I lost my temper with my son this week, over nothing. He has to get to the top of our street to get a first bus to make a second bus that gets him to school on time. We used to drive/ walk to the second bus but he likes managing on his own. The first day he did this, I had this odd mixture of feelings. I shared his pride and new independence, and I squashed down that feeling you’d rather not have as they grow up and away, the inherent sweet sadness in the letting go that is being a mother.
The day went off the rails in small ways. He stayed in bed too long. The first round of french toast burned so he had to make a second. He had a shower, which takes more time because he has to wrap the shoulder-to-wrist cast he’s still sporting from a skateboarding accident a few weeks ago. He was slow dressing too – it’s hard to do up a tie with the wrong hand. We were on the front verandah, ten minutes after he needed to have left home, and I was helping with his socks and shoes, something I used to do every day of his little life.
I lost it suddenly. “You’re going to miss the bus!” I yelled. “Why can’t you be ready on time?” I yelled other things I can’t bring myself to write here, my voice full of fury.
I have yelled before. I’m not a perfect parent. I gave up perfection a long time ago. Most days, I’m barely good-enough. But it was the look on his face that did me in later, a sort of resigned sadness, a closing down of his burgeoning self against attack. His mother is uncontrollably angry and he doesn’t really understand why. He just wants to protect himself.
I’d calmed down by the time we were walking up the street, too late for the first bus. I was just deciding to go home and drive to the second bus when my husband came past in the car. “I’ll take him,” he said cheerily. “You go get some work done.” Off they went, happily enough.
It was that face though, sad and closed, that started me crying later.
I know, I know. There have been many times I haven’t lost my temper. And I apologised – I’ve become quite adept at that. But I just wish hadn’t, you know? I wish I’d counted to ten or decided earlier to drive. We’d both have had a better morning, and the truth is this. I don’t have that many more mornings left with the boy he is, so I’d do well to cherish them because I know for sure I’ll miss them when they’re gone.