Like every other mom on the planet, I hate to see my kids’ feelings hurt. There have only been a handful of times in Gia’s little life when I’ve seen something truly hurt her feelings to the point where she was deeply upset. Sure, she gets angry when someone takes a toy she was playing with or when someone cuts in front of her when it’s her turn on the slide.
That’s not what I mean.
I’m talking about times when Gia’s left out of something on purpose and she realizes it. The older she gets, the more she understands inclusion and exclusion, and, let’s face it–being excluded hurts, no matter how old we are. But seeing your child truly upset hurts in a whole new way.
So last week when Gia was left out, it nearly broke my heart. Turns out I was the one who caused the problem, and my heart shattered into a tiny million pieces when I realized it.
Gia is going to our town’s rec camp this summer. It’s every day from 9-1 and she loves it. So many of her little friends go to the camp too and they’re all in the same group. She comes home happy every day and I know she has a blast. Every week has a theme and I have the calendar firmly magneted to our fridge so I’m sure not to forget to send sunglasses on “sunglasses day” or dress Gia in a Yankee t-shirt on “favorite sports team day”.
Well, every Tuesday is “ice cream” day and the kids need to bring a dollar to buy ice cream. From what I gather from my mostly-reliable four year old, on Tuesdays an ice cream truck comes to camp and the kids choose from 4 or 5 different types of ice pops–bubblegum and cotton candy are among the choices. I’ve also been told they don’t go up to the truck themselves; they tell a counselor what they want and the counselors buy it for them.
This past week Gia stayed home from camp on Monday. She was exhausted after her birthday party and neither of us felt like rushing around to get her out of the house and to camp the following morning. You know where I’m going with this, right?
Tuesday morning rolled around and it sure felt a lot like a Monday around here. I dropped Gia off at camp in her Yankee shirt and all was well. I picked her up 4 hours later, and she was happy as could be.
Wednesday morning, as we were getting ready for camp, Gia came in to my room to show me she was dressed and that she’d brushed her teeth. We were actually ahead of schedule so I told her she could sit on my bed to watch a few more minutes of Sheriff Callie before it was time to go. But before she went to watch, she looked up at me with those big brown eyes and said, “Mommy yesterday you forgot to give me a dollar for ice cream at camp.” Her words were like a punch straight to the gut. She said it so sweetly and that made it even worse. I remember being so shocked and so sad for her. The thought of her sitting there while the other kids had ice cream and not being able to have any–because if my error–it was almost too much.
I bent down to her level, which is what I do when something is really serious, and I apologized. I told her how sorry I was that I forgot. I explained, in kid terms, that I forgot it was Tuesday and that it wouldn’t happen again. I hugged her and I asked her if she was mad at me. She smiled and shook her head. And she said, “No mommy, I’m not mad. Next week I’d really be happy if you don’t forget. Ok?” With that she skipped over to my bed to watch Callie.
That one moment–my mistake and how Gia handled it– taught me more about myself and my kid than anything else has in a long time. For one, kids are so resilient. Gia came home from camp super happy on Tuesday and didn’t even remember the ice cream situation till the next morning. So, while she might have been upset in the moment, it didn’t make any lasting impact on her, thankfully.
In the grand scheme of things I know this isn’t a big deal. I know Gia won’t even remember this in a few weeks or a few months. I know it won’t be one of the defining moments of her childhood. But, it was a defining motherhood moment for me. It reminded me that I can’t be a perfect mom, no matter how hard I try. It just isn’t possible. And it showed me that trust –and being present — are so important. Gia knows that when I say I’ll do something, I do it. She trusts me to with her in the moment and to not let her down, and that’s a good thing. It’s good that she expects me to come through for her, because it means that I pretty much always do. And when I make a mistake, like forgetting her dollar, she’s more likely to just roll with the punches because she knows that 99.9% of the time, mommy is there for her. And being there for her is all I really need to be. That’s perfection.