There is nothing worse than sitting in church listening to a lesson on being a kind and patient parent when you know your recent behavior has not been kind and patient.
You know the teacher is right; you know you should be gentle and thoughtful and all things Jesus-like in your parenting, but you also know that sometimes situations involve dog puke, and being kind and patient gets lost in the vomit.
Last week, I listened as a darling girl taught about reacting with gentleness and poise to your children when, for example, you find crayon on the wall. Absolutely, I thought. Crayon no longer fazes me anyway, now that I've stocked up on Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. Crayon I can handle.
But vomit? I lose all rational thought when there are large quantities of puke present.
We got home late Saturday night and hurried everyone into showers and baths. Somewhere along the way, the dog lost his stomach contents all over the floor in the hall at the bottom of the stairs.
"Jason!" I yelled, "Oh my gosh, this is disgusting!"
I group dog puke with things like severed limbs and seeping wounds.
Immediately, three of the kids were on the scene to check out the large pool of puke. We sent Harrison off to get some paper towels and disinfectant and stood back to survey the damage.
"Just don't touch it," Jason was saying to the girls, "Harrison is going to ..."
And before he could get another word in, Rex came flying down the stairs, through the crowd, and landed feet first in the pile of puke. Of course, his feet didn't hold and in one more second his newly showered little self was flat on his back, scrambling around and trying to find purchase in the vomit.
I am sure that more righteous parents would have gently lifted him from the cesspool and ushered him back to the shower, cooing and comforting the entire way. But we didn't handle it with as much charity as the situation warranted. I yelled, Jason yelled, Rex cried -- it was a mess.
Parenting is all about leading by example. Do as I do is the mantra we unfortunately live under, and there's nothing worse than showing your kids the wrong way to handle a situation. Poor Rex, his incredibly tender little feelings were so bruised, and our yelling at his mistake had embarrassed and belittled him. It was one of those parenting moments where you wish you could rewind the situation and respond with anything but anger.
Rex got cleaned up, and Harrison eliminated the puke, while Jason and I put the girls to bed. I felt so rotten. I could hear Rex quietly whimpering as he got himself ready for bed. There was no way around it, we owed the boy a serious apology.
I sat Rex down on the couch and put my arms around him. I'm trying to be better about giving straight out apologies these days, not the standard "I'm-sorry-buts" that are so much easier to give but far less effective. And I was sorry. We never want to make our kids feel stupid.
We talked about my mistake and what I did wrong, and I apologized. We didn't talk about the puke or being more careful when you enter a hazard zone because that part of it didn't even factor into the bigger issue. We hurt our kid's feelings, and he was innocent. Yes, we practiced poor parenting initially, but even those moments can be turned around and revisited as a teaching tool.
One of these days, we're going to get this right. Hopefully, before they all grow up and out and away.
I've been writing about the highs and lows of life as I know it for more than five years now. This will be my last published column for the paper. I have loved sharing and learning through this process, and I will still be blogging on my website, http://annievalentine.com. But with changes in our future and where we're going, it's time for me to pull back. Visit me online anytime and feel free to drop me a note at email@example.com.