I am, by nature, a late person. My husband is worse. So it’s perhaps not surprising that our kids also have a hard time getting themselves organized and out the door when we need to be somewhere.

With Rio, this tends to express itself as anxiety about clothing. In Raising Your Spirited Child, Mary Kurcinka Sheedy talks about kid’s sensitivity to clothing textures as a sign of a spirited temperament. Rio fits the “spirited child” profile so well the book could be about her. Rio is particularly sensitive about her socks.

All this is backstory to the scene at our house a few weeks ago when we were running late for church and Rio was refusing to put her socks on. She’d tried just about every kid tactic there is: moving from room to room as the rest of the family got ready; putting socks on and then having a screaming tantrum because they were not the Right Socks; refusing; whining; pleading.

Finally, she was sitting on the floor in the middle of the living room, sobbing her little eyes out. “I CAAAAAAN’T! MAMA, I CAN’T! I JUST DON’T KNOW WHERE MY SOCKS ARE!!!!!!!!”

Around her on the floor were at least half a dozen pairs of her socks, all neatly folded, all her size. She was crying in a sea of socks.

I went a little crazy. I picked them up and started throwing them at her, shouting some incoherent babble about how much I wanted her to get dressed and stop making me late for everything I ever try to do ever in my life so help me god, etc…

This was not one of my shining moments as a mother. I must have had some good ones in the past though, because Rio stopped crying, looked at me, and said, “Mama, you are not allowed to throw things at me. That’s not what you do.”

I’d like to say that I immediately apologized to her, and she to me, and we happily left for church. In fact, I left the room and my husband finished dressing her and we made it to church 45 minutes late for an hour long service. Rio’s “consequence” (a parenting tactic I almost never stoop to) was to miss her fun Sunday School class and ride out the boring adult sermon with us. All in all, the morning was a disaster.

After a good lunch and a bike ride, Rio and I talked about our tantrum. She volunteered an apology for not getting dressed when I’d asked her to, and promised never to do it again (a promise she broke the next day, and nearly daily since, but we’re working on it). I apologized for getting angry, and especially for throwing socks.

And here’s the Important Thing: I told her I admired the way she was able to tell me I was crossing a boundary even when I was angry and scaring her. That I really like how she knows what’s right and stands up for herself.

I’m confident that won’t make her more obedient. I probably bought myself another round of the Sock Wars with that little speech. It’s also probably technically Bad Parenting; there are a ton of authorities out there that advocate not involving kids in one’s parenting dilemmas. In general, I’m a fan of that myself. I don’t want to make my problems her problems, or ask her to validate my parenting.

But in this case my desire to do the right thing as a person trumped my desire to do the right thing as a parent. I was proud of her, and I told her so.

What do you do when you make a mistake as a parent?

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