“What should we get mom for her birthday?” Jeff asked as he drove, Hayden and I to the restaurant to celebrate Hayden’s 9th birthday.
“I don’t know?” Hayden said from the back seat.
“Well, what does mom like?” Jeff asked
I looked up in the rear facing mirror at Hayden and waited for the answer. This was going to be good.
“A new phone,” Hayden said with a smile. “Mom really likes her phone, we should get her a new one.”
Jeff snickered and Hayden beamed for making Jeff laugh but those words hit me right in the heart. They stung deep. I tried to smile and brush them off as Jeff asked Hayden what else I liked.
“Maybe some coffee or new sunglasses, mom is always wearing her sunglasses even when it’s not sunny…” Hayden rambled on. I couldn’t focus on the conversation because in my head, I was beating myself up.
I know he didn’t mean to hurt me. I know he was just being honest and it’s true. I do love my phone and it’s usually always in my hand. But I suddenly wondered, is that all he sees of me? Does he think I want to be on my phone more than with him?
My kids are excellent mirrors.
They seem to have no problem finding my flaws and reflecting them back at me. Every little ugly thing about myself, they magnify. I see it and it stings. It’s like a constant reminder that I had no idea what I am doing as a mom. They don’t do this on purpose, it’s just a fact.
I am a yeller.
I feel like I’m struggling to be heard. The noise of life is all around and to cut the chaos, I yell. It’s also my stress release. I’m like a pressure cooker ready to burst and to release that pressure so that I can focus, I yell. I yell at my kids and during some conversations my throat is raw afterwards.
“I just don’t know how to parent without yelling,” I lamented to my mom as we sat and ate lunch. “And that means I’m raising children who yell at each other, yell at me.”
She looked thoughtfully at me and then because she is my mother and still after 30 plus years of being a mother is at times insecure, she asked, “Was I a yeller? Did you get that from me?”
I didn’t mean to be her mirror and reflect her flaw but because I am her child, I did.
A smile spread across my face, “I don’t remember you yelling.”
We got quiet and both took bites of food, kind of both seemingly pondering motherhood.
She was the first to break the silence, “Say, you didn’t tell me that you made a crafty tail-mix snack for Hayden to take to school as his birthday treat.”
“Well, I didn’t think it was that big of deal,” I said as I took another bite.
“When Hayden was at my house, he went on and on about how the two of you worked together, pouring all sorts of treats into a big bowl, stirring it up and then putting it in little bags that he decorated with Halloween stickers. He was so proud that he got to make this treat with his mom and then give it to his friends,” she said. “From what he told me, you made like 30 little bags. Wow.”
I looked at her as a single tear rolled down my cheek and I released the breath I didn’t know I was holdinhg.
“H-h-he said all that?” I asked, my voice getting caught in my throat.
“Yes,” she nodded.
I couldn’t help the second tear that rolled down my face.
“That was a bad day,” I began. “We had gymnastics that night. And homework to get done before going and then I added this project…. all I remember was yelling at them to stop stealing pieces of candy and to stop sneezing on the bowl.”
“Well, all he remembers is that you took the time to make an extra special treat and that you did it together,” my mom said.
I wiped the tears from my cheeks.
“It really wasn’t that big of deal,” I shrugged, trying to lessen the situation.
My mom reached over the table, took my hand and looked me right in the eyes, “Yes, sweetie. It was… to Hayden.”
And that’s when I realized, he didn’t remember the yelling either.