I had the following conversation with Chad a few weeks ago before taking Chanelle to her very first orthodontist appointment. (Note: some of the names and locations in the story have been changed to protect the innocent.)
Chad: What time is Chanelle’s appointment tomorrow?
Me: Yeah, I remember talking to Fred and Wilma last year and they said when they took Pebbles to her appointment, they were a few minutes late and were yelled at by the people at Straight Teeth Orthodontist.
(Remember names have been changed to protect the (may or may not be) innocent.
Chad, knowing I don’t handle being yelled at very well: Really? Well, you better not be late then.
Me: Ha! I’m never late to appointments.
The following day, I rounded my three little people up at 11:25, grabbed the paperwork that I was to take to this very first appointment, plugged the address of Straight Teeth Orthodontist into my Google Maps and pridefully patted myself on the back, knowing that we were set to arrive to our appointment 10 minutes early.
The kids and I bantered back and forth during our 20 minute drive to our appointment and when the lady inside my phone indicated that we had arrived at our destination, I pulled into the parking lot of what seemed like a deserted building. Feeling very confused, I drove around the building a couple of times, double checked my address and looked everywhere for a bold sign indicating STRAIGHT TEETH ORTHODONTIST.
I pulled into a parking space and Charlie jumped out of the car and ran to the blank sign in front of the building and yelled back at me, it looks like it used to say ORTHODONTIST.
Now my hands are shaking and I’m pretty sure any deodorant I had put on that morning was useless at this point as I envisioned myself being yelled at in the reception area of Straight Teeth Orthodontist while a room full of responsible parents of straight teeth kids stared and whispered with each other about the lax mother who showed up to her very first appointment late. I saw myself shaking, sweating, crying and possibly even throwing up in front of a room full of people because, I really, really have an aversion to being yelled at.
I looked at the clock on the dashboard which indicated that is was 12:00 and in one minute I would officially be late for our appointment. Meadow, oblivious to anything, attempted to show me the picture of a kitten she had just colored while Chanelle, who had obviously overheard my conversation with Chad, reminded me that we were going to get in trouble. I barked at them both, like any good parent.
Shaking, I picked up my phone and called the number to Straight Teeth Orthodontist and upon hearing Hello? threw up my pleas for forgiveness. . . hello. My daughter has an appointment at noon and I am at the address that I found on your paperwork but, (obviously) you are not here and (obviously) I am not there. I am so so sorry we are late. Really, I am so so sorry. Please don’t yell at me! (Okay, I didn’t really say that last line.)
The woman on the other end of the phone kindly chuckled at me and informed me, oh, we’ve moved. We are about 15 minutes from our old location. We’ll take care of you, she told me.
So, after being redirected across town, my adrenaline starts to settle and I picked my phone up to call Chad and relay this story. Being the supportive husband that he is, he roared with laughter and reminded me, pride comes before the fall.
He’s so helpful.
The thing is, these are just the kind of things that happen to me. Little things, all the time, that remind me that I just don’t have it all together. As much as I’d like to be the person who has their entire life organized, categorized, and color-coated on a calendar–I’ve just never been her. My life seems to be a series of mistakes from which I have to recover and for which I have to be forgiven.
As hard as it is to admit, at times, I am grateful for this. I am grateful that I live in a world (and with people) who offer grace for common human mistakes. I am thankful for the opportunity to acknowledged that while I try my best, sometimes I mess up. And while I would like to teach my kids from the fruits of my perfect life, their education comes more from my broken life.
While I’d like them to learn that things often go their way, I suspect they are learning more about when things don’t go their way. You see, I grew up thinking(and often still think) that everyone else has life figured out while I’m spending my time only pretending I’ve got it all together. For much of my life I lived in fear of people finding out that I’m just feeling my way through this life thing. How does everyone else walk so confidently while I’m tip-toeing along hoping not to mess things up too much?
Over time, I’ve come to embrace the broken journey. I’ve come to understand that it is only gentle grace offered from the world around me that allows me to move forward. It is gentle grace offered from those who are closest to me. It is gentle grace that I am now able to give myself.
I want them to learn that. I want them to see it. I want them to see that my mistakes and mess ups don’t define me. That to be fully human is to live fully. To embrace life in all it’s messiness and all is beauty–now that is living. I want to teach them that to slip up is life. . .
But to quit, is not an option.
So I will carry on with all of my best attempts and I will celebrate the times when I get it right and embrace the humility and grace that comes when I get it wrong. In the end, I hope the little lives that are watching see the beauty in all the tiny moments that make life worth living.
And in my naivete, I believe that can change the world.
Happy Friday, Friends.