I sat in my car idling as I read her text, “I’m coming mom!” and then I waited and waited for her to come.
This is the life of every parent who has tweens or teens with busy schedules who have yet to drive themselves to all the different destinations and back. It gets rather tedious and so very tiring, and to be honest- I am the most impatient person when it comes to waiting in an idling car.
And I do it several times a day, every day.
On this particular night, I had left my half-eaten burger at the table to go pick up my daughter from her youth group. As my burger grew colder, I waited, and as often is the case, my blood boiled hotter in utter impatience.
As soon as my girl got in the car while apologizing for being late, I started my rant.
“From now on, you can just text me when you’re ready and I’ll leave then instead of sit here idling in the car wasting my time.”
But as it so easily slips and slides down a spiraling slope… I didn’t stop there.
“And your brother has moved everything so you can get to cleaning those floors as soon as you get home and I don’t want to hear ONE negative thing about it. You had ALL weekend to do this one chore so no complaining!”
“Okay, mom! I get it. I’m going to do it.”
And, I wasn’t done.
“Are you going to talk to your Geometry teacher about that test? You really need to get on that tomorrow. I know it’s uncomfortable for you, but you need to be assertive and address this issue.”
“Okay.” Her voice now a whisper I rarely heard.
“What is wrong? Why are you so sulky?” I said with an irritated tone.
After a minute of quiet apprehension from my girl, she finally spoke the truth of what she was feeling- and it stopped me in that instant. She said what I needed to hear.
“It’s just that as soon as I got in the car, you started yelling at me and you haven’t stopped. I just don’t think that’s fair. I’m sorry I was late, but being new to the group, I didn’t want to be rude and just walk out. And I was planning on doing my chore!”
At first, my defensive mode jumped in to justify my actions, but then it hit me.
My girl was completely right.
I was way out of line and in need of a big attitude adjustment…
And more importantly, I needed to apologize to my girl.
I pulled into the garage and turned to look at her while reaching my hands to hold hers.
“You are absolutely right. I’m so sorry, honey. Here you were just leaving this new youth group where you were enjoying such wonderful new friends and fellowship- all to be faced with an angry mom pelting you with unpredictable pain. I am utterly wrong and I am so sorry I ruined your night. You didn’t deserve any of that. I had no right to be that frustrated and certainly no right to assume you would be negative about your chore. Although, give me a tiny bit of credit on that- because you usually are, amiright? But I did pretty much everything wrong tonight. Your mom needs an attitude adjustment in a big way. Please forgive me and know how proud I am of you and how much I love you. Can we start over? Can I do anything to wipe this messy ride home away?”
She softened and nodded with a quiet “Thanks mom. It’s okay.”
And off she went to get those floors cleaned while I was no longer hungry for my cold half-eaten burger, but instead, I sat in my car full of conviction for what just transpired.
These are the moments that hurt the most. I felt awful about how I completely obliterated my girl’s night and worse yet, sucked that glowing spirit right out of her.
I’ve asked my kids to forgive me many times before, too. Times when I lost myself in my own selfish ways and I unraveled in pent-up parenting exhaustion. It is never fair, this literal blow of steam that pelts my kids when they least expect it. Sometimes I’m more aware of it and catch myself before it gets too bad, too damaging, too dangerous. But when it goes too far, I just hope my kids can be honest with me and have the courage to speak up with the truth. There are times I really need to hear it.
There are times when moms need an attitude adjustment too.
What’s critical to me is apologizing to my kids when I’ve messed up. There’s a shift in our power when we allow our children to speak and be heard. There’s a subtle submission a parent must accept when apologizing to a child for their own terrible behavior. I rather love it, because it empowers my kids to know and believe that they have a voice in this family that deserves to be heard. I want my kids to always trust that they have a right to share how they feel, even when I’m angry, fed up, and unraveling in rage.
Sometimes, that’s exactly what I need to slam the brakes and screech to a stop on my own reckless behavior and see the damage it is doing to my kid. Thank goodness our kids are forgiving. Thank goodness we get second chances over and over again.
And in the end, our kids see how human we really are and how flawed and sometimes fragile we are too. When we can push our pride and power back enough to realize we are wrong and look our kids in the eyes with sincere apologies, it somehow connects us deeper and grows our bond stronger.
That’s what love’s all about, really, isn’t it? We love our kids when they are at their worst and it’s a really beautiful thing when we can ask them to love us when we are at ours.
And this parenting thing is hard. It’s exhausting and often so self-sacrificing we can all lose it from time to time.
And when we do, we need to realize that it’s not always about our kids needing an attitude adjustment, sometimes moms need an attitude adjustment, too.