Whilst visiting an elderly aunt last weekend, the 19-month-old tore pages out of a Damart catalogue sitting on the coffee table and delivered them to me, triumphant and looking for praise. "Mumma, mumma"
"You mustn't let her do it" said the elderly aunt
"She is 19 months old. It's not about "letting"" I shot back, feathers ruffled, claws out.
"Next time it might be someone's valuable possessions" said aunt
"So they should put them away before a baby comes to visit" I growled.
The aunt realised she had offended me. I had a sorry stuck in the back of my throat but I swallowed it. I did not feel 19month's behaviour warranted an apology.
It got me thinking. Apologising for your kids. Do you do it? When, how often? And when you do, why does it feel so hideously wrong? I'd have preferred to kiss the old lady than say sorry to her.
Is it because I am one of those mums who thinks my children are perfect and can do no wrong? The sore throat I nurse each night from shouting at them so much makes me think not. I know they can do wrong. I am there to bear witness to it and then tidy up after.
Is it because admitting my child is not perfect means I might have to face the fact my parenting is not perfect either? Am I actually apologising for myself? Ooooh, bit deep
Or am I just blinded by love? 19months bought those torn out pages advertising enormous knickers to me in an simple act of devotion. "These are for you mumma, love me" And I do.
How then, can I say "Naughty baby! You must not rip (free) magazines and offer them to me as tokens of love." Sure - the old lady would be happy, but what a hammer blow to 19months. I feel her pain even stronger then I feel my own. I bruise too with every knock she takes.
Should you apologise/make your child apologise when they do not understand why/what they have done wrong? Can a baby really be "naughty"?
Of course, teaching our children the difference between right and wrong is part of the job, but trying to retrospectively explain bad behaviour to 19months is never going to work is it?
I suppose this is one branch of the " Can you take any negative feedback about your child at all" tree. It's looking like I can't. When 19months was a newborn a well-meaning friend mentioned how with her ears "like that" (she meant big) and her hair "like that" (she meant bald) she looked a tiny bit like a boy."Ha ha, I'd not noticed" (I lied) and then promptly spat in the tea I was making her.
It's all a bit "I can say what I like about my brother/sister/mum/dad/dog** -- but just you try it sunshine". I often turn to my husband in the middle of the night sobbing that 19months is so uncontrollable I often fear being left in sole charge of her - but if anyone else dares mention her "spirit" I develop a very quiet form of tourettes and mutter random insults about the insulter/insulter's children in return.
Sometimes, of course - we are forced to apologise for our children. Last week at church playgroup four was caught pulling her friend's hair quite hard. I turned to the friend's mum and delivered a very sincere sorry - but finished it off with " She is very tired, and fighting a cold, and her shoes are too small and are hurting her feet, and I think MAYBE your daughter pulled her hair first."
So what about you? Do you apologise for your children and can you manage to do it without making excuses for them?
**And what's the dog thing about? Canine owners are even more blinded by their pet's faults than parents to their kids shortcomings. I myself have announced "It's me or the dog" to an ex-boyfriend. (Note the use of the word ex)