This is the post I mentioned yesterday and it was originally published on my self-hosted blog, February 6, 2008.
Yesterday disturbed me. In fact, it’s safe to say that yesterday was one of the worst parenting days I’ve ever had.
And I’ve had some doozies.
It all started with the rain. We had had unusually mild weather for February, in fact, we broke a record high the other day, 71 degrees, which was set back in 1860. This makes me wonder – did we have Global Warming back in the 1800’s? After all, how does one explain the unusually high temperature nearly 150 years ago?
But I digress.
I was talking about my no-good-very-bad-parenting day.
It began raining about noon. I sat and watched the sheets of rain compete for an audience for nearly ten minutes before I heard it – the dripdripdrip of water. I froze. That’s not necessarily a sound one wants to hear in the comfort of one’s own home.
I turned my head and noticed that our fireplace stones were bleeding water. This sounds dramatic, and actually, it was. There is really no other way to describe it; the stone’s pores were oozing water. And the water was making a broken trail down the side of the fireplace and finally dripping off the mantel and onto the rocks below.
I sighed. This occasionally happens when the weather changes. I grabbed an old towel and began patting the stones dry while tucking a portion of the towel against the mantle to soak up the dribbling moisture.
I had just finished this thought, “I really hope it isn’t raining this hard when it’s time to pick up the kids,” when the phone rang. I stared at it. There is an ongoing family joke that if there is a sales call to be had, it will happen when I answer the phone. And this joke is rooted in truth for indeed, I’ve been ordained by the gods to be on the receiving end of every phone advertising campaign out there.
So, I ignored it. But I felt this funny little sizzle at the back of my neck. Sort of like touching bacon shortly after removing it from the microwave; it stings but isn’t necessarily painful.
I stood stock still and jumped when the phone rang again. And this time, I knew it wasn’t a sales call for who would be bold enough to irritate a potential customer twice in five minutes?
I answered the phone.
My heart immediately dropped to my female regions. “Hey kiddo, what’s up?”
“It’s early release today, mom.”
It perhaps took me less than a second to digest what he was telling me. And in that half second, I looked at the clock. Early release meant two hours early – the kids got out of school at 2:45, it was now 12:58.
And in that half second time span, my eyes shifted to the torrential downpour outside and my mind immediately went to the two older boys that were most likely standing out in the rain, waiting for me to pick them up.
A lot of brain activity occurred in that half second.
“I’ll be right there!” I yelled and slammed down the phone. I rushed to put on my sweats, had the presence of mind to grab several towels, stuck my feet into my shoes and raced out the door.
I screeched out of my driveway and floored the accelerator. Keeping one eye on the road, I reached into my purse and yanked out my cell phone. I turned it on. No messages. I had expected to find a message from my oldest son sounding quite irate and very wet asking me where the hell I was. Having no messages was somehow worse.
I raced down the street, cursing my stupidity and praying the boys wouldn’t be scarred for life because mom forgot about them.
I had to slow down two times because OF COURSE, there were not one, but two cops waiting like patient predators for stupid people like me to be in a hurry and breaking all sorts of laws.
After making several life-altering deals with God to not be stopped and given a speeding ticket, thereby pouring salt into my wound and making me even more late, I reached my youngest son.
He was standing on a street corner, his small hands wrapped around the umbrella rod, his little body shivering, his shoulders hunched over. Even from a distance, I could tell his lips were blue.
I’ve never hated myself more than in those few seconds.
I punched on my hazard lights and pulled over to pick up my son.
“What the heck!” He yelled as he threw in his backpack, collapsed his umbrella and fell into the car.
I didn’t even wait for him to buckle up before I sped off once more.
“I’m sorry,” I sobbed. “I’m so sorry. I totally forgot about early release today. I’m a bad mother. I should be hospitalized. You have my permission to put me in an old folks’ home. I deserve it! I deserve sitting in my own drool and smelling like pee!”
I couldn’t help but feel just a wee bit better when my son sighed heavily. “It’s okay, mom. It happens.”
Not to me, is what I thought. I hadn’t thought I was a bad mother. Sure, I occasionally yelled at my children when I’m tired or hormonal, but I always apologized afterward. I didn’t baby them too much, but I always made sure they felt safe and secure. And I had never forgotten them … until today.
My self-loathing was interrupted by my cell phone. I knew who it was without even looking.
“I’m on my way!” I yelled.
“We’re standing in the rain,” a deep, man voice said into my ear. “We’re soaked.”
“I know. I’m so sorry. I forgot about early release. I’m on my way. I’ll be there in five minutes.” I paused to breathe in a shaky breath. “Go stand by the building. It will give you a little shelter.”
“It’s raining,” said my son. He sounded both stunned and wounded.
Somehow, I kept my voice firm and ignored the tears running down my face. “Five minutes. Seek shelter.” I snapped my cell phone shut – the sound triggering the closure of my esophagus; I couldn’t breathe.
Traffic was bad. I began cursing people’s stupidity. It was RAIN. It wouldn’t KILL you. Move your ASS. My son and his friend were COLD and WET! The boy’s mother would be furious with me for being so careless with her son’s care. I ground my teeth as I got stuck behind a truck. We crept along at 20 miles an hour.
Nearly ten minutes later, I pulled onto the street that would take me to the boys. I released a sigh of relief and scanned the area for them. I saw them huddled together, just over the bridge and up next to the building. They were trying to act tough; they looked cold, miserable and young. My chest hurt with each beat of my heart.
The person in front of me wouldn’t turn left. I needed to go right. The person in front of me chose to ignore several opportunities to turn left. Finally, I had had it. My nerves were close to snapping and if the person in front of me didn’t move soon, I would get out of my car and grind them to a pulp. I laid on my horn.
As if awakening from a deep sleep, I could see the driver jerk in surprise and the next second, his car jumped into motion. I screeched around the corner and finally, reached the boys.
They got into the car, their teeth chattering, their hair matted to their heads, beads of water dripping into their eyes.
I cranked up the heater and tore off as soon as they were settled. I had to drop the friend off at his house before his little brother got home or he would be stuck outside, in the rain, wondering why his safe, secure little world was crumbling around his ears.
Traffic was backed up and bumper to bumper, but it allowed me plenty of time to beg for forgiveness. The boys didn’t say anything – I would have preferred they yelled at me.
We finally reached the boy’s house. We had beat his little brother home and I sighed with relief. I kissed the boy’s feet, told him how incredibly sorry I was for being such a poor excuse for a human being and waited until he had safely let himself into his house before we headed home.
My oldest son didn’t talk to me for quite some time after that. I threw their clothes and shoes into the dryer and tiptoed around the house, feeling dirtier than the floor behind the water cooler. It wasn’t until I heard my oldest son throw his books and papers across the room and curse that I knew the ice was broken. His school papers were soaked. I blew them dry with the hair dryer. I apologized, yet again, and helped him right his world.
We all learned a valuable lesson that day: I learned to make myself notes and pay more attention to the world around me.
And my sons? Learned that mom is human after all.
Christmas song #10 A Wonderful Christmas Time by Paul McCartney