I said things like, “It’s just chocolate syrup. You can wipe it up, and the counter will be as good as new.”
(Instead of expelling an exasperated sigh and an eye roll for good measure.)
I offered to hold the broom while she swept up a sea of Cheerios that covered the floor.
(Instead of standing over her with a look of disapproval and utter annoyance.)
I helped her think through where she might have set down her glasses.
(Instead of shaming her for being so irresponsible.)
And in the moments when sheer exhaustion and incessant whining were about to get the best of me, I walked into the bathroom, shut the door, and gave myself a moment to exhale and remind myself they are children, and children make mistakes. Just like me.
And over time, the fear that once flared in my children’s eyes when they were in trouble disappeared. And thank goodness, I became a haven in their times of trouble — instead of the enemy from which to run and hide.
I am not sure I would have thought to write about this profound transformation had it not been for the incident that happened last Monday afternoon. In that moment, I got a taste of life overwhelmed and the urge to yell was on the tip of my tongue. I was nearing the final chapters of the book I am currently writing and my computer froze up. Suddenly the edits of three entire chapters disappeared in front of my eyes. I spent several minutes frantically trying to revert to the most recent version of the manuscript. When that failed to work, I consulted the time machine backup, only to find that it, too, had experienced an error. When I realized I would never recover the work I did on those three chapters, I wanted to cry — but even more so, I wanted to rage.
But I couldn’t because it was time to pick up the children from school and take them to swim team practice. With great restraint, I calmly shut my laptop and reminded myself there could be much, much worse problems than re-writing these chapters. Then I told myself there was absolutely nothing I could do about this problem right now.
When my children got in the car, they immediately knew something was wrong. “What’s wrong, Mama?” they asked in unison after taking one glimpse of my ashen face.
I felt like yelling, “I lost three days worth of work on my book!”
I felt like hitting the steering wheel with my fist because sitting in the car was the last place I wanted to be in that moment. I wanted to go home and fix my book — not shuttle kids to swim team, wring out wet bathing suits, comb through tangled hair, make dinner, wash dishes and do the nightly tuck in.
But instead I calmly said, “I’m having a little trouble talking right now. I lost part of my book. And I don’t want to talk because I feel very frustrated.”
“We’re sorry,” the oldest one said for the both of them. And then, as if they knew I needed space, they were quiet all the way to the pool. The children and I went about our day and although I was more quiet than usual, I didn’t yell and I tried my best to refrain from thinking about the book issue.
Finally, the day was almost done. I had tucked my youngest child in bed and was laying beside my oldest daughter for nightly Talk Time.
“Do you think you will get your chapters back?” my daughter asked quietly.
And that’s when I started to cry — not so much about the three chapters, I knew they could be rewritten — my heartbreak was more of a release due to the exhaustion and frustration involved in writing and editing a book. I had been so close to the end. To have it suddenly ripped away was incredibly disappointing.
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