imperfect days and third options

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While treading the worn hallway, upstairs, I heard my eldest son’s ringtone from the furthest reaches, downstairs.    With one last command to my younger sons to hurry down and eat breakfast; I rushed down the stairs to catch the phone before it went to voice mail.  It was 7:20 AM.

Mom!  I need my history textbook!  I heard the stress; voice cracking on the other end of the cell.  I quickly scanned his desk, unable to locate it until he remembered it had fallen on the left side.  I glanced at my phone;  it was 7:23 AM.  His late bell rings at 7:30.

My mind screamed, This is your fault for not getting up early; let this be a lesson to you!

My mouth said, “I won’t make it.  You’ll be tardy for your first period.” 

I heard the resignation in his voice as he accepted this truth; the consequence.  He knows, he said, but please try anyway.

I got every single traffic light to his high school.  I spotted the police cruiser at the intersection and my son; who clutched his phone for dear life,  amidst the kaleidoscope of teens who rushed to beat the bell.  His classroom is on exactly the opposite side of this sprawling campus.  When I stopped he grabbed the textbook, yelled thank you and bolted.  We both knew he wouldn’t make it in time.

Sometimes in life we know the outcomes won’t meet our expectations.  But I am always wiling to try something; at least once.  It is a lesson learned for this son who is used to being punctual.  These years, that he currently occupies, will be the ones where he must learn to adapt and adjust.  Responsibility is a trait to be learned.  Earned.

Today he was lucky; it is his birthday.   This won’t happen again.

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Sometimes when we make choices; the decision is clear-cut and easy.   Should I eat breakfast so I am not hungry later?  Yes.  I should.  But most times our choices are between two conflicting things.  Do I sacrifice being late to my first period or do I leave the textbook at home?  We weigh our options; both negative outcomes.

Lately I feel like most of my choices weigh negative consequences.   I think of my cluttered counter top with highways of dead ants.  Do I spray the ant poison near my food stores to salvage my cupboards or do I toss excess food to prevent the ants from foraging?   The desire to cook in my disorderly kitchen is at an all-time low; amidst toxic fumes and triple digit temps.  But my desire to not eat out, with excess calories and expense, balances my aversion to cooking in a cluttered kitchen.

Each day feels like I am taking a multiple choice quiz where I must choose the response that best answers the question.  It will never be perfect; exact.

This is really what I must always remind myself of; imperfection.  Rare is the day that my kitchen is scrubbed clean, full of groceries and organized where the spices I need are at my fingertips.   Rare is the morning that my three sons are awake, dressed and fed; waiting to be taken to school.  I know when I reach my twilight years that I will miss these years of semi-organized chaos, the full schedules, the clutter and footsteps that tread the halls upstairs.  Someday my house will be silent.

All of these every day wanderings are minute details in the bigger picture; the maelstrom of ants and pots and pans, the broken tile.  Instead of my messy home I’ll remember driving, in traffic, to my son as he discovers the effects of his actions.  He may not remember this day; the indecision and realization that either outcome would not be ideal.  But he will remember the feeling of hopeful helplessness and will learn to organize himself and find ways to prevent this situation from recurring in the future.

When life’s outcomes are stacked against you, there is always the third option.  Hope.  To want a positive outcome; so bad, that you completely ignore the negatives to attempt to do the right thing.   You have to believe, to have blind faith, that there is always something better; a path not yet found if only one tries.

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In the end, none of the above mattered.  The son; late to his first period class, discovered the principal and assistant principal inside.  On this particular day his geometry teacher was absent and the substitute had not arrived.  From the principal the classroom of students learned that a fellow parent; speeding, had struck another student.  Only two days before had our high school’s parent population sat in the auditorium; advised of traffic rules and repeatedly, told to drive S-L-O-W.  The student, thankfully, is okay.  The police presence and throngs of late students were explained; traffic at a stand still.   My son, indeed, was lucky; in more ways than one.

The past two years I have advocated for parents to be vigilant drivers with the kids at our elementary and junior high.  It is ironic that, of all places, the high school campus is where the unthinkable happened; the teen a junior and struck by a parent.  As parents, each and every single day, we weigh probable outcomes and try to make the best choices we can to guide our children.

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Our actions do not only impact ourselves.  Shall I be late to work or hurry up and get out of this mess; to beat traffic?   We, too, must learn responsibility; own culpability.  We, too, must find a better outcome.  To leave our houses earlier, to take the time to get our children to their campuses safe.  To put down the cell phones; to stop with the text.  I still hope for the third choice…that we CAN do better.  This, I believe.

We have imperfect days.  But we can always strive to make the choice that best fits the situation.  The answers are rarely perfect and clear and bad days will happen.  But tomorrow is another day.  Make it a better one.

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