As a mom, did you ever do anything to your kids that in retrospect, makes you cringe? Today, I was traveling to Ohio from Missouri to pick up my son at OSU for spring break. It brings back many old memories of traveling to Grandma’s when the kids were small. Many weeks Joe was busy, so for the sake of needed activity and adult support, I’d just throw the kids into the car and take the 6 hour trip back home. We were lucky to live within times in which a videotape could be a great babysitter in an SUV (and more, that we could afford such luxuries), but let’s face it, 6 hours is a long, long trip for preschoolers.
Every time I travel eastward passing through Indianapolis, I can see myself 15 years ago. The sun had just gone down in the middle of rush hour traffic, cars 8 lanes deep, with still 2 hours left to our drive. It seemed as though we’d already been on the road all day long. To the kids, apparently, as well. Tired, cranky, long past the cries of “How much longer?”, they began getting on each other’s nerves. Pushing each other’s buttons. Though trapped within car seats, they still had the power to poke and irritate one another. Which, at the end of that long driving day, in the middle of rush hour traffic, in the dark, with still another 2 hours ahead of me, was like nails down a chalkboard. I could have easily grabbed my purse beside me and tried bashing them with it behind me at the risk of swerving into the concrete dividers. Instead, I chose to swerve off the road onto the embankment of this busy highway, stomping on the car’s brake to throw us (and them in their carseats) to a jarring stop. Instead of screaming or smacking them silly as I wanted, I stepped outside the car and slammed the door shut with a crash behind me. Cars whizzed by, as I stomped several feet away from the car. I yelled out into the darkness, angry with them, angry with myself for losing it. The cars kept whizzing on by as I leaned against the concrete embankment, my breath rising in smoke into the winter air, as tears cooled on my cheeks. I began feeling sorry for my kids, buckled tightly into their seats, surely wondering if their mom abandoned them at the side of this busy highway. I walked resolutely back to the car, climbed in, and not a word was spoken again. I think they must have fallen asleep as I drove onwards in the frustration and shame of the gathering darkness.
There’s not a trip through Indianapolis that I don’t see myself alongside that busy highway, feeling ashamed for allowing myself to get so impatient to scare my kids that much, but also saddened for being so unable to ask for what I needed from my husband that it pushed me to my very edge of sanity as a mom. My husband was a busy young doctor, without the energy or learning to give further in the home. He was the kid’s best friend, their playmate, their “babysitter”. Not a disciplinarian. Or a house-husband. I often felt alone in the task of mom and housewife – more married to a house and kids than a man. I look at him today and see the evidence of growth and change.
And then I look at my kids. Both outgoing, charming, well adjusted kids who are responsible, capable, good students. Jess has a huge heart for the downtrodden or marginalized while Eric is a gentleman to his grandma, mother and girlfriends with a tender heart for animals. Though their dad was present and a loving father to them, I have to admit that I was the stay-at-home mom, the one they spent the most time with, the one that disciplined, taught, and loved them through all. I played endless hours of dinosaurs and Barbies on the floor, created numerous paintings and art creations, and held them to the “time-out” chair until they could tell me why they were being punished and why they were sorry. I had my bad moments, yes, but…..I put a big hand into these wonderful beings that stand before me today. I wish I knew more then about setting limits, people pleasing, and asking for help. I wish I was stronger in believing in myself, knowing what a great mom I was to my kids. I wish I gave myself a break.
That spot on the highway that I pass each time I travel by car to Ohio State to pick up my grownup, admirable son…..it’s a reminder of where I came from. How asleep I was to my needs, my own power, and my strengths as a mother. I can look back with the power of insight, forgiveness and love, being grateful for awakening, for those that helped me wake up, and the incredibly beautiful children I raised *despite* or even *because of* those challenges.