When rain is streaming down your back because your youngest child is arching her back in protest of the lifesaving restraints you’re trying – and failing – to strap her into while your 2nd kid is wailing over a broken banana (“Gabe, it’s the same banana, but now it’s like you have 2 mini bananas”/ It’s broken…BROOOOOOKKKEEENNNN!”/ “Gabe, just eat it!”), your patience will already be stretched pretty thin.
When said 3-year-old redirects his despair towards the hood that is no longer attached to his coat and wails that “IT’S ON THE PLAAAAYYYYGROOOOUUUNNDDD”, prompting your 7-year-old to leap out of the minivan into the pouring rain in search of it, you know you’ll need to swallow that first impulse you have to yell something to the effect of “Please place your posterior back in the vehicle”… but in language that would be much more colorful and much less respectful.
Instead you’ll say, “Nick, it’s at home. Don’t worry about it,” because you distinctly recall unzipping the hood before leaving the house that morning and placing it in the closet.
“NOOOOOOO,” Gabe will wail again. “I dropped it on the PLAAAAYGROOOOOUUND.” And now you’re tired of these kids always challenging your authority. How dare they question you, who at 42, has the memory of an elephant, and can very clearly see the hood in your mind’s eye stuffed into the storage basket at home.
Nick, now shivering, will interrupt your self-righteous musings as he calls to you from the playground entrance. “H-h-how about y-y-you and I g-g-go really quick and d-d-double-check?” It’s a good ½ block to the actual playlot behind the daycare and the rain is coming down harder. You’ll grudgingly respect his determination to find his brother’s hood.
But mainly, you’ll be annoyed.
In fact, you’ve pretty much had it.
“GET. IN. THE. CAR.” Your voice will drop a good 5 octaves as you grit your teeth and stab your finger towards the car door, punctuating each word.
Nick, knowing the tone, will concede defeat. “OK, fine,” he’ll mumble as he deliberately drags his feet through puddles on his way back to the car.
You’ll bite your tongue so as not to snap back with, “OK, fine who?” because you’re trying to remember not to pick this battle in your seemingly endless war against rudeness.
In hindsight, you will see the irony.
When you get home, you will triumphantly open the closet door to wave the “lost” hood in their faces…only it won’t be there. Then slowly, the rest of your memory will filter in. It was actually on Sunday that you removed the hood, which you reattached to Gabe’s coat on Monday…before he went to school.
You will be thankful for the UPS delivery that diverts their attention because you are not yet mature enough to apologize for being such a jerk.
In the morning you will walk into the boys’ room, waking each with a gentle shake. You will rub their backs until their eyes flutter, their bodies stretch. When they push their groggy selves to sitting, you will hold their hand, swallow your parental pride and say, “Good morning, kiddo. I have something important to tell you. I didn’t listen to you yesterday. I was wrong, and I’m sorry.”
You will not break eye contact because you want to make sure that they understand what you’re saying, even if they don’t yet know why you are saying it. You’ll be tempted to say more. That’s your nature. You’ll want to justify your behavior by explaining that it was the end of a long day and you don’t really like being soaked. You’re human, after all, and even grownups make mistakes.
But that not really what’s important, is it?
What matters is that your children know that when you’re wrong, you apologize. No excuses, no pleas for forgiveness.
You won’t find the hood when you look later that morning. Or the next morning. Or the next. Each time you will come up empty handed until you finally accept the inevitable-
Some lucky squirrel has a LL Bean cape that he’s showing off to all of his friends.
You, on the other hand, have kids who know that their parent is not always right…and that’s OK.
You think you got the better end of the deal.
Photo credit: cwcheeks under a Creative Commons License.