“The rooster is dead,” my 15-year old son declared, barely holding back the tears I know he felt too old to shed. He’d walked into my bedroom that morning while my husband and I were still in bed, browsing our phones and putting off getting ready for another busy day. It was said as a statement, but the accusation was in his eyes. His big, brown, usually playful eyes told us his beloved rooster was dead and it was our fault.
“Too long,” was all he could get out before he walked away and left for school.
Ugh. Gut punch. My husband didn’t say a word. He just sighed, got out of bed and headed to the shower. I could tell he would be punishing himself all day. All I could think was, “parenting FAIL”.
In that moment I felt so many things… guilt, self-recrimination, regret, a tiny bit of indignation, more guilt for feeling indignant, sorrow and that ugly, kicking-myself feeling that opens the door for that voice in my head to say terrible things like “You suck”, “you are the worst”, “what kind of mom puts off going to the feed store so long that her kids’ pets starve to death?” “what is WRONG with you?” “how self-centered are you, anyway?”
Side note, before anyone sends the chicken police after me: the rooster didn’t starve to death. The rooster had been having seizures since the coop door hit him in the head a few months ago when a gust of wind caught it and swung it into him. There are 10 other chickens in the coop who lived through “The Great 3 Day Chicken Feed Famine of 2018” just fine. We’d been giving them table scraps as well, so they were never without food.
But in that moment, when my son found his rooster dead and the chicken feed bin was empty for the third day because my husband was super busy at work and I was pre-occupied with my business and our five kids, it was easy to believe all those ugly things I was saying to myself. “I DO suck!” “I AM the worst!” “I am so self-centered!” “I’m a TERRIBLE mom!”
Obviously now, given a few weeks to reflect on the situation, I’m able to rationally look at it and cut myself some slack. I still feel guilty, of course. That’s what moms do best, right? But I have apologized and promised to make sure I buy more feed as soon as he tells me we’re running low and my son has accepted my apology and hasn’t mentioned the incident since. That’s all we can do when we screw up. Learn from our mistakes and move forward.
So, why tell you this? So you can feel better about yourself as a parent? No, but if it does… great, I guess. I tell you this story because it’s what life (and business) are made of… lessons.
Sometimes we win, sometimes we learn.
Sometimes our kids think we’re awesome and sometimes they need therapy because we accidentally kill their chickens. The point is, don’t open the door for the ugly voice to beat you up. And if it sneaks in anyway, tell it to go away. Nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes lots of them.
Then learn from the bad business deal, the wasted time, the lost money, the ended relationship, the dead chicken… look for and learn the lessons so you don’t repeat mistakes. Then shut that voice up and move forward. Bury the chicken, set a reminder in your phone to go to the feed store, buy the feed, apologize, pay for the therapist, and move forward.
Don’t look back at anything but the lesson you learned. The rest is just gross dead chickens, anyway.