Experience: that most brutal of teachers.
But you learn,
my God do you learn.
I can say without hesitation that this moment was one of my worst failures as a mother so far. I don't say it lightly or with a laugh, but with honesty so painful my heart still hurts from the memory, and probably always will.
It had been a good, albeit hot, 103 degree day. We were with Sky's family at their yearly reunion in a park. Afterwards, we spent time grabbing some pizza and sitting on the wide front porch in their small town, watching all the kids play. But by the time we left, my head was throbbing fiercely, and I asked if we could stop somewhere for sinus medicine. After a few tries with no luck, we finally found a truck stop and veered off towards it.
A small SUV sat to our right in the parking lot. It inched forward, then stopped. It inched forward again, then stopped again. I kept my eye on the driver out of worry. Just as Sky was driving towards the store, it sped up, and I yelled at him to stop as it nearly hit us. And just like that, I was livid. I still can't explain how or why I got so upset or quickly, but it was instantaneous.
And then I did something I would like to think is out of character because I've never done it, but it must be somewhere deep in my character if I did it then. It's something I ashamed of and wish I could take back. I said something, tasteless and crass, behind the false safety of the passenger side window. I made a gesture. And I shook my head at the man driving the other vehicle as we pulled into a parking spot.
Only, he followed us there. Sky said, "He's coming over." I watched the car pull into the spot close to us and stop. Suddenly, the anger I had just seconds before melted into pure fear. My heart raced with the kind of sickening adrenaline that can't be controlled.
He yelled at Sky- something about needing to "keep his girl in line" or telling Sky to tell me to shut up. Sky argued back for a moment, but kept his cool much more than I expected. I honestly couldn't tell you what either of them said after that. I just sat there, frozen, staring at the man from behind my sunglasses.
And I thought about what could happen at any second. Did he have a gun? A knife? There were other adults in his car. Were they going to get involved? Here I sat, doors unlocked, my husband standing behind our tiny car, and a one year old little girl in the back seat. Potty training books were scattered across the backseat. A jar of homemade pickles my mother-in-law had just given us on the floorboard. Sky's energy drink sat crookedly in the cup holder. Everything seemed so insignificant and so surreal except the strong reality of the two people I love. It was the kind of fear that stopped any kind of prayers from even being whispered. All I could think was that I just wanted him to just leave us. Just leave, please leave. The thought of something happening to Sky or to Millie stopped my breath until he finally did drive away.
Once we were sure he was gone, Sky went into the store for my medicine, and I turned around to look at Millie. The tears began pouring down my face. She jabbered and played, having no idea of what had just occurred. I cried on and off the last hour of our trip as I imagined all the possibilities of having been so foolish.
I write this mainly as a confessional. As I told my mom and Sky, I try so hard to protect Millie's heart- to not only guard her physical safety, but to keep her around good influences, especially while she's so young and impressionable, soaking everything up eagerly like a sponge. It truly broke my heart to think that I, of all people on this earth, could do something so careless for her to see.
My mom told me she's had moments like that as all mothers have, though I couldn't remember a single one. And I guess that's my hope for Millie- that she won't remember this, but when I fail again in other ways, as I know I will, that she will give me the kind of undeserved grace God gives to all of us.
One of the hardest lessons I've learned on this motherhood journey is that I will stumble and she will see it. But I've also discovered my biggest hope is that she can learn from my mistakes and make less of her own.