I normally don’t honk my horn when driving for no other reason than I can’t stand the sound. Sure on occasion I do the light, gentle “beep” if someone is hanging out at a red light just turned green. And yes, if I am close to getting into an accident I’ll do the more firm, “BEEP” to keep both cars safe. But hardly if ever do I use the horn besides that.
But today I did and I immediately felt like a total ass afterwards.
Today was just one of those go, go, GO kind of days. It was also one of those, everything that could make me late for every appointment did happen, kind of days. It was a real doozer. So needless to say when I was driving late to our last appointment of the day and I found myself stopped behind two cars waiting for the first car to turn left, for oh say five minutes, I became a wee bit frustrated. I mumbled to myself things like, “Come on already, just turn!” and “What’s your problem, you so could have turned!” The driver in front of me clearly shared the same frustration, for she honked after the driver refused to take the third totally safe opportunity to turn. It was a gentle honk, though, one of the polite ones, so it was cool.
Mine, however, not so cool.
After the fifth opportunity passed, I did a, “BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!” and then knocked my head against the window impatiently as the sixth opportunity passed! Finally the person turned and I could see the driver’s face clearly. His face didn’t show signs of, “oops, I shouldn’t be looking at my phone, I should be turning,” or “shit, I haven’t been fully paying attention.” Nope. Instead, it showed signs of patience and diligence which given the age of the person, and given my past experience with drivers of this age, is a rarity.
It was a high school student.
A high school student driving responsibility, safely and intelligently; a high school student being vigilant; a high school student not speeding or driving recklessly like so many do. I shouldn’t have honked at him. Instead, I should have turned left, followed him down the dead end road, got out of my car and said,
“Hey, good job. Driving is a big responsibility and you are taking it seriously. You ignored the honking car and waited until you felt safe. Keep driving like that.”
Quite frankly, he deserved my praise, not my impatience.
But he got my impatience because I assumed that he had no good reason for not turning. He got my impatience because I assumed that he was busy texting or chatting with someone. He got my impatience because I didn’t give him the benefit of the doubt. He got my impatience not because he deserved it, but because I was running late. My problem, not his.
As I drove away today, I felt ashamed of myself for being so quick to honk. It was a very familiar feeling; it’s how I used to feel when instead of slowing down and thinking about what good my kids might be up to, I assumed they were up to no good and yelled because of it. Sure, sometimes my assumptions were spot on (um, all four kids are quiet, and daddy’s Ipad is missing. Hmm?) But lots of times, my assumptions weren’t spot on, but actually far from spot on.
Take one day last month for example. My four year old absolutely, positively, refused to get into bed and as such, my patience absolutely, positively, refused to stay chill! My hands started to sweat and I knew a yell was growing quickly and furiously. Before I could even go into my closet to yell and let of my frustration, my son joyfully yelled,
“Yeah! I found it! I’ve been looking for it all night. That’s why I couldn’t go to bed!”
He ran and grabbed “it,” then ran back to me and held it up for me, pleased as punch.
“It” was a cup with hearts all over it that he had received that day at his Valentine’s Day party.
“Here mommy,” he lovingly said, “I wanted to give you this cup. You can use it when you drink water at night. Then you’ll think of me and how know how much I love you.”
My heart didn’t know if it should stop from the immense shame I felt for almost going ape shit on him when he was just trying to do something good, really good, or if it should beat wildly from the incredibly sweet gesture. It stopped for a second, and then beat wildly as I looked at his precious face and the smile that I swear went from ear to ear. He was so proud and happy. I was so proud and happy oh him and yes, I was proud and happy of myself for not yelling. I took the cup, scooped him up into my arms to thank him for being so loving and thoughtful, and then thanked The Orange Rhino powers that be that helped me stay calm long enough for him to find the cup.
I can’t get this memory out of my mind. Not just because I felt so bad for assuming he was just trying to delay bedtime and almost yelled because of it, but more so because it reminds me that good things happen when I don’t yell. If I had lost it before he found the cup, I am certain he would have given up and gone to bed crying while screaming, “You are the worst mommy ever!” Instead, he showed me how much he loved me.
Yep, good things happen when my mind and my mouth don’t drive recklessly.
I try to remember this as often as possible on tough days when I just want to scream. It motivates me to go slow and not speed through the morning or bedtime routine which would only increase chances of yelling. It motivates me to stop and to think before reacting and risking the chance of a blowout. It motivates me to be vigilant and look out for my triggers or any stressful situations for my boys that could negatively impact their behavior and therefore mine.
And it motivates me to be cautious with my actions so that just like the high school driver today, I can make the right move, at the right time, and in the right manner so unlike today, I don’t feel yucky for my actions, but rather lucky that I had another great time with my boys.