We were running late and I dumped my daughter’s half-drunk drink down the sink.
I didn’t realize she intended to take it with her.
“Where. Is. It!” she raged. I pointed to the sink.
“I despise you,” my daughter seethed, stomping to the car.
It would have been laughable, were it not said dripping with venom and accompanied by the slamming of a car door.
Like Krakatoa, but giggles too
At 12, my oldest daughter has that powerful cocktail of hormones bubbling like Krakatoa one minute and oozing giggles and hugs the next.
After a spray of more nasty words as we rolled down the road, the eruption ended, and my daughter was suddenly complimenting me on my beautiful blue eyes and my outfit (mom jeans and a tank top).
Is there something you want to say, I later asked. “I’m sorry,” she said
And I forgave her.
Still, she brooded into the afternoon for the outburst. She’s a feeler, prone to gathering her ugly moments like sheared wool and knitting them into a shame hoodie to wear around until it disintegrates.
Look — I cornered her once back in the house.
“You said you’re sorry. I forgave you, but there’s something else you need to do.”
Maybe you think that’s too touchy-feely.
And maybe for some kids, it is. After my youngest daughter learns she’s forgiven, the whole episode might as well be in a past life. She has moved on.
But some children — the perfectionists — believe they should be perfect all the time. Even when it comes to sass-talking their mothers at an age when such talk is a rite of passage.
My 12-year-old will replay these imperfect moments over and over in her mind all day. I’ve seen it happen. She’ll get angrier and angrier at herself for her less-than-polished behavior and missteps until it bubbles over and she screams at a younger sister for daring to step foot in her room unannounced.
Dumb things forever, my friends
My oldest has struggled with her perfectionist tendencies in school. But thanks to great teachers and counselors, she has learned to acknowledge this disposition and tweak her mindset to thrive.
She needs the same scaffolding at home, and it starts by learning to forgive herself for not being perfect.
Because here’s the thing:
We never stop having to say we’re sorry, seeking forgiveness or forgiving ourselves. Because the truth is, no matter our age, we’re going to say and do dumb/mean/idiot/careless things forever.
And the world doesn’t need our shame.
Shame is what happens when, like my daughter, we keep the dumb stuff we do and let it roll around in us, knocking about, reminding us that we’re not perfect. In other words, not good enough.
When shame compounds, it runs the show
This leads to a whole lot more problems like hiding, numbing our emotions and more shaming (hello, mom shamers, we see you). Author and academic Brené Brown’s research into shame is dedicated to the world of damage that the powerful emotion can cause.
My daughter doesn’t need to know all that, certainly. She just wanted to know what it meant for her on that day.
“Forgive yourself. What does that even mean?” she asked.
“It means we all say things we wish we didn’t. You’re human. Like the rest of us. And that’s OK. So are you.”