You can learn a lot about a person by messing with their plans. Really.
Try volunteering to take someone to the airport, insist that you will take responsibility for setting the alarm and waking them…and then experience how they respond when you wake them up five minutes before their plane is scheduled to depart and say these words into the still dark room:
“I overslept…and you missed your plane.”
Seven words that kick-start the would be travelers day. How would you respond?
You can learn a lot about a person’s character when you let them down, add that you love the person you are disappointing. Sometimes we learn the worst responses can be reserved for the ones we love…or that is what I was dreading as I opened the bedroom door where my still sleeping son was nestled in his bed.
My pulse had already been trotting with my perceived epic failure to wake at the ungodly agreed upon time when my bare feet carried me to his room. My mind had already managed to berate myself thoroughly within the 3 plus minutes that I had been awake, messages that sounded like this inside my head: “How the hell did I oversleep? Of all the times to oversleep why THIS time? Did I really sleep through an alarm? He’s gonna flippin‘ kill me.”
Really? Even typing the words makes me shudder. Why did my mind tell me that my own son would kill me because I screwed up his plans? Maybe your shaking your head saying “Jeez…it’s just an expression people say it all the time.”
But is it just an expression? What is the origin of such a horrific saying?
The origin in my own life is called a trigger. An involuntary response to my own human error. A dormant memory that kicks into gear based upon the mere fact that I have to tell someone I love that I screwed up their day. The once sleeping memory wakes, rears it’s ugly head, and takes over the rational side of my brain and insists that I am doomed.
No one has told me that they would kill me for something I did for years. In fact quite the opposite–I cannot think of a time when my husband Jimmy lashed out at me out of frustration…ever.
Back to my son. His first words were these:
“What should I do?”
NOT: “MOM HOW COULD YOU?”
NOT: “MOM I AM GOING TO KILL YOU!”
“What should I do?”
“…I have never missed a plane Max…I am so sorry…you’ll need to call the airline and ask them what your next step needs to be.”
I wanted to make it all go away. I wanted to call and fix it. I wanted to be the mother who didn’t oversleep and was driving back from the airport. But I could not click my heels, I could not wiggle my nose, I could not call upon some magical power and wipe the slate clean… he is 23 and I knew the airline customer service person needed to speak with him.
He called, he was instructed to get to the airport ASAP and they would see what they could do.
On our return trip from the airport where he learned that he was grounded in San Diego for another day this is what he said to me in response to what was probably my billionth apology:
“Mom, really it’s OK, in some ways your over sleeping is a gift to me because I get a day to be home and besides I should have set my alarm too.”
He never once got angry. He never once made me feel bad. He never once stepped out of his skin. He simply navigated the situation with utter grace. He clearly demonstrated his understanding that the only thing he really has control over is how he responds to disappointment.
Talk about a gift? Waking up to the realization that my boy has become a man who truly gets that he can compromise his expectations but not his core values, values that dictate when someone disappoints him, he can respond lovingly.
That is a gift of the season and a lifetime for this mother.