We missed a lunch connection with Daddy Honey at the university today, and sat for 20 minutes in the car waiting. The boys were hungry and impatient. Woody was rude. We left, frustrated, to grab a few groceries, something from which to make lunch at home. At the co-op, we realized Woody's shoes were back home, not in the car as we'd thought. His rain boots were in there, but he refused to wear them to go into the store. He refused sitting in the cart and letting me push him around. He wanted to go home, straight away. I didn't. Fox, keyed up by the tension, jumped into the back seat with Woody in a show of solidarity. They howled and spouted angry and ugly words at me. Woody was inciting Fox to kick the back of my seat. They--and soon, I--were deep in the survival brain, the fight-or-flight place, and there was no gray matter available for reaching a compromise or a solution together.
I was furious, and when that passed, exasperated. I was mad at Daddy Honey for forgetting about us. I was mad at my children for being so utterly irrational and unhelpful. I was mad at myself for what I was about to do.
I rolled the windows down half-way, locked the doors, and left them in the car to go get the groceries.
Even as I walked in the store, I had visions of them getting out and trying to follow me, dashing between cars to get to the storefront--or not. I thought of strangers approaching the car and trying to convince them to unlock the doors. I thought of the heat; it's a warm day. But mostly, I thought about them getting out. Things were left so raw and angry.
I ran through the store, got the few items I needed (scooping up a tub of chocolate puddling as I grabbed the eggs, so we'd have a treat to talk over at home), managed to choose the longest line possible and then held my terrible visions at a distance until I grabbed my receipt and dashed back out to the car.
They were both crying, red cheeks hot with tears and sweat.
Fox had gotten out. He had tried to follow me. Someone had tried to pull into the empty spot beside us, and almost hit him. Someone else yelled for the car to stop, and asked Fox where was his mother? Fox yelled at him that he was stupid. Woody was scared to get out of the car, but stood in the open door yelling for Fox to get back in. Someone else stopped to ask if they were OK.
No, no they were not OK. They were raw and angry and also terrified and bereft.
Hearing this, my fears confirmed in snatches of facts and repeated dialog and confused phrases, I wanted to run away, to give these damaged, hurt children to someone more qualified, less impetuous, with better sense, more patience, and a steadier sight on the long-term goal of getting them to adulthood in one piece.
I did not unstrap them and hold them to me so we could sob and support one another. I did not offer the good words to help the processing begin. I got in the car and drove off in near silence, too stunned, too shocked at my own stupidity, to speak to them.
As we drove, I got a little more clear. I wasn't wise, by any means, or even very coherent. But, I did have some words that weren't blaming or angry. I talked about danger, and what we could have done differently, starting with my own choices. Woody offered, first, that yes, we could have just gone home, like he suggested. But then, "I could have gotten in the cart with no shoes on. I usually like that, but I was too angry to say yes." He told me he tried hard to get Fox to come back, but that Fox kept going around to the back of the car.
I left my kids in the car, against my instincts. My youngest son tried to come after me, and almost got hit by a car. My older son was thrust into the very difficult role of being responsible for his brother but powerless to stop him.
That's what happened. I may have more insights about this later, but right now, I am licking my wounds, looking out at my decisions and their consequences from the dark safety of my own mental cave. I dare not approach them just yet, but I don't deny that they are there and have a right to be acknowledged.
I am doing now what I could have done two hours ago. I am sitting still, and breathing. When I feel my breath getting fast and shallow, I try to slow it down. I am looking out the window and seeing the big picture of what it means to be alive on a sunny spring day. I am playing with letters and pictures with Fox. I am confirming for Woody that robot is spelled r-o-b-o-t for him to type in to find a video game he likes.
I will get through the next little while, and then the rest of the afternoon, this evening, tonight, and tomorrow. That's all I can tell you right now. Also, that learning from mistakes doesn't stop at childhood.