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I mop hardwood floors after the children go to bed and I think it will be irritating, but it isn’t. It’s inside my head time.  I need more time with my own thoughts while my hands are busy. We all need more of that in our lives.

I think about the hour before dinner the other day.  How tired the kids were. How little I had left.  How I shooed their hungry hands from the table over and over. Not yet.  Don’t climb on the chairs.  NOT YET.  Find something to do for a few minutes.

And I think about how I walked into the dining room a millisecond too late, as the tablecloth was in the actual act of sliding off the table, caught in Nate’s right hand, his knee in his booster seat, his face a little awed.  The crash of four milk cups and a water glass on the floor. Silverware bouncing.  Droplets scattered.

I think about how I yelled “NO!  NO!”  The words honed hard as diamonds beneath the weight of a million tired mothers and a thousand burned dinners.  Pioneer women sweating over cook fires and mothers weaving through reeds on the banks of the Nile and maybe even cave mothers with animal-skin swaddled toddlers sounded that barbaric NO with me.

My mind replays the way he stuffed both fists into his mouth and howled his two-year-old grief.  Has anyone else ever spoken to him so unkindly?  I doubt it. Only a mother’s frustration can run so high.  How he retreated to the stairs to cry where I could not help but hear him, asking with each heaving sob that I come and tell him we were okay.  And I think about how I didn’t.  I swore and stomped and sopped milk out of the carpet and flung dripping towels down the basement stairs and fixed plates to the sound of crying that rarely fails to bring me running to the rescue.

I think about Dr. Hoffman, an attachment-specialist whose catchphrases play on repeat in my head.  Repair, he urges. That word is printed on a card on my nightstand.  I think about his thirty-three percent rule and how realistic he is and how much I identify with that realism.  Meet emotional needs whenever you can and repair when you can’t.

“Nate,” I slipped onto the stair beside him.  “Nater skater. I’m sorry.  It’s okay.  Momma’s tired and the spilled milk made me sad, but I always love you.”  We are okay.  How he wrapped himself, octopus-like, around me and pressed his cheek to mine and whispered, “I help you.”  We re-set the table together, the remnants of spilled milk seeping into our socks.

You may think this is crazy, but I think about how I feel good about the incident, here, on my knees with the silence of sleeping children allowing my own thoughts to flow.  I feel at peace.  I think Dr. Hoffman would give me the nod.  Because I will never be perfect, not at any of my relationships and certainly not as a mother. But there is always, always, time to repair.

76 Responses to Thoughts
  1. Jessica@Team Rasler
    January 15, 2012 | 5:36 am

    Beautifully said, as usual.

    I think “repair” is one of the most important lessons we can teach our children. Because none of us is perfect, and if we run away from others at the first sign of anger, of frustration, of imperfection, we will never achieve the loves we want and deserve. So over and over again we show them imperfection and reparation, and hope that we’re giving them this most important tool to happiness.

    • Anymommy
      January 15, 2012 | 6:50 am

      I love this comment. You are right, we are not only repairing the relationship in the moment, but also teaching them that relationships can be repaired.

  2. Laura Lee
    January 15, 2012 | 5:38 am

    I needed this like oxygen tonight. I have been there,
    Thank you thank you…

  3. Adventures In Babywearing
    January 15, 2012 | 5:51 am

    Sometimes I worry that I am the harshest voice they hear, when I feel like I’m supposed to be the gentle one. It feels like that’s a lot to ask considering what’s expected of me. I console myself with how mama animals do it- like how they correct and growl and hold firm at a pup’s scruff, I hope my kids get that some day. And I hope I never lose sight of the gentle I long to be.


  4. cindy w
    January 15, 2012 | 6:47 am

    Oh man. I might need to put the word “Repair” on a card on my nightstand too.

    Thank you for writing this, I needed to read it. For all the times I snap and yell and then feel like crap afterward. And of course, I know on some level that we’ve all been there. But hearing/reading it helps so much.

