On Second Chances

The girls and I were out and about when we bumped into someone we hadn’t seen in a while. This lady and I chatted for a bit, then said goodbye. At some point that day, Grace overheard me tell someone (Stanton, my mom, my sister?) that running into this person had flustered me. Our last conversation, hers and mine, could have been smoother.

“Why don’t you like her, Mom?” Grace asked.

Sometimes, I forget two things: 1) My daughters are everywhere, and 2) they hear everything I say. I also have the fear (which other parents might share!) that someday, one of my children will announce, “My mommy doesn’t like you.”

This fear compelled me to tell Grace, “I just don’t know her very well.” My 5-year-old accepted this response.

As chance would have it, the girls and I saw this lady again, just a few days later. We all stopped, and this time, we talked longer than all our previous conversations. We got to know one another better.

When the girls and I were alone again, Grace asked me why I was nice to her. “Remember you said you don’t know her,” Grace said.

I was holding Anna, the diaper bag and assorted “summertime with kids” paraphernalia (sunscreen, someone’s flip flop, a water bottle). But I paused. I thought about Grace’s question. And the real reason, the answer to her question, was, “I thought I should give her a second chance.”

“A second chance? Why?”

I also have the fear (which other parents might share!) that someday, one of my children will announce, “My mommy doesn’t like you.”

My daughters and I started walking again. I don’t remember the rest of our conversation, verbatim. What I do remember is, I explained to Grace that people make mistakes sometimes. And I included myself as one of these people.

It’s possible that I was wrong about this person. Perhaps I had misunderstood her during one of our previous interactions. It’s true that I didn’t know her very well. Why not give her a second chance?

Our first instinct, many times, in many of our interactions, is to deflect blame. To preserve our good sense of self. We don’t usually consider, “You know, maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m wrong. It’s possible that I’m wrong.”

I thought about the second chances in my own life—all the second chances people have given me. Growing up, there were lots of times I could have been a kinder daughter, a more involved sister, a better friend. My family, and those like family, gave me multiple second chances.

The same is true for my husband—multiple second chances, friends. During all our time together, I’ve been caring and patient, and I’ve also been thoughtless. I’ve said things, at times, that I knew were hurtful. Every time, I hated myself afterward, and every time, Stanton forgave me. The gift of another chance—or, simply, love.

I read once that “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship for more than a minute probably would disagree. Love, I think, is saying you’re sorry. Love is second chances—trying again—moving forward, together.

Love is acknowledging, “Maybe it’s me; maybe I’m wrong.”

A few days ago, Grace hosted her very first lemonade stand in our front yard. Earlier in the day, we bought supplies at the grocery store: lemonade mix (I was happy to see my childhood favorite, Country Time, still on the shelf!), cups and a sheet of yellow poster board. We were going to hold it on Saturday morning, but Grace couldn’t wait—so we moved it up to Friday afternoon.

July 11, 2017

“Everything free, tips happily accepted” I wrote on the yellow poster board. Grace added “Grace & Anna :)” underneath.

“’Miley face!” Anna exclaimed.

A bunch of neighbors happened to walk by Grace’s lemonade stand that afternoon, and some thoughtful friends made a point to come by. Many of them presented Grace with their spare change, which Grace delightedly collected in her front shirt pocket. It was a wonderful experience.

Grace earned about $8 in tips—a fortune for a 5-year-old. Later, when Stanton got home from work, her eyes sparkled as she regaled him with the story of her successful lemonade stand—so successful, in fact, that there was not even a full cup left for him to sample.

Looking at my family in that moment—Stanton, Grace and Anna—the three of them happy and healthy, and simply enjoying being together—I felt the gift of second chances in my life. I felt grace. For all the times I could have been more loving, or less judgmental…what a gift to be part of this.

Family. Love. This life.

For all the second chances people have given me, certainly I could give some too.

“You’ll always be the miracles that make my life complete.” (George Strait)

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.