I remember a day—a year or so ago—Teage and I were fighting all morning about whether or not he was going to wear his winter coat to school. He said he refused to wear it, and Shawn and I kept telling him all the reasons why he would. By the time school was about to start, and we needed to leave to make it in time—his coat was nowhere to be found.
I was ticked. I just knew he had hidden it from me in order to get his way and not have to wear it to school. I let him have it—and told him how embarrassing it was to send him to school without a coat . . . how every other mom would be judging my parenting, and all the teachers were going to talk about how bad of a mother I was.
By the time we got to school he didn’t even say goodbye—just slammed his door and ran out onto the playground. I was frustrated. Not so much because he slammed the door, or he was going to be cold—but because he won. He didn’t have to wear his coat, because it was nowhere to be found. I had to give in— because he had tricked me into losing.
I drove home pissed off. I got Kaleeya and Tytus out of the car and went into the house. Soon my phone was ringing. It was Shawn and he was a bit hysterical. He said, “Ash . . . a bus got in a crash not far from my work . . . and a little boy was killed. He was good friends with one of my employee’s sons. It breaks my heart—really makes me think twice about the pettiness of arguing with Teage this morning about his stupid coat. What if that would have been one of our kids? What if that would have been Teage? My heart is hurting.”
As Shawn was explaining the events that had taken place I had sat down on the couch. In the middle of our conversation I glanced over to the kitchen table—and right under the chair Teage had been sitting in for breakfast . . . was his lost coat.
I hung up the phone and burst into tears. A little boy had died in our town. What if that would have been one of ours? What if that would have been Teage? What if the last conversation I had with my son that morning was a fight about a winter coat and me blaming him for lying to me? What if Teage had slammed his door and not kissed me . . . and then he died?
I put the little ones back in the car and drove straight to the school. With his coat in my hand I asked the office to call Teage up to meet me. As he rounded the corner tears fell from my eyes again. I held out his coat and said, “Son. I am so sorry. This morning I blamed you for lying to me . . . and you didn’t. I fought with you about wearing your winter coat so I could look like a good mom . . . I acted like an idiot . . . and I let you leave without kissing me goodbye. I am so sorry. I don’t care if you wear this coat. I don’t expect you to always follow my counsel . . . I just want you to know I love you—that no matter what happens today . . . you know that the most important thing . . . is you.”
He threw his arms around me and for a minute didn’t let go. It wasn’t about the coat . . . or who was right—all that mattered to me that day was that my son knew he was loved . . . in case I never got to tell him again.
We aren’t always going to be reminded—when we are too prideful to see—that there will come a final morning with our loved ones. It is moments like these that make us want to slow down just a little bit and see all the blessings in our lives.
Those last words—and final goodbyes—aren’t always on the forefront of our minds . . . but maybe if they were—we would make them count a little bit more.
It isn’t the coats our children wear that determine if we are good parents . . . but more about the love we give—when we remember it is them that make us great.
Not all goodbyes will be our last . . . but I am not sure I want to take that chance. So the next time a moment of frustration leaves me feeling like I have lost a fight—I hope to remember there is more to lose than an insignificant battle.
Lose a few battles—if it means gaining a little bit of love. Someday when that love is gone—you may wish you had let it win.
It isn’t always about winning the battle . . . but remembering what we are fighting for.