  5. Karli
    January 15, 2012 | 6:47 am

    I very rarely leave comments on blogs but I just want to say thank you. Thank you! This brought a tear to my eyes. What a great reminder. Thank you.

  6. Claire
    January 15, 2012 | 7:52 am

    I love this idea of repair too… I also think that we learn how to trust in relationships that have been bruised and do this repair early early in life. As in, part of why I think I am so sensitive to others and so willing to be the first to reach out (um. well sometimes) when there is a wrong between me and another, is I can so emotionally and vividly remember when my mother would blow up after I accidentally threw the proverbial straw on her back. The thought that I could create so much hurt, has taught me to be careful and considerate. The knowledge that you can screw up and still be loved was taught too in these moments, and always me to take social risks. And I think these are hard lessons to be taught anywhere beyond real strong loving relationships. As a little kid, my actions mattered because someone I REAALY loved was impacted by them (good or bad). And as a little kid, the draw of those people (parents, fav aunties, etc) is what urged me to learn the art of reaching out to say sorry, to say ‘i help you’, to learn to make things right again.

    I loved this post. We all yell, NO!!! (if not aloud, then in our heads) and while I commend (and agree with!) you for wanting to be gentle and kind, I also think there is a truth to that frustration as well and even more truth in the interaction afterward. Life is messy — I think it is good if we can teach kids how to be kind and honest in the mess. And sometimes when you convince yourself, even if for just 5 minutes, that you really screwed up, how could that person ever ever forgive/love me again, you wait — let them approach you, and then they do. They come around and together you repair. I think there are few gifts bigger than that, which is knowing, from an early age, that even when it looks and feels awful, people can fix things, because they love each other. Just my 2 cents:) In the end, you both know even more how much you care about each other.

  7. dysfunctional mom
    January 15, 2012 | 1:02 pm

    You amaze and inspire me.

  8. Rebecca @ Unexplained X2
    January 15, 2012 | 1:15 pm

    I think that being able to apologize for our imperfections will make us better parents…I have to believe that. When we were little, no one apologized, but I think it’s admirable. People are fallible. Life is hard. Spilled milk sucks.

  9. Patois
    January 15, 2012 | 2:19 pm

    I’ll have to run to Staples to have them laminate a “REPAIR” card for me as soon as the store opens.

  10. tracey just another mom
    January 15, 2012 | 2:55 pm

    You see, this is why I don’t like shows like Supernanny, where she has a no-excuses policy for adult breakdowns. “You’re the adult! Don’t act like a child and lose your temper!” Bull-crap. Adults are just toddlers with bigger feet and a knowledge of the “rules”. It doesn’t mean we are always able to curb our initial responses. But it does mean that we are able to apologize when we hurt someone’s feelings, and Nate learned a very good lesson that day: That apologizing applies to everyone.

  11. Lisa/Mommymo
    January 15, 2012 | 3:17 pm

    What is the name of this miracle book? Although the miracle is outting into practice what you read. Personally, I need to work on the *repair* part.

  12. Shannon
    January 15, 2012 | 3:27 pm

    Help me track down this Dr. Hoffman & his 33 percent!

  13. Anne
    January 15, 2012 | 4:08 pm

    Yep, I think we’ve all been there…especially at dinnertime! I go back to “repair” more than I care to admit…

  14. pamela dayton time
    January 15, 2012 | 4:50 pm

    There is nothing quite as powerful as an apology, and that makes it one of the best teaching tools we have as parents.

    Good work, Jedi.

  15. mosey (kim)
    January 15, 2012 | 6:04 pm

    Oh girlfriend. You are such a good mama. I think these thoughts too, all too frequently, as I crawl back out of an episode of depression and do my repair work with my girl – who always bears the brunt.

  16. Galit Breen
    January 15, 2012 | 7:03 pm

    Oh, you just brought me to my knees in tears.


    I think I’ll write that one down, too.



  17. Galit Breen
    January 15, 2012 | 7:03 pm

    Oh, you just brought me to my knees in tears.


