I’ve always prided myself on keeping all of the balls in the air. You know the ones. Making sure the kids are fed, getting them to school on time, from school on time, homework done, extracurricular activities, baths (most of the time), etc. It’s a seriously grueling job. I’ve got a vault for a memory, and I amaze myself with how much I can take on and remember at times.
But sometimes I mess up, I screw up, and I F*CK UP. And when I do, it can be a hard pill to swallow. When my kids are involved, and an apology is warranted, it can also be a long road to forgiveness. When I’m apologizing, it’s kind of like expecting someone to understand you when you’re speaking two different languages at once. They understand parts of what you’re saying, but not all of it.
So when I forgot that it was early release at my son’s school one week, you can imagine his devastation and mine when I wasn’t there to pick him up. The information was either lost in transit, or not sent out at all, but it sucked nonetheless!
It didn’t help that almost no one was readily available to pick him up, either. Luckily Grandpa was able to run to the rescue. But it was too late, the damage was not just done, it was Code Red TRAUMA.
The anger, frustration, and sadness radiating from my seven-year-old was both crushing and defeating. He lashed out at his grandfather, and placed the blame on him. I felt like the biggest failure in the world. I thought, what if I’ve ruined him for life? What if this is the moment where his life shifts and it sends him into a self-numbing spiral that has incomprehensible consequences?
What if? What it? What if?
I was obviously overreacting, right?
As aware as I was that it wasn’t completely my fault, and that I am only one person, I couldn’t help but take on the guilt. All of it. My husband got over it and reassured me our son would, too. That wasn’t good enough for me. Someone had to suffer, it had to be me. In essence, it was all my fault.
After an evening of self-punishment, which included not allowing myself to enjoy anything that didn’t involve guilty thoughts, or hanging on my kid’s every word, I snapped out of it. I realized with the help of friends and supporters, that I’m not the first mom or parent to make such a mistake, and I won’t be the last. But that didn’t make it hurt any less.
I took the advice and did what I needed to do, I apologized. I sat my son down and told him that mommies and daddies make mistakes, too. He had a hard time believing such a statement. He was under the impression that I should be perfect, I should know everything and I should never do wrong. It reminded me of the way children think of their teachers. As if they live at their schools and don’t actually have lives outside the classroom. As if they’re not human or something.
Well, the secret was out, I’m human.
But I get it, I’m his mom. The labels he’s given me include never making a mistake. And I’m not going to lie, it did hurt my ego a little to burst his bubble, but I had to. He listened intently as I explained accidents versus mistakes, apologies and forgiveness, and what intention means.
He nodded, held his head low and expressed his sadness, but he heard me. I didn’t blame anyone else, but explained my intention is to always be there for him. And I believe the most important thing I did was not demand forgiveness. I asked for it, told him he could think about it, but that I love him just as much either way.
Well, you can all breathe a sigh of relief now, because I know you were worried for me. He forgave me. That evening was spent tightly wrapped around each other on the couch with lots of snuggles and giggles. It’s amazing how forgiving children can be, and how fast it can happen, especially if we own up to our mistakes.
I realize I will make so many more parenting mistakes. He will find out about some of them, and I’ll apologize and do this whole thing over again. Others I’ll be able to recover from before he ever gets wind of them like the pro I aim to be. But in this moment, instead of feeling the guilt any longer, or beating myself up, I’m just choosing to own my imperfections.
And be human.