I was three years old and a brat. We were coming back from a long day at Everland, and I said to my mom, “I want that,” pointing to a nearby ice cream stand. But, my older brother wanted ice cream too. In the end, my mom bought one ice cream for the both of us – banana-flavored, like my brother wanted.
“It’s unfair!” I screamed. Why did my mom buy ice cream for my brother but not for me? She tried to calm me down: “I bought it for both you and your brother. Come here, Sangsoo, give some to your little sister.”
He offered the little cone, with an innocent expression on his face. “Here.”
But I refused to touch it, grouching and moaning the entire way home. I continued to kick and shout and channel my inner demon even after my bedtime. Eventually, my mom confronted me about my rotten conduct; but it was unlike any confrontation that I could have expected.
She picked me up resolutely like a squirming sack of potatoes, and we went into the bathroom. I began to cry, thinking that I would be scolded and punished for my spoiled behavior.
“Why are you crying? Who did you wrong?” she asked, not unkindly.
I was a little startled by her gentleness and hiccuped. “B-because…”
“Was it her? Was it this person?” she asked, pointing an accusing finger at herself.
I was confused. What was she doing? Wasn’t she angry at me?
“So, it was her! What a bad person she is for doing that to you!” she exclaimed. Then she hit herself.
My mom had not laid a hand on me, yet I felt my own cheek burning. I was a mix of emotions – aghast yet slightly amazed and more than a little ashamed of myself. I stopped crying immediately and said sorry. I also panicked seeing someone’s hand hit my mom, even if it was her own silly hand, and I clung to her arm to keep her from hitting herself again.
This memory has stuck with me, despite my age and the passage of time. My mom showed me kindness and patience and even spontaneity – but what resonated with me the most was seeing the effort she put in. She could easily have punished me or lectured me or even handed me off to my dad to deal with instead. When she confronted me, I saw care. When she hit herself, oddly enough, I felt loved.
Of course, I did not immediately transition from a spoiled brat to a conscious adult. I continued to bring my mom trouble, and she always countered with more patience, love, and care. And she channeled her creative energy into everything: DIY projects, food, small jokes, storytelling, and singing and dancing. Now that I am a college student and (hopefully) have the independence and presence of mind that I once lacked, I want to share the love and imagination I received from my mom with other people. It’s challenging and takes a lot of mental checking, but I am working towards it little by little. I want to become someone who can go the extra mile for others, and maybe even inspire them.
What about you? What lesson do you want to teach?