We decided a long time ago that we’d do this. We’d have our arguments in front of our kids, so they could see what love looks like when it isn’t very pretty. And so they could see conflict wax and wane and settle and resolve and that equilibrium does get reestablished.
But in this moment, I wasn’t thinking about the nature of love, or equilibrium, or any philosophical parenting BS. I was mad, and I didn’t care. It was my turn to be childish, to feel rage and have a tantrum. And oh, did it feel good.
The argument landed in the hallway of the main level of the house, and our kids were in the living room, just on the other side of the wall. We stayed put, the decision we’d made over a decade ago holding fast in this moment that didn’t resemble the ideals we’d had in our mid-twenties.
I felt particularly queen-like, having just birthed our 3rd child. No matter what Ben sacrificed for our family, it didn’t stack up to the child-growing I’d done; to the months of sleepless nights, the round the clock breastfeeding, the physical demands of pregnancy and childbirth, and the toll that caring for three small children takes, particularly on the mother.
In my mind I had a right to my anger and to my position, no matter how outlandish.
And for some reason, holding onto that anger felt really good. I was ready to have it out. I had a hand full of trump cards and I was ready to smack them down on the table, one after another.
Keeping that kind of anger going is easy when you have heated resistance.
Which is why I suffered a jolt of frustration when Ben apologized. It was a real apology. No excuses. No rationalizing. Just a real and honest admission of remorse and a promise to do better.
The anger I had been unleashing soaked up into the sponge of his apology. I could keep it coming, but it got harder without the wall of resistance. All the sleepless nights and cups of juice and pants outgrown and grown into again, which had been the arrows in my bow, now the very things making me too tired to keep firing.
And then there was nothing between us but the air after Ben’s apology, thick with sponged up anger.
And I became painfully aware that there was silence on the other side of the wall. The little ears I had traced with my lips just minutes after birth, waiting to hear me say it – the words we’d rehearsed so many times during their daily battles and conflicts over chalk and cheese and who sits where.
And so, silently cursing myself for ever making my kids do this, I summoned the words forth and pushed them through my teeth.
“I accept your apology and I forgive you.”
Oh, the humility. Is this how they felt after the fight over the cardboard bricks?
I don’t like forced apologies, and even less, forced forgiveness. But something about saying those words provided a foothold, a root on a muddy slope. While at the surface I was still dripping with anger, in the deeper parts of me, I wanted to feel forgiveness, and speaking it brought it into being.
Something deep in me shifted. He could feel it and gave me a nod in closure. My eyes softened against his and my shoulders relaxed. He took off his jacket and the voices in the next room resumed their chatter.