Every family has its own "personality". Every parent has their own "style" of parenting. Our children know us and know our "style" and in that they find safety and security.
Recently, I really stepped outside my "style" when the boys and I were working on something and I was tired and really hurting from my fibromyalgia and something that was going on outside of our little family of four was really bothering me. All of that had made me edgy (but no excuses).
While kneeling in a tight corner, the boys were playing and Little Guy dove into the rocking chair slamming it into me. I turned around and literally yelled at Little Guy. Both guys froze in their tracks. Big Guy sat down and said, "Mom.... you have never yelled at us. Ever." Little Guy didn't say anything. I can't tell you how badly I felt.
We all sat down and I had to apologize. However, I knew that one thing was true. The damage was done. Do they still love me? Yes. But, did that one moment make a huge impression on them. Definitely. Uncontrolled anger leaves a mark, a permanent stain, that we can never erase.
I sat down in the floor, apologized and told the boys this story:
"There was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, to hammer a nail in the back fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Then it gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. Most days he got to pull a nail but some days he had to pound a nail in. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, "You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a mark just like the nails left a mark in the fence. It won't matter how many times you say I'm sorry, the wound is still there."
That verse is now marked in my boy's memory Bibles. I hope that when they see it they don't remember their Mom's harsh words, but they remember my willingness to ask their forgiveness.