Well, We Almost Made It Through Without Incident

Photograph from Google Images

On the last afternoon of my son’s spring vacation, right when his annoyance with me had reached its apex and his blood sugar had bottomed out, I suggested that it might be a good time for him to get a jump-start on his next book report. The one that isn’t due until mid-May.

“Only 18 days to work on it!” I joked.

Except I wasn’t really joking.

Monkey agreed, if reluctantly, to work on his first paragraph. He disappeared for twenty minutes and then returned. I asked him if he would read his paper. He groaned, but he obliged. I suggested that his thesis could use a little tweaking and asked him to go and work on the paragraph a little bit more. He declined. Adamantly. I persevered. We locked horns.

I should have predicted what was going to happen next, but I didn’t.

He shouted.

I shouted louder.

Eventually, he screamed, got a little teary-eyed, and stomped off to his bedroom – ostensibly to revise.

After fifteen minutes, when he did not materialize, I decided I would check on his progress. That’s when I found Monkey. Under his bed. He had gone there to hide.

From the world.

From the work.

But, mostly, from me.

The next thing I knew, I was lying on my son’s rug. My cheek brushing against the carpet, I remembered how – as a child – I tried to cajole an escaped gerbil into coming out from its hiding place.

At first he wouldn’t even talk to me. After a while, though, he let me have it.

“I just don’t understand why it had to be perfect!” Monkey sniffed. “It’s just a friggin’ first draft! I have over two weeks to work on it.”

It was my “Oh shit!” moment.

And he was 100% right.

Which meant I had to apologize.

And so I apologized to Monkey for getting all up in his grill about his school work. Truth is, he is about the most organized person I know when it comes to time management. And I told him so. I also told him that sometimes it’s hard for me – especially when it comes to writing – to just let things be. I told him how “imperfect” is hard for me when it comes to English.

“Also,” I confessed, “I didn’t know that you actually revise.”

“Of course I do,” he said. “Geez! Give me some credit!”

I felt I had to offer Monkey something more than an apology. (More than the snack that he, also, clearly needed.) After all, I felt I had really underestimated him.

And then I got an idea.

“I would like to extend an offer to you,” I said. “Are you interested?”

“Maybe,” said Monkey, still facing the wall.

“The next time I say, ‘You just lost your iPod Touch,’ you have a free ‘Gimmee-Back-My-Touch’ card,” I said. “You know like those ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards in Monopoly? Like that.”

Monkey rolled over to face me. The slats of his bed hovered a half an inch above his ear.

“Make me a card!” he demanded. “And decorate it insanely with icons from all the apps I like. And add lots of stickers and stuff. And put it in a cool font.”

Suddenly, I felt that I’d been duped. Somehow I went from apologizing to my son to negotiating with a terrorist.

“And no expiration date!” he said smugly. “That’s your homework,” said Monkey, smiling, letting me know everything was okay with us.

He grunted as he slithered out from under his bed.

He isn’t going to be able to fit under there much longer.

“Also, there’s a friggin’ huge, hairy-dust ball under there,” said Monkey, trying to see if I’d let him get away with his second friggin’ of the day.

I did.

“Yeah,” I said. “I kind of noticed it rolling around while I was talking to the back of your head.”

We both burst out laughing.

Thank goodness for hairy-dust balls.

“May I please go and ride my bike before vacation ends?” Monkey asked.

“Dismissed,” I said.

“Thanks,” yelled Monkey and, as he ran out the door he added, “I’ll expect your homework by dinner!”

Anybody have any good stories about apologizing to your kids? 

43 responses to “Well, We Almost Made It Through Without Incident

  1. Up in da boy grill, eh? He sho dropped a dime on you, but I see it’s all good.

  2. Damn, Mom! Nice recovery.

    I worry about how I’ll be with the writing stuff with my kids, too. I’m afraid I could easily drive them to hate it.

