By Katia Grodecki
I woke up at 7 a.m. on Sunday with a faint feeling of heaviness. Inhaling deeply, I turned to look at our two boys asleep in the middle of the bed, a halo of serenity around their faces. As my eyes rested on my husband, on the opposite edge of the bed, the bitter taste of yesterday settled on my tongue once again.
The memories of Saturday floated back all too quickly: the standstill traffic on the highway on our way to the long-awaited dinner and show—a birthday gift for our eldest son. Closed full parking lots at the location where the show was scheduled to be held, due to the Canadian National Exhibition (read: a giant end-of-summer fair that, apparently, drew three-quarters of Toronto’s population to the venue this past weekend). The desperation of a heavy bladder while driving in loops around the venue; the anxiety-ridden harsh words exchanged between the two adults present in the car, in response to which one of the boys covered both his ears with the palms of his hands, followed by tears that streamed from my eyes, in between forceful deep breaths.
After driving for two and a half hours, having accepted that the show had started without us, we drove to a nearby beach in desperation. Walking hand-in-hand with our youngest along the path that led to the restrooms, I gazed at the happy picnicking families on the grass.
“Mommy, can we have barbecue for dinner tonight?” The question’s blatant innocence pricked a sore spot in my chest as the tears stung my eyes.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” I squeezed his hand a little tighter in mine. “We were supposed to be having dinner right at this time.”
“Can we have a treat after dinner?” He pointed at a small ice cream stand. It’s the least I could do, attempting to make it up to my family.
Sitting in traffic again 15 minutes later, our bladders comfortably empty, the children joyfully licked at the chocolate-covered vanilla pre-dinner ice cream while I telephoned our favourite local pizza restaurant to place an order for pick-up.
Then—“But Mommy, why did we not go to Medieval Times?”
This time, the question came from the eldest boy, in whose honour we had purchased the tickets that were now void. I attempted to explain that we left our home early, having considered possible traffic delays and allotting sufficient time for us to arrive at the venue well before the start of the show. The tension between me and my husband in the driver’s seat was thick. We both tried to accept the situation. I kept repeating the old cliché, “It is what it is. There’s nothing we can do now.” Yet I felt guilty; guilty for wasting money and time; guilty for not properly estimating the time delays; guilty for disappointing my family.
“I’m sorry,” I kept repeating, amid tears.
Somewhere within, a soft, sweet voice kept whispering, Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. I brushed it away. The voice of guilt—my own and that of my husband—was louder. That voice continued to haunt me through the night. It was the first sound I heard again upon waking.
Cautiously, awkwardly, feeling shy, he and I met just outside our bedroom door the following morning. The silence was stifling, unbearable, leaving us without many options. I told Guilt to shut up. I took a step forward and wrapped my arms carefully around his waist. He responded in kind, drawing me closer toward him with an audible exhalation. Yesterday no longer matters, its upsets erased, the hurt and guilt replaced by something much more powerful.
Disappointments happen sometimes, especially in circumstances beyond our apparent control. We could have. We should have. We would have. Empty words. Hurtful words. Sugar-coating for children only results in stifled anger. We may not have handled the situation with grace or even maturity, but we can always work to be better people today than we were yesterday.
Katia Grodecki is a lover of words and stories. She is a mother to two wonderfully spirited boys who are her greatest teachers, and a partner to a man with an astounding amount of patience, unless he finds himself in bad road traffic. Katia is a blogger at MindfulDaydreamer.com, where she writes about practicing a lifestyle of mindfulness, with the myriad perfectly messy, beautiful bits that accompany it.