When we got in the car, I gave my kid a verbal lashing. I told him he could have been killed. That his head could have been crushed under a tire. I told him I would be carrying him through parking lots from now until he’s 30. I made him feel as frightened as I had felt. I think that’s what I wanted in that moment. I wanted him to feel freaked out by what happened, both so he would understand how serious the situation was, and so I would feel vindicated in my rage. I was pissed at what an uncharacteristic behavior that was for him. This is a kid who loves to follow the rules. Just before he bolted in the parking lot, we’d been at an open gym for the first time, wherein he wanted to clarify every rule and make sure every other child was aware of the boundaries. I’m relatively certain I’m raising a future hall monitor.
Because some days I need as much empathy as my son does, and rarely am I that generous with myself.
We didn’t talk most of the way home, and he immediately asked to start his daily quiet time. He made a beeline for his room, and I let him. We both desperately needed some distance. About ten minutes later, he came out and asked if I would come back to see what he was doing. He led me back to his room and showed me what it would look like if a truck ran over one of his friends. He showed me over and over. He kept saying, “Look, the truck ran over him and now he’s killed.” He clearly needed to process the event and our exchange, and this was his way of bringing me into the conversation. Watching him play, I felt awful for yelling. I needed to make him understand the danger cars pose, but the imagery of his head under a tire was probably overkill. I apologized for yelling, and we made up.
And then I did something extraordinary. I chose to let it go. I didn’t beat myself up for yelling; I just moved on. Because some days I need as much empathy as my son does, and rarely am I that generous with myself. Many of us have philosophies of parenting based on principles like gentleness, peacefulness, and respect. But what good are our parenting practices if they don’t extend past our own children? I want my son to see me treating everyone with compassion and grace, myself included. I refuse to give my mom guilt the legitimacy it so desperately wants. Instead today I choose to listen, make amends, and then share a much needed cookie with my kid.