    • He’s a math/science kid, no doubt. He’s got his daddy’s genes – which are good genes and all, but seriously, I used to write short stories during vacations for fun. And then I would present myself with blue ribbons that I’d cut out of construction paper. (I was THAT good.)😉

      It is really hard to not have him love language the way I do. I’m adapting. Sunday, I was the twit.

  3. Love it! I really liked how he turned the table. My own boys (18, 15) would feel no better about getting started on a paper while still on vacation. Feel blessed that your son is a great organizer as we are not lucky enough for that here, Mom included. 🙂

  4. Heather Thompson

    I’ll drop a bomb. Apology acceptance shouldn’t have to be bought. Yeah you were a little aggressive and the Monkey had no escape. You just gave that same very well behaved Monkey a ticket to screw up and avoid discipline. Which based on what you write of the Monkey will not be a problem.

    The cruel and evil crone (me) in my home always responded to boredom with extra chores. The escape was board games or the great outdoors for kickball or bike riding. Not many of the extra chores got done, though there were some tasks my tribe of monkeys enjoyed.

    • Heather, I have another post which probably should have come first. It is about how this “staycation” just stunk. The weather was really bad and we played a zillion games and cleaned the house and, by day 9, we were basically starting to look at the K’Nex as viable weapons. (Hey, that’s a good line.) Anyway, the prequel (which may never make it to post) charts how rough the break was and this was the proverbial straw that broke the Monkey’s back.😉

      I never do apologies with an “offering,” but I really felt I had pressured my son into something that he clearly didn’t want to do, and – honestly – selfishly, I was just looking for some alone time. I was burnt out from the school break, and it wasn’t fair to heap that work on him. I could have gotten in my car and gone to the grocery store if I was going batty! He had no choice; he was trapped. Given the circumstances, I felt I needed to offer more than my most sincere apology – which is usually good enough.

      But maybe I really screwed up. We’ll see if he starts making demands the next time I blow it. Because, you know, there will be a next time.😉

      • Heather Thompson

        I totally get the suck factor of staycations we had too large a crowd to take trips away. My bomb was just being honest. I almost deleted it but that would bother me. Parents screw up all the time. Realizations about these parental imperfections allow the opportunity to take advantage. It also gives monkeys a realistic world. All people do this to each other. It is called taking advantage of an opportunity. Sometimes there are mistakes that can never be fixed. Getting over those, is another story.

      • Renee, I think that what you did was perfect. Sometimes kids need a “Get out of jail free” card. Having once met “Monkey” I don’t think you have to worry about him using his freedom card inappropriately. Kids need to see that adults are fallible. They also need to see that we have a sense of humor and that we are willing to turn the tables on ourselves. Otherwise, apologies just become something that responsible adults do, alongside paying the mortgage, making sure that there are the correct colors of fruits and vegetables on the dinner plate, mowing the lawn, getting the oil changed, etc., etc.. Who wouldn’t want to run and hide under the bed???

        Responsible adults own the pain that they have caused in others, apologize, and sometimes do the unexpected to teach our children that all is not lost when a mistake is made. Sometimes going that extra step shows that we are earnest about our apology. It’s called reparation, and there’s not enough of true reparation in this world. Reparation can be restorative. What was restored by your actions?? A sense of fairness in Monkey’s world, a sense that all of us live with the consequences of our actions. So, bully for you, Monkey and the dust ball!!

  5. Nice work, Renee. He’s got you all figured out, that’s for sure. When I apologize to my daughter, it’s with all the sincerity I can muster. I hate fake apologies, mine or anyone else’s. No memory of an exact story, but I do always apologize when it’s deserved.

    • What’s the point of an apology if it isn’t sincere? I think it is really hard for some people to apologize. It requires admitting a mistake has been made. Some people don’t like to feel that kind of vulnerability so they just can’t do it.

  6. Apologize to one’s kids. Are you friggin out of your mind? My father was German. “I’m sorry” was not in his lexicon so I never learned it either. But he saved my life so we’re even. I guess it’s monkey see, monkey do🙂, cool mom.

