The Texture Of Things

An Afterward for an Afterward

January 11th, 2008

I have to follow up on this post.

You know that day when I lost my shit with the tot and managed to give us both a time out before I lost it more? Yeah. I totally missed the point that day. What’s worse is that I didn’t realize it until three days later when I was telling the story to a coworker over lunch.

What happened was the tot got a hold of my pen and started writing on some papers I had been grading while I was taking a break. That is still an infraction in this house. Where I missed the point is that the tot was trying to help me, trying to do what Mommy does, trying to be big.

I figured this out in the retelling to my coworker when I described what the tot does when she draws on the papers. She makes tiny marks in the right margin that look like tiny circles and spirals. She scribbles long horizontal wavy lines along the bottom margin. She is, in effect, mimicking the comments I write on the essays.

There is no win here, but I did what I could, and I hope it’s enough. I got her a clipboard of her own and set aside some of my pens that she can use. I found essay rough drafts that some students didn’t want back. I sat her down and apologized for losing my shit (that’s a paraphrase), and I asked her if she would like to help me grade some papers. Her eyes lit up and she said yes and she sat at the table and scribbled on the essays I gave her and she seemed happy.

This is a new mommy-daughter thing we do now, grading papers together, and an important result is that she now asks if she can “grade” something before she draws on it. Not always, but most of the time, and that is lovely.

But the long term damage is done, I think. What will she remember? My sincere apology that came, for her, out of nowhere? Or the feeling of helping and doing something new and fun turning into the terror and heartbreak of Mommy shouting, scolding, and so mad she can’t talk to you?

I know which one I’d remember.

I can’t change that now, of course, and it won’t be the last time I fail to judge the scene correctly and act accordingly, but it still sucks.


  1. Thornton says

    Don’t beat yourself up so badly! First of all, I don’t think any “damage” has been done here. Second, I think your steps to mitigate the problem were perfectly appropriate. Some other lessons she will likely take away from this include:

    1) Even if Mommy is mad at me now, she won’t be later.
    2) Mommy is sweet because she tells me how much she loves me for no reason.
    3) Mommy doesn’t always understand what I’m doing. She’s kinda dumb sometimes.

    Having someone misinterpret your intentions is a fact of life. By learning how to cope with it in an environment that’s as loving and attentive as yours, the tot is already way ahead of the game.

    January 11th, 2008 | #

  2. admin says

    Thanks, Rico Suave. You’re not such an ass hole after all. 😉

    January 11th, 2008 | #

  3. Andrea says

    Thornton is right–you have not done any damage by one outburst. Kids are resilient and it’s good to learn that parents aren’t perfect. You apologized and you fixed it and that is what will determine your relationship.

    It is sweet that shew ants to be like her mommy, and good for you for figuring that out and making it happen.

    January 11th, 2008 | #

  4. coffeypot says

    I don’t think you have done any damage, either. In fact, I think it is good to shout at a kid. It’s okay for them to hear it. Not all the time, and not with verbal abuse, but letting them know you are VERY upset. Don’t apply adult feelings and meanings to the way littl kids think. Mostly, it rolls off their back like water on a duck. They know they are loved, and they know you are trying to help them.

    January 11th, 2008 | #

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