Atonement

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Atonement

I was driving to school to pick up my daughter. She called as I sat in traffic, anxious for me to show up. I told her I’d be there in five minutes and we agreed to meet in back. To avoid the general melee that is the afternoon parking lot, I eased into a spot even though I expected her to be waiting. It was hot and the sun was at that angle where it’s impossible to find shade. As is typical for me, I pulled out my phone and began my gmail/fb/twitter shuffle. Five minutes passed, then ten, with no sign of my daughter. I called her phone to discover she was being voluntarily waylaid by the young man who currently holds her attention. She said she’d be right out.

I asked her if she was coming from the doors she normally uses or from the “other” side of the building. She said she’d be coming from the “other” side. I told her I’d drive that way to save her a few steps. Mostly, I just wanted to get the air conditioning running and cool myself off. I drove to the “other” side looking for her as I creeped through the parking lot.

Still not spotting her, my patience waned. Hot, tired, and thirsty, I wanted to go home. I had things to do. My irritation erupted. I had spent ten minutes driving to the school as a favor to her to pick her up, and she had the gall to leave me waiting for twenty minutes in a shadeless parking lot, in a hot car just so she could spend a few more minutes with a boy she’d already seen that day? How thoughtless. Angry, I called her back. “Where are you?,” I bellowed. “I’m by the “other” doors,” she responded, “Where are you?” “I’m by the “other” doors and you aren’t here,” I screeched.

Let’s just say that from here the conversation digressed. By the time she finally got in the van, I was livid. As we drove out of the parking lot, we each took turns loudly making our point. I quickly realized that what she was calling the “other” doors and what I was calling the “other” doors were two different sets of doors. I continued to yell as I vehemently proclaimed my rightness and her wrongness. I’m not raising a shrinking violent and true to form she loudly defended her position.

Then in the heat of that moment, I was able to get outside of myself for a split second and see just how absurd I looked. Two women, one very grown and one almost grown, who love each other very much, screeching over which set of doors were the “other” doors. She must have had the same flash of insight at the same moment because mid yell her voice started to crack, a smile begin to play across my lips, and our anger dissolved into laughter.

Sadly, I’m a yeller. It takes a lot to get me to raise my voice, but when that perfect storm of circumstance unleashes itself, I can be as intense as a tornado. This is not a point of pride. I do realize that there are situations where this level of intensity is useful, but those times and places are rare life occurrences. My yelling, especially when aimed at my children is just plain destructive.

This past fall, I went to my daughter and I confessed to her that the yelling was not good or appropriate and that she did not deserve to be treated that way. I apologized and asked for her forgiveness. I promised her that I would do everything I could to not raise my voice at her from this point forward. For the most part, I’ve done really well, but there have been moments, like this day, where my resolve waned and I found myself falling back on my old habit.

I took a deep breathe. I apologized. This time for breaking my promise not to yell at her. We both know I’m really, really working hard on this. We both know the relationship is so much better. We both know how much we love each other. She blessed me with her forgiveness and more time to work this out. She knows I’m intent on changing. She sees the improvement. I’m lucky to have her.

It’s extremely easy to say, “I’m sorry.” What’s difficult is acknowledging that our behavior has truly offended. To actually own the offense, sincerely expressing heart felt regret for being such a horses rear, and then doing whatever it takes to right the wrong and make the situation and the relationship better, is an humbling act.

Any apology without atonement is just a waste of breathe.

I’m not proud that I’ve yelled at my daughter. If I could go back and replace every second of raised voice she’s endured with the calm, loving mom she deserves, I would do it. I am proud that I have a young lady who stands her ground and won’t allow jerky yellers to steam roll over her. I hope she develops the intelligence to tell when she’s being duped by false apologies. I pray she possesses the intuition to recognize sincerity. Mostly, I feel blessed that she’s offered me a chance at redemption. She is important to me and I don’t want to mess up.

1 Comment

  1. I loved this part: Two women, one very grown and one almost grown, who love each other very much, screeching over which set of doors were the “other” doors. She must have had the same flash of insight at the same moment because mid yell her voice started to crack, a smile begin to play across my lips, and our anger dissolved into laughter.

    You’re both so lucky to have each other.

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