April 24, 2012


Actions speak louder than words, Mama said,
And all my life, I believed it.
Words are things we toss into the wind, blurt out carelessly
caught in a moment or a flirtation or a flash of rage,
Words that you can take back with a contrite look and a a bashful “I’m sorry.”
But guess what?  “I’m sorry?”  Aren’t those just words, too?

I remember a winter day, snow blowing so hard that I knew I was fucked,
Power out by 7 am, and you were angry that pancakes, waffles, eggs weren’t going to happen.
Cereal it was, but it went down bitter, and even 7 games of CandyLand didn’t pacify.
Nor did the reading of “Are You My Mother” for half and hour.
By 3pm, I’d had it, just HAD it, had tried so hard and failed.

I don’t know if it was something you said or something you did,
But something in me broke and I smacked your padded bottom with an angry palm.
I will never forget the look on your face–startled,
Eyes big and wet and disoriented,
Unable to believe that I’d hurt you, done you harm
But I had, and I hugged you so hard and said, “I’m sorry.”

Did you understand? Did those words mean anything?
Words vs actions–it’s a roll of the dice.
All you need to remember is to be careful
Because whether it’s a word or a hand, it will slice.

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Stacia April 24, 2012 at 5:43 am

I can’t parent lately without thinking about kindness. Will yelling at him really make him more likely to put his socks in the laundry basket? Will getting frustrated really make her stop asking to get out the glitter? Will tossing out a few angry words really make them stop fighting over an empty toilet paper roll? Then why not just be kind?

I’m still in the thinking stages of this … nowhere near implementation yet. Sigh.


Arnebya April 24, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Stacia, this is absolutely perfect. I find myself being so deliberate with my responses lately, trying to lessen the yelling, limit the anger. It doesn’t always happen, but I’ll be damned if my knowledge of purposeful word use isn’t winning.


TKW April 25, 2012 at 6:45 am

I agree with you both–I’ve been taking a lot of taking deep breaths and counting to 3 before I speak lately.


Abby April 24, 2012 at 5:44 am

Words are your gift and your talent, my friend. We’re all better for the fact that you share them with us.


Karen Sagaspe April 24, 2012 at 6:59 am

Love this, and Stacia’s response. When you demean, embarrass and hit a child you really can’t be sure what type of an adult you will create. We are four children of a verbally and physically abusive father and a mother who did nothing to protect us. My beautiful sister, at age 55 continues to walk with her head down and physically shakes at the sound of a loud voice. A brother who abused alcohol, drugs, women and had more vices than I knew existed only changed after a prison sentence. Another brother lost, and I outwardly hope that he stays that way. Me, I did my best to protect them by taking all the hits I could until I met a boy who wanted to marry me and got me out of the hell that was my life. I didn’t like him much but it was the only way out at the time. I never wanted kids because I was afraid I’d be like my parents. Lucky for me I couldn’t have them. Neither could my sister who wanted them desperately. The invisible bruises are the ones that hurt the most.


Maria April 24, 2012 at 8:24 am

I understand. So much it hurts. But once moment of lost patience will not harm deeply. It is the constant berating, the incessant pushing down of a child that creates the wounds that never heal.

As a mother, I try to hard. Sometimes the words that come out of my mouth are twisted with frustration. Those are the ones that are angrily spit back at me. And I have no one to blame but myself.


TKW April 25, 2012 at 6:47 am


I usually behave worst with my own child when *I* have hit my limit, not necessarily because of something they’ve done. It’s like that threat of patience suddenly breaks…


Elaine A. April 24, 2012 at 9:35 am

We all snap sometimes. I think “I’m sorry” means a lot when said with the right meaning and when it’s well, MEANT. We all make mistakes so those words are extremely important as long as they are said when they need to be.

Our kids aren’t going to turn out perfect either and they need to know those words too. :)


C @ Kid Things April 24, 2012 at 9:41 am

I went through a stage, a long stage, where I had many days the same as this. I’m slowly coming out of it, trying harder to keep my voice lower, my temper in check. It takes work, though, because losing yourself in anger is so much easier.


Jennifer April 24, 2012 at 10:23 am

We’ve all been there. Some of us more than we would like to admit.


TKW April 25, 2012 at 6:49 am


That’s the hardest part. The admitting. Because you try to hard to parent with grace and patience…


naptimewriting April 24, 2012 at 10:34 am

Yes, it will. And I still don’t know which is worse. Because the words cut to the core and the hands end up cutting into future generations.

Been there, Kitchen. Been there.


Justine April 24, 2012 at 11:31 am

Oh mama, I’ve been there. And that look in response? That sliced too. And never do I want to see that again.


TKW April 25, 2012 at 6:49 am


It was the look that did me in, too. And I never wanted to see it again, either.


BigLittleWolf April 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Some days there’s no getting the parenting thing right. At least, that’s how we feel, but it usually isn’t true.

