It was only Wednesday, and I was already frazzled. I was having one of those weeks where there simply weren’t enough hours to get it all done—unless I chose to forgo sleeping…
I had asked my sons—14 and 16 years old—to prepare supper that evening. I had a day chalked full of commuting, lectures, and meetings and if the traffic gods allowed, would walk in the door with twenty minutes to put food in my face before both boys needed to be driven to soccer practice. Used to a certain level of responsibility being placed upon them, they agreed.
My kids have always been expected to contribute to our home, but I don’t believe in paying them an allowance. We all live here together, and it takes a team to keep the ship afloat. Besides, they make 90% of the mess, so they should in fact clean it up! Additionally, no one pays me to cook, clean, and do the laundry… I digress.
The stars and planets aligned, and I was indeed able to make it home for dinner that Wednesday. As an added bonus, I even had time to change into my comfy clothes before jumping back into the car that evening. I was SO looking forward to having dinner and sitting down to connect with my family. However, when I walked in the door, I did not hear the joyful sounds of productivity in the kitchen, nor did I smell the spicy sweet tomato sauce simmering. The kitchen was empty of people and food.
Almost immediately upon my heels, my oldest son sauntered through the front door.
“I hope you brought dinner with you.”
“Nope. My brother was going to cook.”
Little Brother looked up from his cellphone with a face of utter confusion. It would have been comical, had I not been starving. “I thought we were going to cook together when you got home.”
The three of us stared at each other in silence, the atmosphere thick with tension.
In that moment, did I react with a calm, firm response and with the intention of leadership and problem-solving? Hell no. I sat down on the kitchen floor and sobbed.
It wasn’t about the dinner. All of the overwhelm and stress that had been building up leaked out of my eyeballs. My sons stood in front of me, horrified.
Gathering some shreds of dignity, I picked myself off the floor and walked upstairs to my room.
“Mama are you angry?” they called.
“Yes.” (Maybe not enough dignity yet. Must. Calm. Down.)
I’ve thought about this moment in retrospect. Should I have acted with more maturity and been forgiving of their miscommunication? Perhaps. It certainly wasn’t my shining moment as a mother. But what happened next makes me think that my show of emotion wasn’t entirely negative.
Fifteen minutes later, there was a gentle knock on my bedroom door.
“Supper is ready. Please come downstairs,” the boys tentatively invited.
Physically and emotionally exhausted, tears still slipping down my cheeks, I sat at the kitchen table as my children served spaghetti.
We ate in silence, and tears fell from their eyes too. They weren’t used to seeing me break.
“I’m sorry,” I began. “Yes, I am disappointed that supper wasn’t ready, but I overreacted. I’m crying because I’m stressed and tired.”
My sons walked over and wrapped their man-sized arms around me. “We’re sorry too. We called our coaches to let them know we wouldn’t be at practice tonight. We didn’t uphold our end of the bargain, so we don’t think it’s fair to ask you to drive us.”
All of this to say, my friends, that in showing my vulnerability, my children realized how much they take for granted. My tears drove home the knowledge that their contributions matter and that one person cannot be expected to carry the load alone.
We try so hard to shield our children from guilt and shame, from knowing that they hurt our feelings or let us down. Looking back, I see this slip in my armor as a teachable moment for my boys. I hope they reflected upon my meltdown in a way which makes them better humans and better partners in the future.
I’ll admit that sobbing with snot running down your face is a wee bit over the top. You’d likely handle the situation with much more grace than I did. Either way, our little family team grew stronger as a result, and supper is now ready as expected.