Attending my Parents Anonymous group was the best thing I could have done for my daughters Chelsey and Katie. All the parenting I learned from my own parents about was either wrong or illegal. I just did not want to treat my girls the way I had been treated as a child. Having thrown out old methods, Parents Anonymous gave me new on-the-job training.
When Chelsey was about ten, we were about to have a storm so I asked her to unplug my computer because I did not want lightning to damage it. I had been busy in the kitchen and needed to unplug other appliances and TVs throughout the house. After the storm was over we plugged things back in to take up where we left off. As I reached under my desk to plug my computer in I noticed the third prong of the plug still in the outlet. My stomach started to turn thinking there might be damage since the house had been hit by lightning. As soon as the computer booted up I knew there was a problem seeing the blue screen of death. My computer, affectionately named “Albert,” was dead.
I was pretty upset, what on earth would I do with no computer? I worked and played games on that computer, the kids used it for school and now it was gone! All my documents, all my work was wiped out in the blink of an eye and the worst of all— it was Chelsey’s fault; she was to blame for the loss of my computer. That would teach me to ask a child to do something so important.
“I should have known,” I complained, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”
Heading to my Parents Anonymous meeting that Tuesday I was still upset. When it was my turn I talked about dealing with my anger and frustration; how I was going to be able to work now without a computer. The members asked me if I had punished Chelsey for not unplugging the computer correctly. “No— she’s just a kid, I should have done it myself!” The members offered suggestions for replacing it; ask my husband for a computer or ask my mother for the money. I wondered if God was punishing me for some unknown wrong I had done. The group members gave me empathy and sympathy but had no answers about a new computer.
Thinking about that meeting weeks later it dawned on me that I had been punishing Chelsey without even realizing it. No, I was not hitting her— but every time it came up or I thought about it, I was punishing her with the tone in my voice and by reminding her that she was the reason I had no computer. How awful was I to make her, a little child, feel worse when she felt bad enough already.
At my next Parents Anonymous meeting I told everyone about my revelation and that I had stopped complaining about the computer. I had told Chelsey it wasn’t her job to unplug the computer and not to worry about it. I had finally let go of all the anger and angst over the zapped computer, it was now buried. I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
The next week my husband surprised me with a new computer; he had been shopping around for a good deal and finally found what he was looking for. My second computer was aptly named, “Bravo.” I secretly wondered, “Was this God rewarding me for letting go of the anger?” I’d like to think it was.
I paid closer attention to my tone when talking to my kids. Sarcastic comments, the way I rolled my eyes were all part of the body language I needed to be aware of as well as the words.
It’s hard for me to talk about my less-than-perfect parenting moments but this is how we learn from each other in a Parents Anonymous group. I have learned many things from the other parents and I am sure they have learned even more from my errors since there were so many. Every time I see this quote I know it was meant for me:
“If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.” ~Catherine Aird
Nobody is perfect and when a parent makes a mistake with our kids we feel just terrible. While the children are growing their parents are learning too. The good news is that children are more resilient than we think— they do bounce back. Simply saying, “I’m sorry,” is enough to make everything right. What better way to learn to apologize than from a parent’s example?
Do you have any thoughts on this? I love hearing from readers, tell me what you think.
Talk with a Volunteer or Find a Group in New Jersey:
1-800-843-5437 or 1-800-THE-KIDS
Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey, Inc.
Phone: (609) 585-7666
Fax: (609) 585-7686