I crushed him. I broke his tiny hero heart. I went too far. I yelled too loudly. I yelled one too many times. My patience was pushed to its breaking point and I broke him. His eyes spilled with tears and his head hung defeated.
Jack is energy. Jack is creativity. Jack is motion. Jack is mischief. Jack is frustration. Jack is tears. Jack is love. Jack is my 3-year-old son. All of that energy, creativity, motion, frustration, tears, mischief and love can be a lot to ingest, harness and comprehend on a daily basis.
Jack is passion. His passion being emergency vehicles. He tells everyone. Every day. Me, his dad, his sisters, his babysitter, the grocery clerk, his grandparents, the neighbors. He never misses an opportunity to tell someone "I love 'mergency vehicles." And love, he does. He zooms his fire trucks, ambulances and police cars all over his imaginary world to save the day. Jack is a tiny hero. His days are filled near tragedy and rescue. There is always a rescue. The rescue is the greatest part.
Our weekday mornings are busy. Get up, get dressed, brush your teeth, do your hair, eat your breakfast and get in the van. In order for me to arrive at work on time, we need to be on the road by 7:30 a.m.. First we drop-off at school, then the babysitter. At my house, there is a weekday morning no-nonsense policy. My toddler is all-nonsense.
On this particular morning, Jack ran to the back of the minivan and refused to get in his car seat because he was busy clicking the overhead lights on and off. Yes, if I were to take a moment to appreciate how precious he was -- how curious and energetic -- I might have been filled with love and gratitude. But there was no time for me to marvel at his curiosity, unless I wanted my girls to be truant delinquents and I, unemployed. He would not get in his seat. He could not be reasoned with, pleaded with or bribed. It wasn't happening. The minutes ticked by. I finally picked him up and forced him down into his car seat. He would scream all the way to school while Hadley shouted at me to help her review her time tables.
I picked Jack up at the sitter at 3:15 p.m.. He greeted me with a hug. This was the highlight of our day together. The rest would go downhill.
The girls' homework was interrupted time and time again by Jack throwing fits, hitting, swiping, crying and being a grumpy toddler. He is usually manageable during homework time, but on this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, he was pushing at me hard. Nothing seemed to satisfy. Nothing seemed to work. I felt like my toddler had his very own form of colic.
The afternoon turned into a rotten evening. Kids fighting, dinner burning, laundry overflowing and my head pounding.
I wanted nothing more than to go to bed, but in order to end the day and start fresh again tomorrow, I'd first have to get through bath time, and Jack was not going to take it easy on me. After repeatedly dunking his sister underwater and being scolded, he decided to then take cups full of water and throw them full force over the tub. Water was everywhere. I was soaked. I was pissed and I let him have it. I screamed. I screamed LOUDLY. I scared him. I scared myself.
He cried, but this cry was different. There are bratty cries, tired cries, hurt cries and manipulative cries, but this cry was none of those. I had hurt his tiny hero feelings. He hung his head and whimpered, "I don't love 'mergency vehicles anymore."
And then my heart broke into a million tiny pieces. I had never felt like more of a monster. In Jack's story -- in that moment -- I was the villain.
I scooped him up from his bath. Got him dressed. Read him books and snuggled with him in bed. I then told him that I was sorry that I yelled so loudly. I told him that I was sorry that I scared him. I then asked him what I was scared to find out the answer to.
"Jack..." I began. "Do you still love emergency vehicles?"
I held my breath, waiting for him to answer.
He first laughed and then said, "I love 'mergency vehicles. I love the ambulance, the police car and the fire truck. Will we see a fire truck tomorrow?"
I'd been given a pass. His spirit was still intact. I had been given another chance. A chance to do better -- be better. I would have to mine more patience out of my hurried heart. My son needed it and for him, of course, I would find it.
Jack is forgiveness. Jack is a teacher. Jack knows and now I know, there is always a rescue. The rescue is the greatest part.