    I think I’ll write that one down, too.


  18. Louise
    January 15, 2012 | 7:13 pm

    Left in tears – but uplifted by the reminder that we all go through the same…and we can all come out with bigger hearts and stronger spirits. Thank you.

  19. Amanda
    January 15, 2012 | 8:11 pm

    Love this post. I know that level of frustration and reaction it causes, so well. A great reminder to take the time to repair before it is unfixable!

  20. jwoap (Marna)
    January 15, 2012 | 8:48 pm

    You know I have a quiet kid and on the occasion I have yelled it’s broken his heart. Huge tears, and sad sad sobs. But you know, we all yell from time to time. No one is perfect. We are all learning, and the fact that you apologize and tell your child you are sorry, and you love him is the effect of like 100 therapy sessions for kids working out mom and dad issues — I mean that sincerely. And guess what the hope is he will listen to you and there won’t be a next time with a table cloth on the floor.

    You are an amazing mother and your kids adore you, just like we do.

  21. Ann
    January 15, 2012 | 10:28 pm

    I have tears of recognition in my eyes and I thank you.

    This piece is so amazing because it captures EXACTLY motherhood. Exactly. Goddammit, motherhood.

  22. Rachael
    January 15, 2012 | 10:36 pm

    Beautiful post! I work hard to teach my daughter the power of “repair” and making things right. That means I need to be quick to apologize and make repairs when I mess up, too. Messing up sucks, but it’s good for kids to see we aren’t perfect, but we never stop loving them.

  23. Ellen
    January 16, 2012 | 12:51 am

    Amen to that!!!!

  24. Laura
    January 16, 2012 | 1:56 am

    Oh, thank you so very much for this. Truly, I needed to read your words tonight. Repair. I need to work on this. I need to repair things before it’s too late.

  25. Sarah
    January 16, 2012 | 3:12 am

    Thank you. Today was a rough day at our house. I love the idea of repair. Going to do something with that.

  26. Gayle
    January 16, 2012 | 5:08 am

    “I help you” did me in.

    There are so many things I wish I could repair….if only I would have tried sooner.

    You’ll make more “mistakes” but as long as you let him know that it will be okay you will be fine. So many don’t.

  27. ThatJanieGirl
    January 16, 2012 | 5:15 am

    Repair, huh?


    Great word. Great task.


  28. Ggirl
    January 16, 2012 | 7:05 am

    Amazing words, yours and the one that speaks from your nightstand to so many of us, repair. Love you Xxx

  29. tracy@sellabitmum
    January 16, 2012 | 1:43 pm

    Love this. So true. I feel like I am always the mean one. The too loud one. The yeller. Thank you for this. xo

  30. Candice@NotesFromABroad
    January 16, 2012 | 2:07 pm

    I think of how those little arms around your neck were repairing you .. better than just about anything can.
    lots of love to you, from someone who knows there is no repairing those words spoken in anger a long time ago.

  31. Lyndsay
    January 16, 2012 | 4:16 pm

    Gah. All of this is so true. “Repair”. I must write that down and put it beside my bed too (or probably more helpfully beside the stove for dinner-time stresses and beside the bathroom sink for bedtime-routine stresses).

    And Nater’s “I help you”? Oh sweet boy.

    I rushed Munchie to bed one night last week – I was short with her and snappy and not at all soothing and comforting and relaxing. So naturally she was snappy back at me. When she crept out of bed for the 14th time, I was ready to lose it. Until she said “Mom? I just wanted to apologize for being kind of rude to you.”

    Repair. Love it.

  32. Annie
    January 16, 2012 | 4:36 pm

    So insightful and realistic. Repair. Knowing it may not come immediately, giving time to cool down.
    I really like this. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  33. Issa
    January 16, 2012 | 5:16 pm

    I needed this today. Thank you friend.

  34. Lady Jennie
    January 16, 2012 | 5:56 pm

    I have tears reading this. It’s beautiful and touching.

