I messed up big today. Big in the way that it hurt others and left me feeling like a lousy human, or more specifically, a lousy mom.
After a particularly contentious couple of weeks with my ex-husband, I was full of anger. He didn't have the soccer bags packed for my weekend, he ignored my texts, and he insulted me in his usual passive-aggressive way every chance he got. I tried to rise above it, look the other way, and bite my tongue, but I had reached a boiling point. I felt my patience escaping me as I drove to meet him at the soccer field to pick up the kids. I knew what was coming, and I didn't care to stop it.
Their little minds were probably racing with fear that the cops were going to arrest their father and overwhelming anxiety about choosing sides — mom or dad?
The kids were so excited to see me as I stormed over to give him a piece of my mind. He made a comment that I didn't like, and I lost it. I let my anger out, and I did it in front of our kids. When I yell, I scream, and I just don't know how to hold back. So, there we were in a public parking lot as I unleashed my pent-up frustration: "You will NOT call me names anymore. It is NOT okay. I do NOT deserve it, and it is harassment! I will call the cops if you keep this up!" And I was just getting started. We hurled insults at each other for a few minutes until I finally stormed off with our three kids, who were all visibly upset.
On the way home, I glanced in the back seat and saw the confusion, sadness, and anger in their eyes. I knew I was the cause. "Why did I do that? How did I let that happen?" I thought. Their little minds were probably racing with fear that the cops were going to arrest their father and overwhelming anxiety about choosing sides — mom or dad? I was immediately filled with guilt. I wanted to take it all back, rewind my day, and do things differently, but unfortunately, that's not the way it works.
Knowing that I couldn't erase what had happened, I decided to do the next best thing and apologize. I gathered the kids together, and through tears, offered them these words: "I'm sorry you had to hear that. You should never hear your mother talk to your father that way. Everyone deserves better than what just happened, including you, dad, and me. I love you, and this argument had nothing to do with you. I have to find a better way to stand up for myself in the future. I promise you I will try to do better moving forward. I love you. I'm sorry."
They cried as they listened. I hugged them, but they didn't hug me back. The apology helped a little, but not as much as I wanted it to. I wanted it to make them forget about what they saw and heard, but apologies don't do that.
As the day continued, things slowly reverted back to normal. I scrolled through Facebook and stumbled upon a meme that read, "Don't let anybody make you cruel. No matter how badly you want to give the world a taste of its own bitter medicine, it's never worth losing yourself." The tears began to flow as I comprehended those powerful words. That was it. That was exactly what I had allowed to happen — I became cruel because of someone else. I allowed myself to be someone I know I'm not. I lost myself for a minute in the presence of my children, and the only person to blame was myself. The only person who can make me cruel is me. I can be angry and sad at my ex-husband all I want, and I can still choose to be kind and loving toward him. That's the person I want to be.
As much as I wished the parking lot incident would disappear from everyone's memory, I decided to embrace it for what was: a huge teaching moment. I am not cruel. I am not the yelling mom with the pointed finger in the parking lot. It's my choice who I want to be, and I must choose to pause when my emotions are running high. It was the powerful reminder I needed: don't let anybody make you cruel. It's never worth losing yourself.