Last night I blew it. Big time.
SweetPea was nursing, and she bit me. At 10 months old, she has 8 knifelike teeth in her little mouth. Though she rarely bites, it sometimes happens when she is a little overtired. Usually I handle it by giving her a teething toy.
But tonight I was just too tired to get up and get one from the living room. (I don’t know about you, but my worst parenting moments always happen when I’m tired or desperately trying to get something done.) So I offered her a blanket to chew on. That seemed to do the trick; she chewed it for a few minutes, then came back to me.
With her nursing drowsily, I started to drift off to sleep myself. Chomp! I unlatched her and she started crying. Afraid to wake her further, I immediately put her back on. And she immediately chomped me again.
And so I flicked her little mouth. “That hurts!” I said gruffly.
She started crying, and then I started crying.
The anger I had felt toward her biting quickly was replaced by anger toward myself. How could I hurt my baby girl? I knew better. Why didn’t I just get up to get the stupid teething toy?
I picked SweetPea up gently, cradled her in my arms and whispered, “I’m so sorry, sweetie. Mama loves you.” I hugged her, kissed her forehead, and layed down to nurse her. Fortunately, she went quickly to sleep.
I, however, was wide awake.
My husband came to bed a while later and saw I was still awake. “Are you worried about Chuck?” he asked. Unable to speak, I shook my head and layed it down in his lap. As the tears trickled from my eyes, I told him what I’d done.
He gave me a long hug, looked me in the eye, and said, “You are a great mother. SweetPea is lucky to have you as her mom.”
And I realized he was right. I am a good mom. I work hard to be attentive and supportive. The love I showed her day in and day out was not going to be overshadowed by a momentary lapse.
My husband’s compassion toward me helped free me from the anger, criticism, and fear that could have prevented me from finding a solution. I was freed to move forward in a new direction rather than replaying that failed moment over and over again. My compassion for myself helped me accept that I am never going to be perfect, but I can choose to learn and improve myself from these setbacks.
Even more importantly, I’m practicing for how to handle my daughter’s mistakes. I can model for her that mistakes are not the end of the world; we can recover from them, apologize for them, and reconcile without damaging the relationship. Shortcomings are part of being human; so is change and growth.
Today is a new day. SweetPea is happy as usual, no signs of resentment over my blunder. (Don’t you wish everyone was so forgiving?) I’ve thought up a few fun games to help her learn the difference between biting toys and biting people. I’ve planned a little downtime for myself.
And I permanently assigned a teething toy to the nightstand drawer.
When you make a parenting mistake today (or see a parenting mistake), how can you use compassion to transform the mistake into a growth opportunity? Share you examples in the comments.
This post was written for 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, where bloggers from all over the world come together to talk about compassion on the 20th of each month.