I'm about to lecture my grade five kid about the stuffing of her snow pants into the secret compartment of her backpack, when the memory of a winter coat creeps in and silences me like the overnight snowfall waiting for us on the other side of the front door.
I was in grade nine and sitting halfway back on the bus -- not all the way in the back with the older boys and cool girls, but close enough that I was on the periphery. Sometime during the school day, a blizzard came and blasted the neighborhood. It was still blowing fiercely as we approached our stop. And there, like a mirage in a snowy sandstorm, stood my mom and the coat.
She hadn't walked me to school since grade two and was never one to like the cold. She waited with her hood drawn tightly around her face, almost unrecognizable if not for that coat draped over her arm.
It was puffy and long. It was also cotton-candy pink and off the rack of a discount department store. My parents, and their hard-earned money, were never fooled by designer names. They bought whatever made sense, like a warm coat for a good price. They gave it to me and I stuffed it in the front hall closet, where they assumed it was waiting for a cold day.
Even now I can hear the silent but indignant scream, How could she do THIS to me? My embarrassment raged; her gesture was lost in the howling storm.
My memory ends there, I don't remember what happened next. Did I walk past her? Was there an exchange of angry words? I am certain I was hurtful. Years later, when I first became a mother, I asked about that day and was surprised she didn't remember. She had long since forgiven and forgotten.
And there was the understanding. Even with its hurt and disappointments, parenthood is a chance to give and receive unconditional love. A leap of faith that, if we choose to accept, delivers us to the best version of ourselves.
My daughter stands with her back to me and slides her arms through the straps of her backpack -- willing to carry the extra weight of hidden snow pants. She accepts my gesture as part of our mother-daughter dance.
I stay quiet, wishing I could have been so kind, but knowing it's okay that I wasn't.
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