The other day I was trying to make dinner while Sean was in the kitchen working on an art project that involved paper, scissors, stickers, tape, feathers, glitter, glue and a hole punch.
Normally I let him go crazy with that kind of thing. I love to stimulate his creative energies. But at that particular point in the day, I didn’t have the patience for it. It was one of those occasions where he was making messes faster than I could clean them up or step over them. At every turn, he needed me to stop what I was doing and help him with some aspect of the project and it was wearing me out.
At one point, he stood on my chair and reached into the cabinet over my desk and grabbed a roll of my sacred tape that no one is allowed to touch except under threat of death or mortal sin. He knew better than to get into that cabinet and he took advantage of the fact that I was distracted to do it.
In trying to dispense the tape, he worried it into one unending hunk. The tail end of the tape disappeared into itself Ouroboros-style never to be free from itself ever again. And then he handed it to me to fix. At the same time he is offering me a useless hunk of tape to fix, a pot on the stove threatens to boil over and the timer on the oven goes off and steam comes shooting out of both of my ears.
Using my last good nerve, I snatch the roll of tape from him. Huffing and sighing, I spin it around and around and around, feverishly searching for the end with my badly manicured fingernail while what I really feel like doing is throwing it across the room. But I don’t. Instead I more than firmly tell Sean that I don’t have TIME for this right now and how aggravated I am that he took MY TAPE without asking ME first and now the TAPE is no longer good and I will probably have to THROW the TAPE away and it was MY TAPE and he didn’t ask to TAKE my TAPE and what am I going to DO with a hunk of TAPE? And I probably used the word tape another 10 or 15 times so that he might be clear about my feelings on the topic of tape.
He dropped his head to his chest and then just like a little baby, he brought his fists to his eyes and began to quietly cry.
“You make me feel like you don’t love me,” he squeaked.
As I looked at him sitting on the floor on his knees with his hands covering his face, I saw that blond curly-headed two-year-old boy again. And in that moment the world abruptly stopped spinning and slammed my heart into my throat.
Dinner would have to wait.
I sat down on the rug and pulled him into my lap. I hugged him as he sobbed into my neck.
As I held him and rocked him, the western sun glinted off the tile signaling the close of another day, a day I didn’t want marked by failure.
“Sean,” I whispered into his hair, “I am so sorry that I made you feel that way. I never want you to feel that way. I love you more than anything in the entire world. Please forgive me.” He nodded yes under my chin.
I explained to him that I was feeling tired and cranky but I shouldn’t have spoken to him so harshly. I gently admonished him to please stay out of my tape without asking first. He nodded yes under my chin.
I sat on the floor in the midst of tape and feathers and glitter and glue rocking my not-two-year-old boy as the day faded away and dinner grew cold. I told him that I loved him more than anything ever 10 or 15 times so that he might be clear about my feelings on the topic of him.
In motherhood, forgiveness trumps failure.