  35. MommyNamedApril
    January 16, 2012 | 6:53 pm

    we do a lot of repairing around here. :-/

  36. Mel
    January 16, 2012 | 7:37 pm

    I love this so much. I lose it with my daughter. Not always, but sometimes. When I am tired from work and she is tired from a busy day of play. I always say to other moms, the one thing I do well as a mother is apologize. We all get it wrong sometimes, we are human, we fail. Repairing it – THAT’S the blessing.

  37. foradifferentkindofgirl (fadkog)
    January 17, 2012 | 12:25 am

    I struggle to remember the part where we’re to repair, but when I do, I know I need to remember it for the next time.

  38. Mom24@4evermom
    January 17, 2012 | 1:28 am

    I’ve struggled with this for days. For me, in my head, because of my circumstances, there is no time to repair. Not time you can count on anyway. Everything I do, everything, revolved around the thought that the world can change in a heartbeat, one phone call and it’s too late to try to repair. It’s exhausting, but it governs every thing I do. I never want to have to live with remembering horrible things I said that it was too late to repair…

  39. Kristina
    January 17, 2012 | 6:28 am

    So true. This mother’s frustration often runs higher than I ever imagined. Thank goodness for the wise observations of Kent Hoffman and a friend like you to tune me in…. Repair (repair, repair and more repair) keeps me from drowning in guilt and actually inspires confidence in my parenting. Two for one!

  40. Mom24@4evermom
    January 17, 2012 | 12:53 pm

    I’m not saying I never say/do things I regret, just that when I do there’s no comfort in the concept of repairing. I’m definitely full of failings, it just eats away at me.

  41. Sharon
    January 17, 2012 | 4:44 pm

    I can’t say how often I feel like I am the only mother who — insert — and it is always such a relief to know that I am not.

  42. Beth
    January 17, 2012 | 8:00 pm

    Thank you for writing this and for helping me think about it. I am now a working mom, a teacher, and I fuss at kids all day without being mean, but then I come home and have no patience left at all with my own beloved child and sometimes I cry after he goes to bed because I am not being a good mommy when I fuss at him for only being a normal 2-year-old. But I try to always tell him, over and over, that I love him. And I keep trying to do better. I will remember this post next time I snap at my baby because of how gentle you sound during the “repair” and how much I identified with your frustration during the “no”. I will take a breath and repair, too.

    That was long. Sorry.

  43. Michelle
    January 18, 2012 | 2:08 am

    How do I say I love this when I say that about every post you write? I so am with you on some of that. On a lot of that. I am just glad that there is the repair option because I can’t be perfect, much as I would love to. I repeat that mantra of “no matter what, I will always love you” which I’m beginning to think they trust.

  44. Michelle
    January 18, 2012 | 2:11 am

    How do I say I love this when I say that about every post you write? I so am with you on some of that. On a lot of that. I am just glad that there is the repair option because I can’t be perfect, much as I would love to. I repeat that mantra of “no matter what, I will always love you” which I’m beginning to think they trust.

    Now I think this is a duplicate comment. Because, ya know. I’m not perfect :)

  45. Kate
    January 18, 2012 | 8:56 pm

    This is beautiful. It’s a lesson I didn’t get from my parents, who kept their anger and frustration controlled. Love transcends anger. Mistakes(ours and theirs) do not hurt real love. And true apologies with octopus hugs do make things better.

    I don’t enjoy losing it with my girls. I feel shame and frustration. But, always they inspire me with their ability to forgive. Repair. Yes.

  46. Ashley King
    January 19, 2012 | 11:56 pm

    BAH! made me cry! how I’ve missed your blog so much!!! I am SO SO guilty of having done the same thing, more than once…. what is wonderful is that you caught yourself and you repaired it. you fixed it! you were okay! I am constantly apologizing and talking things through…. sometimes with the 2 year old and sometimes with the 9 year old, but i think more than anything, they will remember that moment of repair and not that it makes our actions okay, but it shows we are human…. having feelings is okay…. talking them through makes it even better….. i can’t wait to catch up on all that i’ve missed!!!

