The other day, I reminded myself, yet again just how human I am.
I lost my temper with my eldest daughter. She was being defiant, as she should be; she’s nine years old, nine going on 16.
She questions everything I say, challenges every decision I make. She is her mother’s daughter. I love her precocious tenacity—I’m fostering this quality in her—but sometimes it’s overwhelming at 8:00 a.m. when we are trying to get out the door.
This particular morning, over a period of two hours, we debated whether or not she needed to wear a jacket. She insisted on wearing shorts, a tank top and a cut off jean vest. It was 39 degrees outside. I could snap a leaf in half from the frost. Usually I would allow her bear the consequence of being cold, but she already had a cold and I didn’t want to make it worse. This, compounded with the fact I hadn’t had a break in a while…I lost it.
I was brushing her hair and armed with the impulsive reflex of frustration and anger, I smacked her on the head with her innocent yellow hairbrush.
I couldn’t believe I did it, but I did. I hit my precious daughter with an object. We both looked at each other, stunned. I spent the rest of the day profusely apologizing.
I hurt her (even though it didn’t leave a mark or a welt). I hurt her heart. She trusts me to always protect her and keep her safe from danger, but that morning I was the danger.
I dragged my guilt around all day, and then…
“Wait, you did that? I’ve done that too!“ my friend admitted, relief in her eyes. A woman who I’ve always admired has done that too.
I felt like our eyes grew roots and intertwined. Our mistakes linked us, bonded us in a deeply intimate way. When someone else exposes their weakness or darkness, hearts mate. When we allow ourselves to be seen as we are and someone else does the same, we give each other permission to accept who we are and what we do.
In that moment, I exhaled all of my guilt and forgave myself. I also took a hard look at myself and recognized that I continue to uphold myself to a standard I think I need to maintain. I try to be perfect, even though I know very well I’m not.
I am laden with faults and I’m hard on myself because of that. I make up stories in my head: “Other mothers don’t do these things. Other mothers don’t get upset like I do or make the mistakes I make,” but that’s not true. They do.
I compare myself to an ideal I’ve created, which doesn’t exist. We are all human and we f**k up sometimes.
I don’t care how refined our spiritual practices are or how hard we try, we all get upset, we all get angry and we all lose it from time to time.
In my opinion, a refined spiritual practice is the practice of acceptance—self-acceptance of the faults we have and the person we are now, not the worshipping or yearning to be someone else, someone better.
When we make mistakes, what neutralizes those mistakes is our ability to be remorseful, hold ourselves accountable, learn from our actions and most importantly forgive ourselves, because no one else will forgive us until we do.
I can’t take back what I did to my daughter the other morning, but I can embrace my actions and find another way of handling the frustration I will inevitably encounter tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.
Although I am not proud of my actions, I hope that I am teaching my daughter a valuable lesson: that I am human and by accepting my humanness, hopefully she will accept hers too.