Modeling Good Relationships

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about mommy guilt and the things I have it around. One place in particular is getting frustrated with Cam and showing it. She’s dragging her feet about brushing hair or putting on socks and I just get so frustrated I hurry her along and get short with her. I snap at her or wrestle her into the socks. 

In thinking about these interactions, though, I’ve come to believe that it’s important for Cam to see that this happens. We all have emotions and sometimes we aren’t great about regulating them, even in adulthood. Instead of feeling guilty that it happened- a less than useful emotion in the situation- I need to jump in and do damage control almost immediately. First I apologize, then I explain why I got frustrated, then ask for her help either to finish the task or in the future. Sometimes I explain that it wasn’t really her, it was something else bothering me and I unfairly took it out on her. I also promise to try my best next time not to react that way and, if it was something she was struggling with and I didn’t notice, to check in before getting upset.  

The thing is, no relationship is perfect. Everyone fights- with their spouse, with their friends, with their coworkers. We’re all different people with different needs and ideas and tolerances. The point is not that we are all calm and collected all the time. In fact, the perfectly serene countenance, to me, seems eerily close to the happily-ever-after of fairy tales and the don’t-make-waves standard we like to hold women and girls to. A standard that is both unrealistic and probably unattainable and often held only for girls and women. 

Let’s be clear this is not free license to yell and scream at kids, belittle them with your words, and especially not get physical with them. I think we’re all guilty at one point or another of simply losing our shit and yelling. We shouldn’t, but it does happen. And when it does there is a lot more repair work that needs to be done than when we get mad and curt. 

These frustrations, though, provide us with a teachable moment. We can model for our children how to repair things with someone we care about when we’ve slipped up. I would infinitely prefer Cam knew that she didn’t have to be perfect in every relationship (an ideal that would ultimately lead to her repressing her feelings and emotions and constantly subordinating them to someone else’s), but that she can apologize. I want her to know that disagreeing is normal and that you don’t have to agree to love someone or be friends with them, you just need to be kind and thoughtful when you do disagree. Again this is a standard I most often see being applied to girls and women, and I want her to break away from it. I also want her to know that one small spat or disagreement does not spell the end of a relationship. Modeling that when I’m frustrated is the perfect opportunity to show her what a good relationship looks like. 

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