“The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human.” (Elizabeth Edwards)
In case my inability to recognize I was married to a criminal living a double life for nearly two decades or my inept efforts at gardening haven’t been enough proof of this shortcoming of mine, that of “being human,” I offer the following recent example.
My carpool driver was out of town. My college age son had a doctor’s appointment. My high school daughter had a track meet. My middle son had a scouting activity. And that meant I had a kindergartener getting released from school at 3:30 p.m. with no one to pick him up or supervise him. I’d just left my family for 5 full days for work, so I left work early to pick up my son as no one else could looked forward to spending an extra, early hour with him as a result. I was so excited for the quality mother and son time! I planned to take him to a park and enjoy the sunny spring day and yet, despite my good intentions, when I left my job early that one afternoon to pick up my son, I worried that my boss was bothered that I had done so. (He’s a good man, family oriented; he didn’t say anything, he didn’t act a certain way, it may have just been working mother guilt–where you feel like you’re shorting your family or your employer, but never that everything is in balance! Any other working moms ever feel that way? Anyway, I felt like my boss wasn’t happy I was leaving an hour early.)
But I left anyway, deciding corporate wrath couldn’t hold a candle to a lone and unsupervised kindergartener wandering the city streets alone, trying to find his way home all by himself. (Who knows WHAT could happen in a scenario like that, huh?) But my son wasn’t waiting for me after school like he should have been.
“Dumb, forgetful me! I must have the date wrong, carpool has probably already come and gone,” I thought, so I drove home and arrived to find…an empty house. I raced back to the school, worrying that my son would now be the last kindergartener waiting for his now late mother but…my son wasn’t waiting. I went into the school office, expecting to find my son waiting there while the secretary called for a ride home for him but…he wasn’t there either. I also checked the school grounds, his classroom, the bathrooms but…my son was nowhere to be found.
I blamed myself: “He must have tried walking home and in my panic to make sure I picked him up on time, I must not have seen him on the sidewalks. I probably drove right by him! What a terrible mother I am to not see my son,” so I dashed back to my car, drove the route from school to home again, expecting to see my son along the way…and saw nothing. Not one child. That worried me, too. NO children walking anywhere?
I debated contacting the police as I drove back and forth from school to home and back again a few times, but never did find my son. I called my older children, neighbors, anyone I could think of to see if perhaps someone had given my son a ride that day but…no one had seen him. Crazy thoughts, worries, really began to kick in. Visuals of a kidnapped child haunted me, not to mention visuals of Andrea Merriman, appearing on national t.v. AGAIN—this time for not being able to keep track of a six-year old!
“What a loser the entire world will now believe I am!” I thought. “As if marrying a man who lived a double life and perpetuated a Ponzi scheme wasn’t enough, to now lost my child! If they thought I was dumb before, imagine what the world will think NOW!” I surmised. (Some unexpected revelations, like those revealed to me in 2009, leave their scars. You can see that I don’t have a totally normal first reaction to every life or parenting experience anymore. I mean, who ever thinks, when their child isn’t waiting to be picked up at school, that there is a tie-in to a Ponzi scheme? I confess, I try to control my reactions but I can’t seem to control the thoughts and worries that initially flood my mind at unexpected times.)
I made one last phone call home before calling the police and was informed my kindergartener had just arrived. I drove home, after searching for him for almost 2 hours, worried, but grateful he was safe; unsettled by the unhappy feeling I felt my employer had toward my early departure; and indescribably disappointed that the fun together time I’d planned with my son had been taken, instead, by the child hunt. I’d left work early, risked employer wrath and lost my son anyway…all for nothing!
When I asked my son how he’d gotten home and he lied. Instead he told me his carpool had driven him home. The truth? He’d walked home (wrong choice #1) but had stopped to play at a friend’s house (wrong choice #2) and apparently finally had the good sense to finally he was going to be in big trouble and thought a lie would save him—WRONG! (In fact, it was wrong choice #3, BIG WRONG CHOICE, to tell a lie!)
I lost it; grounded my son and sent him to his room to think about the wrong choices he had made. Followed by these immediate thoughts: I’m a terrible mother, I’m raising a juvenile delinquent, I’m not a capable enough woman to work full-time AND be a good mother, my youngest child is out of control, my children are being ruined by the choices their father made that left me with NO choices—the list, at that point, went on and on.) I saw no way out but to quit my job and devote my full attention to raising my family. Of course, with no money and no child support, that would necessitate going on welfare (something I never, ever expected I would be forced to do!)
I went to my room, lay down on my bed and indulged in some serious tears of defeat. Surprisingly, my oldest son walked into my room, smiled, shook his head and said, “Mom, in my entire life, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you that mad. What are you going to do?” I answered, “Quit my job, go on welfare,” and began to detail everything that choice would result in. He advised, “I wouldn’t be so hasty, Mom,” and gave me the biggest and best parenting pep talk (including scripture quotes and other readings; he told me what a great person; what a wonderful mother I am; and he told me to hang in there as he offered his best 19-year-old wisdom and talked me down from the ledge of parenting despair and impatience I felt at my life situation.
When he was done I said, “Whoever would have imagined YOU would be giving ME a parenting pep talk?” He smiled, laughed and said, “Mom, I’ve been doing that my entire life—just from the other side!”
True. But it worked.
Later, my husband arrived home from work, joined us on the bed and added his opinion of my parenting talents and I’m pleased to report I’ve mustered additional strength and patience and…am still employed. Still hanging in there. Still a mom. (Grateful to be one, as always, by the way, not to mention grateful for the brief glimpse of one son, mostly raised, who has turned out to be so good, wise and amazing in every way, it gives me hope that the others will become like him and follow in his footsteps IF I, their mother, keep at it.
The glory of motherhood.
“With what price we pay for the glory of motherhood.” (Isadora Duncan)