  47. Jessi
    January 20, 2012 | 1:47 am

    Thank you for this. It gelled nicely with this essay I’d just read, which I think you might enjoy if you’ve not read it:

  48. the mama bird diaries
    January 21, 2012 | 4:37 am

    My daughter recently caught me on videotape yelling about something and I was taken aback at how HARSH I sounded. I love the idea of repair.

  49. Heather
    January 21, 2012 | 2:17 pm

    Thank you.
    No really. Thank you. Sometimes I get so sick of saying I’m sorry. Sometimes I believe that I’m going to run out of chances. That’s not true.


  50. Anna Lefler
    January 21, 2012 | 2:45 pm

    Oh, what a beautiful post.

    You always inspire me to be a better mom and a better person.

    Luckily, this doesn’t get in the way of our friendship. ;-)



  51. Sandra
    January 22, 2012 | 6:40 pm

    Love. Love. Love. This is a post that is a must read for EVERY mom.

  52. Jessica B
    January 23, 2012 | 3:36 am

    Ah, this post made me cry a little. I can’t imagine any mom who hasn’t had a moment like this.

  53. Kirsten
    January 23, 2012 | 4:33 pm

    I try so hard to notice when I’m frazzled and reacting but not paying attention to how my mood can overtake those of the little ones around me. I had a similar experience last night. No messes, but sadness in my 6yo that was caused by choices she made. Instead of removing her from the situation, I embraced her in love despite enforcing the consequences. She cried in my arms and wrapped herself around me when I told her I loved her. Teaching our children that we all make mistakes and as long as we try to fix them and they are loved despite those mistakes, I think we win.

  54. Neuromama
    January 25, 2012 | 3:43 pm

    Absolutely love this post. Been there a few times myself. I try to think of it as setting a good example for them. Do I expect them to be perfect and to never show (or feel) anger? No. It’s what you do about it, how you repair it that’s the really valuable lesson for them.

  55. justmakingourway
    January 25, 2012 | 6:05 pm

    This brought tears to my eyes. I am going to try to remember “Repair”. Sometimes I feel so sharp I think I could cut skin.

    Thank you for this one.

  56. Jessica
    January 26, 2012 | 12:54 am

    I need to remember “repair” thanks so much for sharing this. It is so true, we all have our moments but we have to forgive ourselves as easily as our children forgive us.

  57. Elizabeth Flora Ross
    January 27, 2012 | 2:50 am

    Oh, how I needed to read this. I have had these evenings. And I always regret them. What I would love is to be able to redo them. Since I can’t, I will definitely focus on repair. Thank you.

  58. Robin | Farewell, Stranger
    January 27, 2012 | 2:57 am

    I want to hug you for writing this. I always repair, but I still spend too much time beating myself up about what happened in the first place. I keep wishing I could prevent it but I actually probably can’t. And thank goodness I’m not the only one.

    • Anymommy
      January 27, 2012 | 6:36 am

      Not the only one by a long, long shot. I don’t think we can prevent it and I think that’s the point. We can teach how to make it alright again.

  59. Cool Like Pie
    January 27, 2012 | 3:05 am

    Imagine how insane it would be to have a room full of 30 children spilling their milk! (Now go thank a teacher) I like your article…it’s very important for adults to talk about frustration. It’s the only way to keep it real. Thanks!

  60. Tami
    January 27, 2012 | 3:19 am

    if there were one phrase that sums up the best way of parenting I would have to say “Meet emotional needs whenever you can and repair when you can’t” We all need to take that time to be angry, to hold ourselves away from our children while we allow that anger and the frustration to run its course. The fact that we can step in after and repair the hurt is one of the secret joy of being a Mama. When we try to be “perfect and there for our kids all the time we do a disservice to ourselves

  61. Shell
    January 27, 2012 | 3:35 am

    I totally lose my temper. I do try to repair though I’ve never thought about it in those terms.

