“I stole my daughter’s Dr. Pepper. Yep, stole it. Right out of the mini fridge she tried to steal and put in her room the other day. The same fridge that used to have my case of Diet Coke in it, that is, until she drank them all. I hope she’s thirsty. I hope she has a nice, juicy cheeseburger and fries sitting on the counter just begging for her to sink her braces-covered teeth into only to find the fridge empty and she has to drink water with it. From the tap. Lukewarm. Better yet, I hope she has a hot, cheesy, pepperoni pizza and she has to drink milk with because there are no more sodas left. Yes, perfect parents. My dark caffeine-deprived heart hopes she feels what I feel when she steals that bubbly goodness and drinks half of it, only to leave out the other cootie-infested half I wouldn’t dare touch. For the record, I don’t even like Dr. Pepper, but tonight, as it was cascading down my throat, it was the best drink I have ever had.
Let’s go back to the mini fridge for a minute. Like so many people, I have a mini fridge in my garage. You know – to house drinks so they can get stolen by parched teenagers. I came home the other night from work, tired and weary after a long day. I crawled out of my car, loaded up my arms with all the things I had to drag into my house, and shuffled past it. Well, the open space where the fridge used to be, that is. It took me a minute to notice it. Like, it was one of those moments when you know something is out of place, but you don’t exactly know what it is right away. So, you plod right past it, then stop, back up and look again. And then you see it, an empty space where the mini fridge used to be. At first, you furrow your eyebrows when you notice the dust on the ground with one candy wrapper and 75 cents strewn about. You mumble to yourself, ‘Isn’t there supposed to be a fridge there?’ Followed by, ‘Did I get burgled?’ And then suddenly, you feel all dirty and violated because you’re certain a stranger has been in your house rummaging through your things and drinking your soda and oh-my-God, what if they found the drawer. Yes, you know, that drawer. Yet, just as quickly as the thought consumes you, it leaves you as you scan the garage and notice that nothing else is missing. The tools are there. The safe is there. Everything else is just as it should be. And those furrowed eyebrows turn into angry ones as you squint your eyes and steam comes from your ears.
‘Teenagers,’ you exclaim. You drop your things. You ball your fists. You lose your shi*t.
You stomp into the house and the dogs scurry and hide. They know. Oh, they know. Momma is ticked.
I yelled up the stairs, because you know, I’m tired. And, I don’t know about you, but if I walk up a flight of stairs, I’m fighting for my life by the time I get to the top and huffing and puffing while you’re trying to yell at your kid just doesn’t work. Trust me. I’ve done it. They just sit and smile and even snicker a little bit waiting for you to pass out, but hey, I’ve taught my kids CPR and how to call 9-1-1 and I’m pretty sure they’ll help me. I think.
So, I yelled. No answer. Yelled again. No answer. I wasn’t totally surprised. I mean, they probably can’t hear me over the whirl of the refrigerant flowing through the machine cooling down their, er – I mean, my drinks. So, I did the next best thing. I texted them.
‘Where is my fridge?’ I asked in my nicest, most annoyed text tone voice. I tapped my foot on the hardwood waiting for the response. By the way, thank you Apple for the three little dots that come up when the other person is typing. Proof of life, I like to call it. I don’t know how many times she typed and erased, but with as many little dots that flowed around, I figured she had written a book, so imagine my surprise when the response was simply, ‘What?’
‘My fridge. Where is it?’ Again, no caps. I’m using my inside voice.
‘Why can’t I have it?’
‘Because, it’s mine.’
‘I don’t see why I can’t have it.’
‘Well, one – you don’t need a fridge in your room, and two – I just spent $5,000 on new carpet and you will get it off of there.’
‘Whatever, it won’t ruin the carpet.’
My jugular started pounding. My skin got hot. I took deep breaths.
‘BRING IT BACK DOWN.’ I turned on my heels and stepped into my room. I tried to slam the door. It was too light. I opened it and tried to slam it again. It just bounced back. I waved my hands in the air and flopped my exhausted body on the bed. Less than a minute passed when I heard the contraption being rolled by my door on the wood floor. ‘And clean up the dust out there, too!,’ I yelled. ‘And, I want that seventy-five cents!’
Geeze. Apparently, I’m a yeller all of a sudden.
Maybe I’m tired.
Maybe I’m stressed.
Maybe I don’t know what the hell I’m doing anymore.
Maybe adulting sucks.
Maybe I wasn’t supposed to do this parenting thing alone.
Maybe it’s all of it.
And maybe, as you’ve read this article, you laughed because you related. Or, maybe you’ve judged me. Maybe you think I’m a bad mom because I yelled at my kid. Or, how I was too lazy to walk up the stairs. And, how I tried to slam the door. Or how I had to have the last word. Maybe you gasped and thought you would ‘never do that.’
But, maybe, just maybe, you don’t know my story.
Maybe you don’t know how my life used to be. Maybe you don’t know about how at one time, I did arts and crafts at the table. Maybe you don’t know about how I used to have time to watch movies and play board games and act silly. Maybe you don’t know about how we used to dance in the kitchen and lay on the driveway and count stars without a care in the world.
And, maybe you don’t know about how life changed for all of us when my husband, and her dad, was ripped away from us and we watched him die from pancreatic cancer. And maybe you don’t know about how everything just changed.
And how tired we both are now.
The story I told you was a bad day. Rest assured, there are plenty of good days. Plenty of bright, sunny, happy, magical days. Plenty of days where we laugh and play and sing and braid hair. But not this day. No. This was a bad day.
I chose to tell you about it because it’s important to know that you don’t know. It’s important to remember that we don’t know everybody’s story. It’s important to check ourselves. It’s important not to judge based on the little things we think we see. I know it’s human nature. I get it. I’ve done it. But, I am trying so hard not to. I am trying to remember how it feels to come home to ‘one more thing,’ when you can’t handle ‘one more thing’ that day and how you’re going to mess up and yell at your kids and flop yourself on the bed because that ‘one more thing’ was one more thing too many. And then I’m going to remember to forgive myself for losing it, and I’m going to take a deep breath and remember how that feels. Because, that’s what I want to offer to other people who are having bad days. That’s what I want them to feel.
I hope that the next time you need to put yourself in time out – you do it. And I hope the next time you feel the need to judge – you don’t. I hope that if you see somebody struggling, you stop and remember that you don’t know their story, and I hope that you find yourself asking them if they need you. Because, we’re all in this together, friends. I think it’s time we all remember that, too.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register of Meridian, Idaho. Her book “Grief Life” is available in print and kindle. You can find more of her books here, and her podcast here. Connect with Diana on her author Facebook page, and Instagram.
Read more powerful stories from Diana:
‘When I was a little girl, we knew if mom came home with chocolate cake, we better shut up. We all knew what cake meant. Something had not gone right, and Momma was NOT happy.’
‘Do I need to separate you two?,’ the flight attendant asked. Wait. WHAT? I looked up from my magazine, confused. My kid sniffled. ‘Nothing gets better at 30,000 feet,’ she continued.’
‘I saw this picture of my teen daughter and her boyfriend. I cringed. I yelled. I demanded she take it off social media.’: ‘Infuriated’ mom changes her mind after she recalls ‘young love’ with her late husband
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