A few months ago, my children and I had a particularly rough morning at home. Most parents can relate to this scenario. My trusted alarm clock decided to take a weekday vacation, so I woke up an hour late. My seven-year-old twins were in extremely cranky moods when they rolled out of bed, and decided that obstinance was going to be the word of the day. In addition, my dog had found my expensive, custom-made dental guard which must have fallen out of my mouth during the middle of the night. It had quickly become her favorite chew toy, and was unrecognizable when I finally discovered it under my bed. When I reached the kitchen for breakfast, hair still wet, and mismatched shoes on my feet, I found that we were out of coffee and milk. My kids quickly complained that they were "starving to death," and wished we had more to eat in our house than dry cereal and bananas. To top it off, my husband was out of town, so I was flying solo as a single parent, and my frustration meter had surpassed normal limits. After my five-minute lecture (more rant-like, I'll admit), and a very silent ride to school, I dropped my children off with a goodbye that sounded more heartless than heartfelt: "I hope you'll have a much better day than our morning was at home." It was not until I made it to my office, kids no longer in tow, that the pangs of parental guilt arrived.
Hours passed, and that afternoon, my son ran up to me with excitement in his eyes, ready to tell me all about the wonderful trip to the museum he visited with classmates. My morning misery was now behind me, so I gave him my full attention, interested in hearing about the Lego creations he had viewed and the fun he had with his friends. He then leaned in closely and told me he wanted to give me something special. "I know you were upset with us this morning, so I wanted to spend all of my souvenir money on something and give it to you as my sorry present." Inside a white, crumpled paper bag, I found a blue, plastic, gel bracelet. "I spent my last three dollars on it because I knew you'd like it," he said. I paused for a moment, looked into his apologetic eyes, and said, "I don't just like it, sweetie. I LOVE it. Thank you for thinking of me. I am so sorry I was grumpy this morning. You didn't have to buy me a sorry gift, but I'm going to wear this every day to remind me how much proud I am to have such a caring and thoughtful son."
That day, just one tiny snapshot in my journey as a parent, taught me more about unconditional love, giving, patience and understanding than any book or workshop ever could. My son's desire to earn forgiveness for such a minor event made me realize how delicate our children's hearts are. They are watching us and listening closely at all times. The subtle (and not-so-subtle) messages we send them through our verbal and non-verbal actions are powerful. Through our interactions with them, we send them messages and truths about relationships and emotions. Granted, I was unable to provide my children with the best model of parenting that morning. I knew, however, what the research said. Parents who listen to their children with interest, attention and patience set the stage for positive communication skills in the future. I became so caught up in the day-to-day routines of parenting, that I missed an important teachable moment.
And now, three months later, I am still wearing my lovely blue bangle. It usually doesn't quite match with my work outfits, and the sparkly gel can appear somewhat out-of-place when I have to dress for more formal engagements. Those are small matters, in my humble opinion. I wear my blue bangle like the most precious diamond tennis bracelet, and rarely remove it. If I am asked, I always enjoy telling the story behind my odd piece of cheap jewelry. It remains on my wrist as a reminder of my most important role as a loving, attentive, parent. I will continue to have days that start off on the wrong foot, with uncooperative kids, and oodles of distractions and frustrations. Hopefully, I can use my blue bangle to ground me, and refocus my energies on the most essential parts of life. After all, "the greatest audience children can have is an adult who is important to them and interested." May we all be that audience.