The things that surprise me as a parent are always the things I don’t expect. I suppose that would be a fairly accurate definition of surprise – but seriously! I try to anticipate, to plan, to expect the unexpected, and inevitably, something (even outside of my plans for the unexpected) still occurs.
This weekend, I made a parent-blunder that brought my almost 8 year old to tears. Quickly running through the house, scanning for dirty clothes, I spied his hoodie (which he lives in). Grabbed, sniffed, put in the basket. Into the machine went everything I had rounded up and I wiped my hands clean, feeling like I’d accomplished something miraculous right before bedtime.
I promptly went over to sort the clean laundry into piles of items for the dryer and items for the drying rack. But as I started pulling things out, I noticed a funny pink flaky substance that was all over everything.
My eyes got big. And my mind began to race.
See, my son had been running at school and had totaled somewhere around 32 miles (that’s right, beyond his goal of a full marathon) and there was a small card that he had recorded all his miles (and their corresponding dates) on. And it lived in the pocket of his favorite hoodie. The one I washed hastily without checking the pockets. And it was pink.
I felt awful. Like really awful. The one piece of evidence for all his efforts and hard work over the past several months was now in tiny particles scattered throughout our laundry. In my hurry to accomplish something trivial, I had mindlessly ruined something very important to someone I love dearly.
I collected the pieces in a zip lock, and then went to confess to my son. There were tears, there were questions of why and there was a hearty scoop of mom guilt dished on by yours truly. He was heart broken – but only for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, I kept aimlessly walking around the house feeling horrible and trying to think of any way to make it up to him. Some gesture to express my sincere apology. And he could tell.
Finally, as he was getting ready for bed, and I was apologizing for the 200th time, he looked at me and said,
“Mom. I’m okay. Stop dwelling on your bad feelings. Isn’t that what you always say to me? Let it go. Besides, it’s partially my fault for leaving it in my pocket.”
A bit taken aback, I just stared at him for awhile. But then I smiled – not because I had forgiven myself yet – but because something I said – something I truly believe (but have a hard time living). Something I wanted to instill in my child, had stuck. Here he was, teaching me my own lesson: Stop dwelling on the negative. Think about the things you do have and be grateful. Don’t make a small problem into a big one. Take responsibility where you were responsible.
It was like being struck over the head with a cast iron (deep dish) by my own spawn – in a wonderful and loving way. And so, though I do still have a bit of guilt about my hasty laundry blunder, it’s such a relief to know that my 8 year old has already begun to practice forgiveness and is ready to teach me how to let go.