By BETH VRABEL
It isn’t the sleepless nights, the crusty laundry or the semiannual sleep-with-a-bucket stomach bug.
It’s this: Children have an uncanny way of reflecting what a jerk you can be.
I recently told Benny, 4, that I was going to take a quick shower while he finished watching “Sesame Street.”
“OK,” he said, not looking away from the screen.
I darted upstairs, hopped in the shower and was just shampooing when I heard frantic screaming.
“Mama! Mama! Mmmmoooommm!” he screeched.
I leaped from the tub, my wet feet slipping across the floor and drenched the hallway carpet as I ran to what surely was going to be a bleeding boy.
Only he was still just sitting there, in front of the TV. “What is it? What happened?”
Benny, not taking his eyes of Elmo, glanced at me. “I love you,” he said.
“You called me out of the shower to tell me you love me?” I asked. “Seriously? Are you serious?”
“Why are you talking meanly to me?” asked Benny, his eyes wide.
“I just said ‘I love you.’ And I do. I love you. You’re my best mommy ever.”
Yup, that’ll make you feel like a jerk. “I love you, too, buddy,” I said. “I’m going to shower now. If you need something, let me know.”
At the end of that day, when I was tired and cranky, I sighed as I flipped through the next chapter of Emma’s bedtime story. Fifteen pages? Really? Those 15 pages were the only things standing between me and vegging in front of hot vampires on TV. Clearly Judy Blume was not thinking about tired parents when she penned “Super´fudge.”
Emma sighed, too, and curled tighter against me. “I know,” she said. “This is the best time of the day, isn’t it? When we cuddle and read together?”
Ouch. What a jerk I am! “It is,” I said and squeezed her.
The worst, though, is when you retroactively realize your jerkiness.
Such as when I demand ridiculous things, like that Emma hurry up and finish her dinner, rather then let her eat at her own pace.
Or when I snap at Benny to hurry up about washing his hands when we’re at the grocery store.
(He’s got a weird thing for the Giant bathroom. He must stop there every week.) Should I really snap at a kid for taking too long washing his hands?
And, of course, like any mom, there are times when I yell or wish I had reacted differently.
As hard as it is, I apologize. Sometimes it’s hard to admit you’re wrong to your children, but it also showcases what just might be the best part of parenting: The capacity of children to forgive.
Beth Vrabel lives in West Manchester Township with her daughter, Emma, 7, and son, Benny, 4.