Not seeing the boy

He walks through the door, dropping his jacket and backpack in a large heap behind him. I trip over his shoes as I bend down to grab the wrapper from his after-school snack off the floor.

"Do you have any homework?" I ask, wearily.

He launches into a tirade of all the projects he is working on. I groan, knowing just how much time all those things will take.

Grabbing a paper towel, I wipe up the milk he has just spilled. I snap at him for his carelessness. Reaching for another towel, I stumble over his trumpet case.

In an instant, all the petty annoyance bubbles up and spills over. I chew him out for not practicing often enough, making threats about canceling his trumpet lessons. I move to the projects he has coming up, and remind him angrily that he better get them done before scouts. I grit my teeth and spew venom about the mess he has made on the counter.

I turn around to continue my rant, and notice his blue eyes fill with tears. He hangs his head and apologizes softly. He promises he will practice more. He reaches for his backpack to start on homework, as the tears spill over his lightly freckled cheeks.

Guilt and regret instantly turn my irrational rage into compassion.

I move across the room and take him into my arms. I apologize for snapping at him, and tell him that I love him. He sobs quietly, as he tells me how overwhelmed he is feeling today. How the projects at school seem insurmountable, and he doesn't know if he'll be able to find the time to get it all done.

I wonder then how I didn't notice the sagging shoulders and somber expression when he walked in the door.

How could I only see the mess and the shoes, and miss the boy completely?

I curse myself, wishing I could take it all back and start again. Today was a total mom fail. Doesn't matter that I am right. He does need to practice more. Those projects have to get done before he runs off to play. He should have been more careful with the milk.

But he's only a kid.

And he's my kid.

And today, instead of noticing that he needed to be picked up, I knocked him down. Instead of being that safe, warm place to come home to, I hit him with anger and annoyance the minute he walked through the door.

I need to remember when I'm tired and cranky, that I have no right to take it out on him. I need to look first, and yell later (or not at all). I need to be grateful that I have such a good kid. A kid who gets straight A's, is friends with everyone, and always tries to help those around him. I need to tell him how much I love him, and how proud I am of who he is.

Because at the end of the day, the trumpet, the milk, and the homework do not matter one bit. What matters is that he knows just how much his mama loves him.