I believe in the rewind button.
It is one of the most valuable parenting tools I know of in addition to patience and humor. Sometimes the rewind button is a tool to uncover the ridiculousness in our own words. Sometimes the rewind button is a blessing and a tool in which parents can apologize for angry words said in imperfect-parent-moments when stress and pressure cloud our judgment.
One case in point is the time I walked by my boys in our living room and heard them talking about assassins and being assassins in the game they were planning. Without even thinking, and being the mom I am, I immediately said, “There will be no assassins in this house. If you want to be assassins go outside.” As I walked past them and hit my rewind button, even I had to laugh at myself. When I asked the boys if I sounded ridiculous, they agreed.
The rewind button is some good stuff and those particular moments of rewind are funny but I have found the rewind button just as important in the tough moments, even angry moments, when we need to apologize for the no-you-can’ts kind of parenting chatter we use to shut our kids down. The kind of aimless ordering around we get caught up in as we become the keeper of the word ‘no’. And, of course, the moments when our imperfect parenting lands squarely on our kid’s shoulders.
It wasn’t even nine a.m on that Sunday morning when I used my rewind button for the first time. Believe me, sometimes the rewind button stays warm all day in my house. This particular moment happened at breakfast. It was a trivial moment in his life and yet it was important enough for me to to audibly tell my son, “Mom’s hitting the rewind button on this one, my friend.” I then make the sound of an old cassette tape rewinding and tell him to disregard what Mom just said. Sometimes it happens quickly and I am fumbling for my rewind button as soon as the words take flight and head out of my mouth. Other times, the wrongness of my words hits me much later. And even though there are moments when it feels like the grown-up no-you-can’ts are programmed into parenting, the rewind button helps me reverse the unkindness that the grown-up words and the no-you-can’ts cause.
We all make mistakes. Some of mine are bigger than the straw. That is just part of parenting. Some are big, some are small but if we value our children more than we value our parenting ego, the bad moments can all be rewound and do-overs can be had. Our children can learn that mistakes can be fixed, everyone can have do-overs when needed and that no one is too big to make bad things better because childhood should be more than simply a long list of no-you-can’ts.
The pancakes were on his plate and doused in syrup when he asked for water. Let me assure you water and ice are never in question in my house. I love that my kiddos ask for it readily at all meals. Having been raised on Mississippi sweet tea and still having that want for sweet with all my meals, I adore that they don’t and they ask for ice water. As I hand my boy his glass of water it happens. He gets up from his seat and walks to the cupboard and starts to grab a straw. He fumbles for the straw and this appears to be turning into a time wasting event that is making his breakfast cold so, as I am taking in this scene, I start to talk. “Buddy, you don’t need a straw. You can have your drink without it so let’s not make this something we need to have at every meal.” Yes we have autism and yes there are some compulsions that I keep an eye out for but I jumped the gun on this one.
And, that is when I begin to hear myself . It’s important to really hear ourselves as parents when we speak and make sure we are not simply stuck on autopilot and repeating the no-you-can’ts we have heard along the way. It’s equally important to turn our words around and listen to them from the perspective of our children and hear how they hear our words. I will warn you that when you really start to listen to yourself as a parent from your child’s point of view, there will be some cringe-worthy moments. Silly parent-word moments as well as angry words that fly out in moments of frustration and despair. It happens to all parents. The upside is that the more you listen, the less cringe-worthy the moments tend to be.
My boy would have put the straw away, he would have kept to mom’s insane rule but…why? As I listened to my words, it was like an automated response I was giving to limit the troubles of childhood, to keep the wants down to the basics. You don’t need a straw so why have it?…that is what we say when we have reached this grown-up status many of us parents land in. We are old enough to have forgotten that though straws can certainly fill a need with sensitive teeth or when wearing head gear for braces, they’re also just plain fun.
What we forget as the grown ups is that childhood should be fun too. Yes there are lessons we get all wound up in teaching…discipline, respect, responsibility…and there certainly are a number of no-you-can’ts that shouldn’t be avoided. But when we get so caught up in the rigor of teaching little people to become the grown ups and the next keepers of the no-you-can’ts list one day, we just forget that childhood was meant to be enjoyed. There is fun to be had and silliness and ridiculousness and insanely good moments when making bubbles in your water or your juice or your soda is just an unexplainably good time.
If you say something ridiculous…hit the rewind and apologize.
If you say angry words to your kiddos in the midst of a stressful, non-perfect-parent-moment, frustrating kind of day…hit the rewind button, hug your kiddos and apologize. It’s a great teachable moment to explain to your children that we are not perfect people but we love unconditionally and we keep trying be better and to do our best.
I told my son I was wrong about the straw and that straws are fun and to enjoy them. I got two of them out and I poured my juice and we made bubbles…together. I told him he should probably use one every time if he wants to because they sure do make drinking more fun. And I asked him to remind me, in case I forget, just how fun straws really are because, like I told him, he helped me to remember I really like them too.
Hit your rewind button too…your child’s childhood may depend on it. Sparkle On, my friends!!