Ask our kids?

They can’t imagine not having their own parents as parents, most of the time. They learn to love us as we are – human – and occasionally needing to say “I’m sorry” for something we did or didn’t do, say or didn’t say, or simply as an act of empathy for them having a bad day.

You grace us with your words and your humor so often, Dana. We’re better parents and people for it.


TKW April 25, 2012 at 6:50 am


Those are kind words. I wish I weren’t “quite” so human most of the time, you know?


Kate April 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Beautiful and brilliant.

I’m forever the kid in story who said, Grandpa hit me with his voice. He yelled. And it hurt.

But frustration and anger happen and showing our kids how to handle them is part of this job.


TKW April 25, 2012 at 6:51 am


“Grandpa hit me with his voice, and it hurt.” Oh man. That’s going to stay with me all day.


Amy @ Never-True Tales April 24, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Guh, this is great. And unfortunately, I know the feeling exactly. How my stomach sank sickeningly the moment I realized what I’d done: lost control. Lost trust. It’s awful. And the words that follow don’t seem to hold any weight at all. Luckily, we’re got YEARS of potential good actions on our side in this parenting game.


TKW April 25, 2012 at 6:52 am


I’m counting on those years of better behavior…:)


ck April 24, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Sometimes I think it doesn’t matter which route we take–every word and every action counts to someone. And it’s after thoughts like that that I appreciate my parents even more. Roughly translated, they’ll appreciate how hard we’re trying in 30 years or so. :)


TKW April 25, 2012 at 6:53 am


That’s true. We never appreciate our mamas until we become one ourselves, right?


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri April 24, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Ugh, so get this. And sometimes I am so mired in it, I don’t recognize who I’ve become. It’s paying attention and being in the present and learning that I sometimes need to step back. Because some slices have lasting effects.

Kitch, you truly have a gift. I am so glad to have intersected with you because YOUR words often push me to elevate mine. Thank you so much.


TKW April 25, 2012 at 6:55 am


I think that’s why laundry rooms were invented. So Mamas could have a place to lock themselves in and cool off.


Belinda April 24, 2012 at 4:26 pm

I’ve seen that look. That look that rips my heart to shreds, knowing I caused it. It’s seared in my fiber, a constant reminder that I could really, so very easily mess up this parenting gig.


TKW April 25, 2012 at 6:57 am


This parenting gig is complicated stuff, isn’t it?


SuziCate April 24, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Yes, this happened with me once…I remember it so well; fortunately my children do not. As aways, Kitch, you know just the right words to make us feel like we were there with you.


TKW April 25, 2012 at 6:57 am


Once is all it takes, doesn’t it? Ugh, those wide eyes…


Pamela April 24, 2012 at 7:15 pm

I just love how you always, always, write about what really happened. It is such a huge relief, each time I come here.


TKW April 25, 2012 at 6:58 am


It’s hard to admit these things sometimes, though. Those times when you are just plain ugly…


Kelly April 24, 2012 at 8:36 pm

I call this “the live wire.” I am one most days, other days the whole house is teetering there with me, still others I’m trying to get one kid or the other (or the husband) of their own version of it. One day these years will seem less vicious. Right?


TKW April 25, 2012 at 6:59 am


I’m counting on it. Please, please.


Jody April 24, 2012 at 9:14 pm

1. Words come to mean an awful lot if you spend your whole life longing to hear “I’m sorry.”

2. I know that Look. I saw it on a little face after a butt swat delivered in anger, too. And then I hugged him and said I was sorry – no, it wasn’t that I “said I was sorry,” it was that I looked into his little face and told him how very sorry I truly was, and promised him I’d never, ever do that again. He believed me, and I haven’t. He remembers it, and the memory gives him faith in my word.


TKW April 25, 2012 at 7:00 am


That’s the promise he needed.


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes April 25, 2012 at 5:48 am

Truer words where never written.


CJ April 25, 2012 at 7:25 am

You have hit the nail on the head! Children repeat our words and reenact our actions. Both are powerful mediums!


Cathy April 26, 2012 at 10:50 am

I wanted to write about how words can hurt – truly they can. I cringe at the moments when I wish I could take back something I said or did and it seems no amount of words can make amends. I wonder if I will be remembered as a loving mother or an evil bitch.


Jane April 26, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Wow. This is good – you amazing writer, you! And so true – the power of words can certainly match the action.


Heather April 26, 2012 at 6:51 pm

I am ashamed of some of the words that have come out of my mouth. Words that I have directed toward my children. Your words speak to my heart. They remind me to breathe first. A simple concept not easily completed.


Jen @ Momalom April 27, 2012 at 7:45 am

I’m without words here, mostly because this is all so familiar. Maybe it’s not the words or the actions but how the two are inseparable, dependent to make sense in the context of a single moment.


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