The other night Anson lost his temper at our neighbor Janna and Chup in one hot moment of not getting his way. I was upstairs in the bathtub with the girls and could hear the whole thing unfold in the living room. When the girls were washed, we got out, dried off and put on our pajamas. Then, with a quick inhale of conjured peace, I headed downstairs to see what I could see, but Anson's rage was at high tide and I met him on the stairs on his way after being sent to his room by his father.
I followed him into his room and skipped the What happened?
"I heard you yell at Janna and Daddy," I told him as he threw himself on the bed.
"I am so mad," he said.
In our home it's fine to be mad. It's great to identify that you are mad. But two things about being mad: it's not ok to hurt or yell at others and it's not ok to hurt or break things.
I knew he was mad because he had played all day with Asher, his best friend and Janna's son, and he didn't want the play day to be over. He was mad because the sun was setting and nobody would stop it for him.
"I can see you are mad, I want to help you feel better. How would you like to write a letter to Janna to say sorry for yelling and we can take it to her?"
"Ok," he said, his breath coming out in teary hiccups.
I went to my drawer where I stash blank cards and envelops, I picked one out and took it to Anson.
"I will write down what you want to say," I told him, readying my black Sharpie.
"Dear Janna, I am sorry I yelled at you. Thank you for making me an A pancake..."
When the letter was written, I let him lick the envelop shut. Then we put on our boots and coats and hats, because even though Janna lives next door, it's too cold to venture out without full anti-freeze armor. He was too scared to take it over by himself in the dark, so I walked over with him, the green envelop sticking out of his gloved hand.
But when we reached their walkway I told my son he was on his own. He walked up to the door alone and knocked with a fist and waited for the porch light to come on. As we waited I wondered if there were parents in the world who actually felt like they knew what they were doing. And I wondered if I ever would feel like I knew what I was doing as a parent.
Janna opened the door, her children circulating around her feet. I could only see back lit silhouettes of everyone, but I watched her bend down and give Anson a loving hug and say, "Good night Anson" and he said, "Good night." Then he turned around and skipped down the stairs, finding me on the sidewalk, took my gloved hand in his and walked home with a light heart.
After making amends with Daddy, we helped him pull off his winter gear and put on his pajamas. Right before we tucked him into bed he started crying again,
"What's the matter?" Chup asked.
"It's all my fault," Anson sobbed.
"What does that mean?" I asked him.
"I don't know," he cried, "but it makes me feel better to say that."
Chup and I exchanged a quick glance at each other, both with What do we do? eyes and looked back down at our son, wetting his blue pillow case with big, sorry tears.
"Ok, that's ok. Janna loves you Anson, and so does Daddy. They've forgiven you," I stuttered. So much of parenting is not knowing what to say--and feeling awkward about choosing the right words.
"I know," he said resuming his sleeping position, closing his eyes.
We turned off his light and closed the door.
And I am writing this down because it reminds me at the end of the day--the literal day--the most powerful tool I have in my parenting tool belt is forgiveness. To ask my children for forgiveness and to give forgiveness to them for occurrences that crept up on us during the day as I tuck them into their beds at night, makes me think we are going to be fine. To say sorry, to accept apologies, I think that's the bliss of parenting.