I planned the perfect morning to myself. I had one child in school, another being watched by a sitter. I say goodbye to my little one who is happily playing and get in the car. My mind starts reeling with all the opportunities I had, the freedom of being able to make my own choices and do something for me, uninterrupted. I asked myself what I needed before I was going to the coffee shop to get work done, I answered with a solitary hike and fresh air. I was excited to get connected with nature because it fills my soul. I imagined breathing the crisp air in deeply, standing in the woods in complete silence.
I’m about to get on the highway and I get a call from my child’s school. He had an accident. They were very compassionate but were worried he needed help cleaning himself and they asked I help him and he could then return to class. I arrived and before I could help him clean up he looked up at me with pleading eyes, “Mama, can you take me home?” My heart hurt that he was feeling embarrassed. Then I realized this would mean that the morning I was so excited for wouldn’t happen. I took a deep breath. “Sure bud”, I said.
On the way home I made sure to challenge myself to not allow my brain to do what it wanted- to use this as an example to prove those negative thoughts that creep in, “You’ll never get time for yourself”, “You’re never going to accomplish those dreams of yours,” “You’re a mom now, there’s no room for what you want anymore.” Thankfully my maternal power took over. I knew this was a situation where I was needed and that the way I reacted in this situation was going to have an impact on my son’s perspectives of making mistakes, embarrassment, and shame. I knew I wanted to protect him from internalizing negative thoughts about himself, ones that have haunted me for years and ripped away opportunities for gratitude and joy in my own life. We processed what happened making sure he understood that accidents happen and that he needn’t feel ashamed, that his teacher and I weren’t mad, that those who love and care about you are there for you when you make mistakes, that he is a wonderful boy and he is so very loved. I shared stories of my own embarrassment around this age to make him feel less alone. Then we were silent and listened to music. I looked at him in the rear view mirror, his eyes met mine with a big smile, “I love you Mom. Thanks for letting me come home with you.” In that moment there was no more disappointment, just profound gratitude that I was given the opportunity for this moment.
Our brains love to search for evidence to prove our negative thoughts. In a way it’s what they are designed to do, take information in and assess it and figure out how to categorize it. When we go looking for resentment and anger we will be sure to find it. But this puts the blinders on what is put in front of us, especially when its not what we had planned. Being able to adjust our expectations, give ourselves and others grace, and find the opportunity or meaning in the unexpected, the suffering, or the hardship is when we show strength, resilience, and grit.
I know I’ll get that perfect morning soon. Being a mother doesn’t mean we have to self-sacrifice 100% of the time. Being a mother means that we bend and don’t break, we become resilient to the unexpected so we can model to our own children that when life doesn’t always go as planned we can be strong enough to weather the changes. And the power of mother’s love weathers through any storm.