What were you thinking? At least once a day, I find myself asking this question of one of my daughters because of some irrational thing that they’ve done without thought or consideration of the potential outcomes. My daughters are 24 and 18 . . . so those of you with children these ages can probably relate based on their ages alone.
I get so frustrated with them for not thinking forward or ahead — sometimes just for not thinking at all and finding themselves in messes that I have to clean up.
More often than not, and I would not want to admit it to them, I actually find myself asking this question of the tired, frazzled woman staring back at me in the mirror. Then, it dawns on me that these two apples did not fall far from the tree.
This past week, my youngest child who only recently turned 18, was leaving the house to go to her new job, and I very specifically told her to avoid a certain road because the rain was coming down so hard, and it was dark outside. Rolling her eyes as she walked out the door, I knew full well that she was going to take that road, regardless of what I instructed her to do. The road in question is a road with many turns and curves, blind spots and pot holes. Mix that with the fact that it had been raining, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
My mother chimed in as she walked out the door to reiterate the dangers I had forecast only moments before. Again, she rolled her eyes and reminded us that she is 18 now and the she knows what to look out for. Her logic was that it had only been a few months since she took her driving test so she remembered all of the answers and attempted to reassure us with that answer. So my mother and I both found ourselves rolling our eyes in reciprocity as she slammed the door behind her.
In my gut, I just felt that something bad was going to happen. She had only been gone for approximately 5 minutes and we received a call from a stranger that there had been an accident. He handed her the phone and all I could hear was her crying and calling my name. My heart was beating out of my chest as I wondered what we would find when we arrived on the scene. Mother and I rushed to her side where the paramedics were treating her. The first thing we saw as we approached the site was the little red truck that belonged to my dad had been rendered useless. My bigger concern however, was the safety of my child. Once I realized that she was only shaken up with minor bruises, scrapes and a few chipped teeth, my first instinct was to blurt out, “What were you thinking? Didn’t I tell you to stay off this road?” The moment it left my mouth, I knew it was the wrong thing to say at the worst possible time but by then, I could not “unsay” them.
When the dust settled, and the paramedics released her, I grabbed her and held her tightly and said, “I’m just glad you are o.k.” She started to cry and said, “Mom, I thought I was going to die.” In my mind, that little overly analytical voice was jumping up and down shouting, “Yeah and you almost did because you didn’t listen to me.”
By this time, you have to know that she has already been searching for the salt to put on the crow she would have to eat for not heeding my warning. It was very tempting to pull the proverbial shaker from my purse and assist her in that regard. She was already upset because the truck meant so much to her because it was my late fathers who had only recently passed away. She would punish herself in this instance. Nothing I could say or do would add any relevance or have any constructive value. Besides, I could see the look on my mother’s face and in her mind, she was shouting, “don’t do it! just don’t”. I wanted to. But I didn’t.
The following day, when I called the insurance company to report the accident, I discovered that we only had comprehensive and that blown tires is considered collision. So again, without thinking, I challenged my husband by blurting it out . . . . I couldn’t help myself. It just came out, “What were you thinking?” At this point, it didn’t really matter what he was thinking. It was what it was and that is all that it would be. Plain and simple.
I found myself staring in the mirror before bed time asking the very same question. Frustratingly, there were no answers waiting to be found — no profound statement of recovery that I could use to make myself feel better. Just me , the mirror, the silence and the disappointment. I had a real opportunity to fast forward and skip the know it all part and be a good parent. Unfortunately, I pushed play instead and let the question fly without thought of how it would make her feel.
Determined to make it right before I went to sleep, I threw my robe on and went up to check on her, trying to conjure an apology along the way. When she opened the door, I could see the regret in her face and the tears she’d been holding back. I knew without her saying a word that she was in her room doing the very same thing to herself that I had been doing only moments before. She knew she should have listened and taken a different route and now her freedom to come and go was gone because she didn’t. I realized at that moment that she didn’t need an apology from me anymore than I needed one from her. All she really needed, all I really needed, was a hug — and that is how we ended the night.