    • Okay, so your dad didn’t apologize. Do you? Ever? Curious.

      Obviously your father loved you or he would have left you behind. Are you of the mind that actions speak louder than words, so a parent needn’t ever apologize to her child? I have a feeling you are secretly cringing. So let me have it. Go ahead. I can take it.

      You have permission to get up in my grill.

      I promise I will not take your iPod Touch.😉

      • It is way more complicated than you can imagine. My sister and I are among a handful of children to survive a year and a half in a concentration camp. My mother and father moved heaven and earth to keep us alive against all odds.
        Yet, he could never say the words “I love you”. When I stood over his open grave I said to myself “I am free at last”. Some twenty years and two marriages and four children later I understood him better and went back to that grave to tell him I loved him. He has been my “guiding spirit” since then.

        I tried to do better with my kids but it is hard to escape one’s past and one’s DNA.

        I do apologize to my (now grown) children but I think the traditional parent-child relationship has been debased by too many parents trying to “friend” their kids.

      • You are right. I cannot imagine. In fact, I was actually unable to comment on one of your posts recently (the literary interview) because I didn’t know what to say about your not having TP in the concentration camp. I thought, SHould I be funny? Should I ignore that? Let’s just say I’ve been thinking of it ever since. And I have questions.

        I’m not interested in “friending” Monkey. But I do think apologizing is something worth modeling. This comes from the girl whose mother rarely apologizes, so maybe I overcompensate. A little.

  7. Oh, look at you, Miss Craft Mama! I like his iPod Redemption Card. I hate when I have to apologize to my kids, but it’s oh, so important when we do (rightfully, that is). What a great lesson it teaches them (and us).

    Here’s my Lesson Learned the Hard Way: http://meetthebuttrams.wordpress.com/2010/10/08/confessions/

  8. I was raised by parents who were perfectionists and, not so surprisingly, I ended up being one, too. This is actually an attribute of my personality that I’m very conscious of and don’t like very much. When my daughters had assignments similar to your son’s, I would find myself doing much the same thing you did. My youngest daughter was always fairly compliant and would finish her report within 2 or 3 days of it being assigned. My oldest’s work habits were a whole other story! She was a “last minute girl” and it drove me crazy. I finally had to just make myself take a big old chill pill and realize that she wasn’t like me. She could still do things very effectively in her own time.

    Nice ticket! 🙂

  9. My favorite thing to say to my kids when they are misbehaving is, “I don’t like you right now. I will always love you, but right now, I do not like you.”

    Gets the job done.

  10. too many apology stories to tell!

  11. Wow. You landed on your feet quickly on that one.

    Vivian is a bit like me – loves words but can be a bit of a pedant. I am constantly on her not to “correct” William, whether it be his spelling or whatever.

    With William, I’m just happy if he finishes something without either of us bursting into tears.

    Sigh.

    • Boys really are more tender sex… up to a certain age – and then that stops. If he’s at LEGOs and building alien craft, I’d give him 5 more years. By then Vivian will be the “Hellcat,” to quote our mutual friend.

      I think it is hard to be a teacher and a parent. We see where the schools are strong and we see the holes. So we try to fill them.

      I’m going to work on taking my chill pills.

      And, by the way, you know this is going to come back and bite me in the ass? Right?😉

  12. Oh the memories do come back. Still trying to figure out how to work my prior life into the writings of this one. Great post and sweet card. You should make me one of those cards that guarantees you will grade a round of research papers for me whenever I want😉

    • Hey Clay (aka: Karate Kid):

      It would be fun to swap ONE SECTION of papers with another teacher, actually. Sadly, I couldn’t vouch for the validity of any of the historical events (or the conspiracy theories they might have about them). I’d strictly be looking for form and content, flow, solid grammar and proper citation.

