One morning my husband and I were fighting with our son about whether or not he was going to wear his winter coat to school. He refused, but we would not back down. But by the time school was about to start, his coat was nowhere to be found.
I was ticked—I just knew he hid it from me in order to get his way. I let him have it. I told him how embarrassing it was to send him to school without a coat and how every other mom would be judging my parenting—and all the teachers would talk about what a bad mother I was.
By the time we got to school he didn't even say goodbye—just slammed the door and ran onto the playground. I was frustrated. Not because of the slammed door, or the fact that he was going to be cold—but because he won. I had to give in— because he had tricked me into losing.
I drove home pissed off. Soon my husband was calling. He hysterically said, "Ash—a bus got in a crash this morning—and one of my employee's son's friend was killed. 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 Teage? My heart is hurting."
As I hung up the phone I glanced over to the kitchen table—and right under the chair Teage had been sitting in for breakfast was his lost coat.
I burst into tears. What if that would have been Teage on the bus? 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. I had him called up to the office. 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 in that moment was that my son knew he was loved.
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. 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.
This article was originally published here. It has been republished with permission.
Ashlee Birk is the author of The Moments We Stand, the blog and book series of her healing journey after the secret infidelity and murder of her husband in 2011. Graduate of Utah State. Mom of six. Contact themomentswestand.com www.themomentswestand