’t learn to let go and let them find their way.

My over-the-top concern that comes off as impatience and quick temper may come from a good place, but really, Mommy just needs to learn to chill out. Instead of giving a quick reprimand of, “I told you…” the first three words to come out of my mouth should be, “Are you okay?”

But for now, I have three important words to say:

"I am sorry."

And no matter how much I may fly off the handle, remember these even more important three words that I will forever express with my heart, mind, and soul:

“I love you.”

Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore

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