      Actually that would be a fun exercise… Hmmmm. Maybe when I’m back in the saddle next semester we should discuss this pasta-bility. With shrimp.😉

  13. I really identified with this post, Renée…I’ve been writing stories for fun since I could hold a pencil. My first two daughters did pretty well without my help, but my youngest daughter and both stepchildren have great difficulty stringing words together intelligibly. It’s hard to sit back and just let them do it without jumping in and saying, “Do it like this, dammit!” If they ask me how to spell something, I’ll tell them, but I try to keep a bit of distance…they all have other things they’re good at!

    Wendy

    • Yeah, this was less about telling him WHAT than it was about pushing and pushing him to do more and more. It was kind of ironic that it happened over Passover. At one point, my son said I was worse than the Pharaoh.

      If you know the Passover story, um… that’s pretty bad.😉

      • I haven’t been to church in decades, so I had to Google the Passover story to refresh my memory…I should have remembered that the Pharoah was the King but definitely not “a prince of a guy”!

        Monkey burned you bad with that one!

  14. Funny! Decent idea. I’m impressed. I can be so frustrating but you managed it with a nice lack of drama. Who needs mama drama? Especially when you have a cool science & math guy on your hands.

    Each kid is different. Daughter? Few struggles. Son? Lets say, I’m glad there was no bodily harm! Now I say sincerely I couldn’t be prouder of the work he does, the man he’s become.

    Some may go with the dictator style but we were always ones to admit, now and then, if a choice, request, demand was wrong at inception. Whatever works. It’s a battle of wits some days.

    • I gotta say, my hardest days at work are never harder than my hardest days as a parent.

      Why don’t these little people come with individualized manuals?

      “Responds well to criticism” or “Will shut down if senses false praise” or “Accepts all praise, even if completely not deserved.”

      It would be so much more helpful.😉

  15. blackwatertown

    I like this post. I think there’s no harm in apologising or admitting fault with your children – quite the contrary – when it’s justified.

    Obviously I don’t speak from experience, because I’m never wrong.
    Except for the previous sentence.

    I think one of the good things about acknowledging fault with your children is that it shows them (more then telling them) that you really value honesty objectively – not merely as a stick to beat them with or exert your power or control.

    I also hope – who can tell, but I hope – that it will help lay the basis for a good future relationship between us when we’re all older, and the power in the relationship has evened out.

    (By the way, don’t take any of the above to mean that one should shirk the parenting responsibility of being in charge. I’m not for a moment suggesting creeping up to your children or spoiling them by trying to act their equal.)

    • Hi Paul:

      Thank you for the eloquent response this morning. I have been traveling so my posts have been on auto-drive. Today marks day 3 away from Monkey, and I am missing him.

      I will arrive home tonight, late, and I can’t wait to sneak into his room to smooch his cheek as he sleeps.

      While I am not all about power and control – as you say – I am all about the stealth-mode power smooch.😉

  16. Three cheers for the Monkey!

  17. What a great parenting post. Apologizing to your children is such a healthy thing. It let’s them realize that adults make mistakes too, plus they don’t have false expectations when they become parents and find themselves in a mess…love your nicknames btw.

  18. Love it! You are a fantastic story teller! Keep up the great writing!

  19. I’m tired, so my brain will not form the words I wish for it.

    Just know, I loved this post, the realization of what happened, the apology to your child.

    Even the “get out of iPod jail free” card. I’m sure there are worse punishments should a more serious infraction occur, and the card wouldn’t work for those.

    But on a day when he maybe pushes you like you pushed him, I think it will be a good thing. A reminder that no one is perfect in this world, we just have to love each other and do the best we can, and apologize for our mistakes.

    I have a Monkey too (although much younger) and this is a good reminder for times when I push too hard, or get cranky because I want a few minutes to myself.

  20. Hello new Lady Blogger,

    I have definitely apologized to my son on several occasions and he’s only 5. ugh, what does that say about how i’m doing as a parent so far? Nothing good. But I’d like to hope we can chalk it up to just being human and sometimes making mistakes.
    Thanks for visiting my place this weekend.🙂

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