I know I said I wasn’t going to write these anymore, but I’m a liar so here we are.
Parents deal with their children’s chicanery daily. My situation is not particularly special. I am not the best father in the world, though I’d like to think I’m at least in the 90th percentile. Maybe 85th. Anyway, earlier this week I dealt with a situation that made me feel… “Confounded” is the wrong word.
I got off of work, picked up the girls (the boy stays with his sitter until Kyleen gets out of work), and brought them home. Our routine is the same every day: the girls unpack their belongings while I take the dogs out. Usually, I return from a brief urine-inspired outing to find the girls ready for their shower, finishing their homework, or putting on their pajamas.
This was not a usual night.
For the unfamiliar, I have two daughters. Since some of you are strangers we’ll avoid names and call the six-year-old Yellow and the seven-year-old Brown. Back to it.
I returned from my outing with dogs to find Yellow locked in her closet, crying with an unusual fervor. Brown was standing outside of the closet, with a gaze of general bewilderment.
“What’s going on?”
Brown, careful not to indict herself, gave me half of the story. “[Yellow] kicked me and called me a bad word.”
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah. It didn’t hurt at all. But she called me a bad word.”
“So I hear. Go get ready for your shower. I’ll deal with this.”
I opened the door to find Yellow on the ground, her knees to her chest, and with tears running down her cheeks. This could mean one of two things: (1) Yellow’s side of the story would involve some grievous injury perpetrated by Brown, or (2) Yellow was feeling some severe regret and knew she was in trouble.
She looked guilty as sin. She also looked terrified. I lowered my hand, smiled, and said, “Wanna go talk in my room?”
She nodded, took my hand, and followed me. She sat on my bed and gathered her composure. I shut the door, sat on the floor, and smiled again. “What happened?”
“[Brown] shut the door to the bathroom and wouldn’t let me in even though I was crying.”
“Then she opened the door because I was crying.”
“So I kicked her in the vagina.”
“And called her a bad word.”
“Which bad word?”
She looked at me cautiously. I reassured her. “You can say it this time, you won’t be in trouble for repeating it.”
“I called her a bitch.”
I was shocked but tried not to show it. “You kicked your sister in the vagina and called her a bitch?”
She nodded. It got weirder.
“Where’d you learn that word?”
“There’s a part where Maui says bitch and I heard it but [Brown] doesn’t hear it but I know it’s there.”
“Okay,” I tried to keep it together, “I don’t think the movie Moana has that word at all, sweetie. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Do you know why you shouldn’t say it?”
“It’s a bad word.”
“Yes. But it’s one of the worst bad words you can call a girl. It’s very mean.”
“Do you know what else you did that was mean?”
She thought for a moment, “Kicking people in the vagina?”
“That’s correct. Kicking people in the vagina is mean.”
“Okay.” Around here is where she started crying a bit once more.
“So, you did two pretty mean things to [Brown]. I’m sure she wasn’t being too nice to you, but do you think she deserved the things you did?”
She shook her head.
“What should we do?”
“Okay, should I call her in here?”
She nodded and wiped her eyes.
I did. Once Brown was in the room, Yellow looked her in the eyes. “I’m sorry I kicked you in the vagina and called you a bitch.”
At the word “bitch” [Brown]’s eyes got huge and she looked at me, waiting for a reaction. When she didn’t get one she replied, “I forgive you.”
They hugged. They were about to head to the shower when I stopped them, “Hey girls? Do you think maybe we could not kick people in the vaginas and call each other bad words?”
“And [Yellow]? Don’t say that word anymore, okay? Next time I may have to give you slap on the mouth.”
They went off to take a shower. For the rest of the evening, you’d never know anything had happened at all. To the two of them, this incident was no different than any other number of daily spats they have as sisters.
My wife and I, however, were equal parts awed, disgusted, embarrassed, and tickled. We’d laugh and then feel terrible for laughing and chat for a while about where Yellow may have learned the word bitch. I don’t call Kyleen bitch, nor do I kick her in the vagina. And Kyleen does not call me bitch, nor kick me in the vagina (at least, not in front of the kids).
So, why write about it? It’s embarrassing. There’s a small part of Kyleen and I that is mortified by the experience. Our kids would never do something like this – not our sweet, beautiful, angel-like little girls.
Except they did.
I asked a couple parent-pals about this and they confided a few stories of their own. It made me feel better. And that made me think that maybe some of you are worried as well. It happens. Kids do stupid stuff and it embarrasses the hell out of parents. We do the best we can, rectify the situation as best we can, and move on.
My wife and I aren’t perfect (though she’s certainly closer to it than I am). My kids aren’t perfect. Our situation isn’t perfect. And that’s great. We’re all going to be just fine.
Parents, the next time your kids do something that makes you feel like maybe you’re a terrible parent, well… You might be.
But probably not.