It was a pleasant drive to preschool this morning. The sun was shining and we smiled as we drove by the trees with the leaves all beautiful hues of reds and yellows. All in all, we’re feeling pretty good about the day ahead. We pull into the church parking lot and get our place in line with the other parents, who are dropping off their preschoolers. Then, from the backseat I hear a little voice say:
“Don’t forget about chapel.” (Only, it didn’t come out as “chapel”, I had to take a second to decipher what she was trying to say.)
I turned around. “Don’t forget about what? Oh, chapel.” I knew the kids had chapel at this Christian preschool, but I didn’t take the time to read the monthly newsletter to learn that parents are encouraged to attend.
I was speechless because I could see it in her eyes how much it hurt her that I wasn’t there, because I did forget. It was the previous day. “Were the parents there?” was my thoughtless rebuttal. “Yes.” She answered matter-of-factly, while still holding my gaze. Man, if looks could kill.
I grasped at my thoughts, trying to find some way to make up for it. I’ll take you for ice cream after school! I’ll let you watch five movies in a row! I’ll buy you a pony!!! Anything! Just please forgive me!
Nothing came out. I just sat there in the driver’s seat, feeling a ton of guilt in the bottom of my stomach like I had just eaten some greasy diner food at midnight the previous night.
She got out of the car and we exchanged I love yous and see you laters and I drove away, looking for the nearest farm where I could purchase a pony to make up for my lack of organizational skills and attention to detail. All the way home, I felt terrible about missing chapel. It then occurred to me that this is why she didn’t have much to say to me on the way home yesterday. Because I missed this activity that was important to her.
When I arrived at home, I immediately leafed through the drawings and papers with alphabet practice scribbles and circles around things that match or don’t match and I found the October newsletter that clearly states, “Chapel: Parents are encouraged to attend.”
See how awful I feel about disappointing my five-year-old? I can only imagine how bad it’s going to be when she’s in grade school and I accidentally forget the date of the holiday play or when she’s in high school and I miss the big game. I’m on the other side of the guilt trip, now. I get to feel what disappointing someone else really feels like. I realize that buying her a pony is not the way to make things “better”. The only way I can make things better and teach her a lesson at the same time is to simply apologize to her. I don’t need to make promises because I know that really isn’t the best way to handle disappointment.
I let my little girl down and wow, it really kind of feels terrible. How do you disappoint your child and how do you make up for it? Are you teaching them that a sincere apology is enough or do you make promises to make it up to them? What do you think is the best way to handle a child’s disappointment?