A couple of times recently, my daughter, when her younger brother has interrupted her, has rudely spat out the sentence (interrupting him right back) “I was in the middle of a sentence.” Her tone when she’s done it has been horrible — hateful and curt and unforgiving.
She learned it from me. For a while, my kids both had a habit of interrupting me, and it began to annoy me something ferocious. So I got in the habit of interrupting them back and saying this sentence in what I now realize, hearing it reflected in my daughter’s voice, was a really awful tone. The first couple of times I heard this echo of myself in her, I didn’t say anything about it, but last night I did.
What I said was “I’m sorry.” Although I think I’m mostly a reasonably good parent, I’ve certainly done some things, or said some things, I’ve regretted. This has been one of my more shameful things in recent years. I started using this phrase at a time when I had begun introducing sarcasm as a way of providing feedback, and my introduction of sarcasm for this purpose is another of the parenting failures of which I’m really ashamed. I suppose I started this at a time during which I was frustrated and was sort of venting, and it was a really unhealthy way to parent my children and a crummy way to treat a human being in general. This year I made an effort to scrub sarcasm from my repertoire when giving the kids feedback about their behavior (sarcasm in general is still in bounds if offered humorously and with something like a wink), and I think I’m pretty well broken of the habit.
So, I apologized to my daughter last night for treating her (and my son) so rudely. I told her it was no way to treat a human being and that, as with the sarcasm, I was going to work on scrubbing this awful sentence from my repertoire. I said I hoped she’d join me.
There are certainly worse behaviors I could have modeled, and this at least is one that we can both learn from and use to improve how we treat other people, but I still feel like a pretty big dud over it.