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I was driving Twin B home from a friend’s house early in the evening yesterday. He was yammering on about Platform Racing II and Gogos and X Box and all of the ridiculous details that occupy a ‘tween boy’s mind. I was nodding and mmm hmmming and doing my best to keep up with the yammering.
And then, just as an upcoming traffic light turned from yellow to red,
It hit me.
I sucked in my breath as my entire body was overcome by an enormous rush of heat, as if I had been engulfed in a horrible, white-hot tidal wave.
You know that feeling, don’t you?
The sickening rush of realization?
The realization that you’ve failed, compounded by the double-whammy that there’s nothing you can do to rectify the situation?
Yeah. That’s where I was at 5:40 last night. Smack dab in the middle of a Parental Fail.
Seizing the momentary reprieve of the red light, I closed my eyes and wrapped my fingers around the steering wheel so tightly that my fingernails dug into my palms.
And I lamented aloud. ”Oh, no. Oooooh, nononononononono.”
“Oh, no, what, Mom?” Twin B inquired from the back seat.
I had known about the party for weeks. It was on my Mommy Calendar as well as on The Cherubs’ calendar that was taped to the basement door. The Small One had written it there himself with a green crayon, color coding it to signify the event as his. The present had been wrapped and waiting in the mud room. The Small One and I had been talking about the party just the day before.
And now the party was twenty minutes shy of its conclusion.
There is no satisfactory explanation, friends.
Life happened. Church and Sunday School and out to brunch and laundry and errands and Cherub chauffeuring happened.
And I dreaded having to present this weak collection of excuses to The Small One. But I had to do it.
So I did.
I told him two hours later as he stepped out of the shower in preparation for bedtime. After wrapping him in a towel and rubbing his blond head until it went from soaked to merely damp, I told him. In the most compassionate and apologetic way that I knew of.
His eyes widened.
His face crumpled.
And then the tears came.
“Oh, no. Oh, nonononononono. Mom? No!”
What could I say?
There were no words.
Absolutely nothing that I could say to make it better.
“I’m sorry” sounded so pathetic, a cheap Band-Aid to the gaping chasm in his seven year-old world. But I said it anyway.
He hurtled his warm little towel-cocooned body toward mine, hitting me with a forceful embrace that was equal parts rage and despair.
He is too young to comprehend what occurs when a parent knows that their child is hurting. How the parent is overcome by pain as well. How the parent would give their right arm to go back in time and find an alternate route around the hurt.
He sobbed quietly as I helped him into his footed sleeper, his face still ruddy from the heat of the shower, his damp hair matted to his head.
He sniffled as he brushed his teeth, watching me in the bathroom mirror as I watched him, my own eyes filled with remorseful tears.
And I folded him into my arms again, stroking his back and breathing in the scrumptious scent of Berry Berry 2-in-1 Shampoo.
“Mom?” His voice was muffled as we embraced.
“Can I watch bedtime TV now?”
I choked on a laugh and nodded wordlessly. He padded down the stairs toward the family room, still snuffling a little.
And I sat down on the bathroom floor.
Children are resilient.
With an indescribably beautiful core of unconditional love.
Surely, this will not be the last time that I disappoint my child.
And I pray that this will not be the last time that he forgives me.