  62. Elizabeth
    January 27, 2012 | 3:39 am

    I haven’t been here in far too long, but I’m so glad I clicked over to read this. I love this, Stacey. Thank you.

  63. By Word of Mouth Musings
    January 27, 2012 | 5:43 am

    Repair … part of why I am still tidying, sorting, arranging at almost 1am … so that tomorrow can be calm … that I can stay ahead of a possible storm. Our children learn everything from us, this, this letting them see that we too are human, with tears and anger and humility and forgiveness – we teach them the right way.
    Thank you for this …

  64. Jayme
    January 27, 2012 | 8:26 am

    This post came up in my Twitter timeline, and I am so thankful that it did. There have been nights where my words echo in my mind, keeping sleep away. The vision of her downturned lip, her sobs, the tightness of her arms around my neck when we come back together. I hate that I lose my temper, hate that my voice sometimes gets louder than I intended it to. But I love the idea that I can make the whispered words mean more, ring truer, than the loud ones. Thank you.

  65. Liz @ PeaceLoveGuac
    January 27, 2012 | 1:45 pm

    Oh my heart. Beautiful and therapeutic. Thank you for this.

  66. Momo Fali
    January 27, 2012 | 1:52 pm

    I wish you were my mom.

  67. The Friday Five
    January 27, 2012 | 2:54 pm

    […] was also happy to discover Is There Any Mommy Out There? this week. Stacey’s post Thoughts is an account of a moment in her life– and mine. Yours too? That’s what makes it so […]

  68. julie gardner
    January 27, 2012 | 8:51 pm

    As I scroll through these comments, I see so many mothers admitting their truths: I do this, too; I needed these words; thank you for reminding me to repair the damage done…

    And I agree with them all. I’m big on “I’m sorry” around here. My children are older, but this hasn’t quelled the need for me to apologize when I’ve been wrong or dismissive about their feelings.

    Still. I want to take a second to say that along with repairing with him, you need to forgive yourself.

    We’re all stumbling through this thing called parenting doing the best we can. And when our love is there all the time under the surface, the mistakes on the top-layer are easier to erase.

    I can tell your love runs deep. And that your repairing is for real.

    Thanks for sharing your heart with all of us.

  69. Ariana Lemarr
    January 29, 2012 | 9:38 am

    I am not familiar of Dr. Hoffman’s word of wisdom. I only more familiar with the soap, which is named after him. But I like how you handled the situation with your kid. And it is nice that it ended happily and the “hugging octopus-like” made me smile.

  70. Elaine
    January 31, 2012 | 6:19 am

    A post like this makes your blog name ring true for me. You ARE “any mommy”, Stacey.

    ANY mommy who has been in this same evening, having the same feelings. I saw myself in MY own kitchen, with my own children while reading your words.

    And though it hurts to think of the things I do or say that I shouldn’t, you also reinforce that we are only human and full of mistakes. Thank GOD they can be “repaired” through love and forgiveness.


  71. Michelle
    February 2, 2012 | 4:51 am

    This post touched me deeply. I was told something similar by OUR attachment therapist. Look beyond the behavior and address the emotion. This is what plays in MY head when I am “losing it” with my daughter. REPAIR is an excellent word for this because whether or not I like it, I am continually repairing the damage of 18 months of NOT having a constant caregiver of her own, of NOT being the only person that matters to one other person and of NOT getting everything that an infant deserves out of this life. I can’t help but think that she and I will always being in this state of repair…but that’s ok….I’m her momma and she’s my girl!

  72. Inspired : These Little Waves
    March 13, 2012 | 11:23 am

    […] – Grace – Pause – Focus – […]

  73. Jenni Chiu
    May 11, 2012 | 7:18 pm

    Thank you for the reminder. There is always time to repair, and by doing so, I feel gentler to myself and my children.
    That being said- I have SO CRIED over spilled milk.

  74. Ann
    March 20, 2014 | 3:21 pm

    Repair. That is a tool I can use. Thank you, once again, Dear Stacey.

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