I laughed at my little girl, and she got her feelings hurt. Not my finest hour. In fact, I have many hours in a single day during which my demeanour is unappealing, my mistakes are numerous, and my behaviour is less than becoming of a loving mother. But this incident in particular caused my daughter pain, which, in turn, caused me a bucketload of it. Here's what happened.
As my family sat around the dinner table asking each other questions about the events of our day, as we do nightly, my daughter began to giddily share a few comments about a boy in her class that all the girls like. This was the first time my little-but-big 6-year-old had divulged to us anything with the word "boy" and "like" in the same sentence. Although she was merely stating to us that all the girls in her class (not her, which she made clear) swoon over this little Casanova, I couldn't help but meet my husband's eye for shared acknowledgment that our baby girl was talking to us about certain feelings. Unfortunately, this is where I screwed up.
She was hurt, and I had hurt her. I felt horrible. I felt ugly. I felt sad.
I let out a little involuntary chuckle. Or, maybe it was voluntary — I don't know. I just know that a few poorly received laughs left my mouth and unexpectedly nailed my daughter in her face. She began to cry immediately. She started to cry so hard that she couldn't voice what was wrong. Granted, she, just like her mother, has a flair for the dramatics, but still, she was hurt, and I had hurt her.
I felt horrible. I felt ugly. I felt sad.
You see, I tell and teach my daughter never to laugh at other people unless you're laughing with them; that it's never kind to find pleasure at the expense of another person's feelings. "Did I really just laugh at my child?" I thought to myself. "You did, and you suck," quickly followed.
I was able to get my daughter to calm down, and I apologised to her for having hurt her feelings. I told her that mommy was wrong and that I shouldn't have done that, but I was just surprised by the topic she brought up. She got over it and quickly moved on, as kids do, but the whole incident is still bothering me, and I'm still beating myself up over it.
Thank God for my husband, who knows how to turn almost anything into a teachable moment for our children. He very age-appropriately and honestly explained to our daughter about the numerous people she's going to encounter in her life that will say or do something she doesn't like, or, yes, even laugh at her, like her witch of a mother. What he encouraged our daughter to do is to "toughen-up" a bit and to grow a "thicker skin," which, of course, needed some explanation.
Then it hit me — yes, I made a mistake, but it was just that, a mistake. I didn't laugh out of malice or ill will, I laughed out of surprise and in no way intended for my little girl's feelings to get hurt. But it happened, and she would have to learn how to communicate about it and deal with such feelings, and my husband and I would need to be the ones to teach her.
We're not always going to be the perfect parents. We'll yell, be hypocrites, and, on occasion, laugh when we shouldn't, but we'll also remember to apologise when we're wrong. We'll discuss our feelings and emotions, share our motives behind our actions, and talk about how to move forward together. We'll challenge each other, learn from each other, and grow together as a family. Sometimes it just takes a few tears along the way.