Last week I flew into Fort Lauderdale after having been away from home for a week. It was a trip about which I’d been ecstatic, and it didn’t disappoint. I arrived home triumphant, with one hand carrying a token TEDx trophy and the other tucked in the warm palm of the love of my life.
But I was hungry. And the conveyor belt at the bag claim didn’t move for thirty minutes, let alone produce a bag, let alone my bag. The parking shuttle phone number crooned hold music for an additional half-hour afterward.
Three eternities later, Siri, that lying bitch, drove us in circles. Though I’d ordered takeout ahead of time, I was in the car staring at Brian through restaurant glass, standing in a line nearly out the door while our sushi soured at the register. I called my son, who was home alone as I’d dismissed the babysitter.
Jaden answered the phone cheerily, so naturally, I assumed he was playing video games and eating cookies. Undoubtedly (my brain decided), he’d gained five pounds and lost a billion brain cells during the free-for-all in which I’d been away. Then, my mind, as it wants to do when primal emotions set in, went for the jugular. I saw an image of Jaden’s mangled feet (resulting from a neuromuscular disorder and multiple surgeries), the ones on which I’d not yet gotten into P/T since we moved. That punch landed in my solar plexus.
I watched my irritable self drill Jaden with questions:
What have you been doing?
Why did you have pizza for dinner?
Did you swim?
Do your exercises?
Moved your body at all since I’ve been away?
Then, in an unprecedented rookie move, Jaden made the mistake of telling me about the F he got on his math quiz.
It’s not hard to see where this was going. In my weakened state, subconscious guilt and a conditioned belief that I was selfish for focusing on my career were quickly fueling anger which I directed here, there, and everywhere.
Anyone who takes the time to put an ear to their inner world knows that we all live with a loud, blathering voice that stands ready to eviscerate.
On this particular night, Jaden caught me before I caught myself.
“Mom,” he said (and I quote), “I hear what you’re saying about the sugar and the F, but I feel like there is some negative energy in this conversation, so could we agree not to bring that into the house when you get home, especially since I haven’t seen you in a week?”
Still starving, sweaty from schlepping back in the humidity, mascara smudged beneath my weary eyes, and slightly irritated that the student had become the Master (regardless of the manipulation), I agreed.
A few minutes later, I texted him.
In graduate school, I learned it’s never too late to return and do it over.
In studying neuroscience, I learned it’s bad for your brain to beat yourself up.
Through life experience, I learned every moment is a learning opportunity, and yes, our kids are listening.