This morning in the car, my oldest son and I were discussing a potential switch of schools for him next year. If he were in public school, he would already be switching schools next year as he heads into middle school. As it is now, though, he goes to a private, K-8 school. His father and I have been wondering lately, though, if he would be better off in a public charter school where he would have access to special ed teachers and where he would have an IEP in place that would help him have greater success in his studies. His current school has very high academic standards and, while they do make accommodations for him, it’s recently occurred to us that we’re asking our ADHD son to work at a level that is a challenge for children with normal cognitive function. While we never wanted Joe to think he could use his ADHD as an excuse not to strive for the highest end, we also never wanted to set him up for failure either. Joe is a bit tentative about switching schools because of the big change it will be. So, we’ve been talking about it as a family, trying to make the right decision. Today, though, our discussion lingered the entire course of the ride to school.
When we got there, Joe remembered he was supposed to be using that time to review for a test he has today. In his 5th grade class this week, they’ve been asked to memorize the names of all 66 books of the Bible and to know the correct spellings for these books. I can’t stress enough what a Herculean task this is for Joe. The memorization part is work but not impossible, but his spelling is not strong. Asking him to spell 66 names that many adults could not tackle (Habakkuk is not exactly a household word) seems a bit much for 10 and 11 year old children. But, this was his task this week for Bible and spelling.
“I was supposed to be studying this,” he said when we got there, pointing to a bookmark he’d been using to review the names and spellings.
“Well, take it with you,” I said. “Maybe you’ll have some time to review a bit before the test.”
“I won’t have time,” he said, tossing the bookmark onto the back seat. I picked it up and handed it back to him.
“Take it,” I insisted.
“I won’t have time,” he insisted back.
“Take it!” I said, becoming increasingly annoyed.
“I’ll just leave it here,” he said as he tucked it into a car door pocket and began to close the door.
Then, before I could stop myself, in my total annoyance I uttered these words:
“Well, fine. Now I’m mad at you.”
He looked at me and closed the door. At that moment, I wanted to staple my mouth shut. What the hell is wrong with you? I watched him walk off toward his best buddy. I pulled away. I got as far as the right turn lane at the end of the school driveway before the tears came. How could I do that to my sensitive and sweet boy? How could I let him go into school with the words “I”m mad at you” repeating in his head all day? What kind of a creep does that? I was sick to my stomach. How could I leave things that way with my beautiful son who means everything to me?
I pulled out of the lot, made a u-turn at the first available spot, and headed back to the school. A minute after I had left I was back in the lot. I parked my car and approached him and his friends. Having your mom approach you when you’re in 5th grade is highly embarrassing, so he walked closer to meet me away from his friends. He looked nervous and sad. I pulled him to me by his shoulders and leaned in so that my forehead was resting on his.
“I am so sorry, sweetie. I’m not really mad at you. I don’t want you to think that. I love you,” I said.
He looked into my eyes, muttered a quick “I love you too,” and I let him run back to his friends before the horror of having a personal moment with his mom in front of God and the world sunk in.
As I walked back to the car, I felt a bit better, not in a great mom kind of way but at least I was no longer miserable. I mean, a great mom would have kept her patience and held her tongue, right? I’m not exactly gifted in that area. I’m a passionate and excitable person. I get frustrated and have a tendency to run off at the mouth even as I know what I’m saying is absolute crap. One thing I am getting better at all the time, though, is apologizing for my temporary insanity. If I know I am wrong, I can admit it. I might not admit it immediately, but I will admit it as soon as I’m able to recognize it. Luckily, my skill at recognizing my idiotic behavior is improving all the time. (Probably because I give myself ample practice.)
When I got home, I saw this quote by Doe Zantamata on Facebook as if it were a sign: “It’s never too late to turn it all around. Be honest with yourself and others. If anything you’re doing in life is not what you should be doing…stop. Life is way too short to continue in the wrong direction, but the longer that you do, the less time you will have to travel in the right direction.” This morning I could have driven off and left things the way they were with my son, but I didn’t. I turned the car around and tried to make it right. Am I disappointed in myself for not shutting my yap in the first place? Absolutely. But, I’m so, so glad that instead of continuing in the wrong direction, I made a u-turn this morning. It’s not everything, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Now I’m weepy. This has been me all too often. Why is it easier to say “sorry” instead of just being kind in the first place. I have to work hard not to spit out every thought that pops into my head.
It takes a big person to recognize a mistake and work to correct it. How many parents would have just shrugged that off?
If we were kind to our kids (and people in general) there might be less screwed up adults in the future.
Sorry this got you down but you changed course in plenty of time 🙂
My goal is not to be perfect or best, it is to be the fastest.
Fastest to recognize an error.
Fastest to apologize.
Fastest to correct my course towards a place I want to be.
Fastest to say thank you.
Fastest to smile.
Fastest to understand and appreciate the gleeful path before me.
Take care and keep in touch,
Oh…I love this. I love the idea of fastest. That is something I could work toward. Brilliant and insightful as always, Paz. Thank you.
This is so great!!! Love it!!
I have found myself in the same position with all of my children as you did with your son, Joe.My faux pas with my mouth usually happened after they reached junior high school, around the time they turned the big 14.
Unlike you i suffered through the day wishing I had better control of my words.
But like you I told each one of them that I was sorry for my mad reply and loved them.
Your quote of Doe Zantamata reads like something St. Paul would have written to one of his missionary countries.
Those words are words to live by. It would definitely make this world a better place.
Oh, I’ve gone days when I sat around contemplating my idiotic comments before having a chance to apologize. My parents never apologized to me, and it bothered me so I am trying not to do that to my children. Every little bit helps, I guess.