One of the realities of being a single mom is that when my kid has a story to tell, I’m almost always the only person he can tell it to. I love that he loves to share his exciting news with me and I try to be mindful that one day in the not-so-distant future, I will be trying to pull news about his day from him. But sometimes, I forget that what seems trivial to me is a really big deal to him.
And sometimes, I miss the moment entirely. Like I did last night, with the tale of the guinea pig.
F’s been asking for a hamster or guinea pig for as long as the sun has risen in the east, or so it seems. A pet that’s all his, unlike our ‘family cat’ who’s a totally Mama’s boy (like F) and snuggles nightly with me. But, we aren’t getting a guinea pig or a hamster for a while – especially now that I’m finally free of the fish. (RIP, fishie.)
Up to my eyeballs with work demands and life demands, I asked F to play quietly while I worked away on some projects I needed to finalize. Every few moments, he tapped my knee or asked a question. My patience began to thin.
Mama, guess what! Guess what I saw today, Mama! Mama, are you listening? Guess what I saw today!
“WHAT?!” I shouted, frustrated that my child wasn’t understanding that I needed quiet but the second the word was off my tongue I regretted it. I watched as the excitement in F’s eyes was washed away with a mix of fear, sadness and disappointment. His Mama had yelled for no good reason. God, why didn’t I just listen to him?
I apologized immediately, gesturing for a hug. He pulled away. I apologized again, asking him to tell me what he’d seen. I was listening. I was sorry. I wanted to hear.
It’s too late, Mama. I wanted to tell you and you didn’t want to listen.
He was right. He was so right.
Eventually, F told me what he had seen at school. A classmate had brought in the family’s pet guinea pig, Ginny, and she was brown and cute and soft. Listening to him describe seeing the guinea pig move its nose, and how cute its ears were was bittersweet: I loved hearing him tell the story, but how much of the story was I missing because I didn’t have time to listen in the first place? How much was he holding back?
I can’t undo the damage I’ve done snapping at F in frustration when he needed me. I can’t get the nights I didn’t tuck him in back. There’s no reset button when I make him feel like anything else in the world is more important to me than he is, and that hurts. He’s so full of wonder, and I don’t ever want him to lose that. I don’t want to squash it. I don’t want to squash his excitement. I’m not a squasher.
I’d love to be able to promise that it will never happen again, that I’m going to stop everything I’m doing to listen intently or to look at the gross bug he discovered on the sidewalk but I can’t.
But I can try just a little harder.
(And no, we’re not getting a guinea pig.)