I got my first ever speeding ticket a couple weeks ago. It was close to $200. For going less than thirty miles per hour. Yup, you read that right. Apparently there are cameras near Zoey’s school to catch the “speeders” zipping along during morning drop-off. So I received my first ever “speeding” ticket via the mail. No angry police officer pulling me over, no one yelling at me and igniting my shame at putting all those innocent lives at risk with my complete disregard for the posted 20 mph limit (note that my recorded speed was still in the 20’s. Yup, I’m a regular speed demon).
But this really isn’t about whether or not I deserved the speeding ticket. I owned up, paid my fine and moved on. This is about that moment when I opened the envelope and read that, essentially, I had been caught being bad. I stood there in the kitchen, reading a form that stated my speed, the speed limit, and my fine. There were pictures of my van. The date and time of the offense were included and there was no doubt I had been the driver. As I stood there, reading this information and taking it in, my hands started to shake, my face got red, I could no longer look directly at the letter. I was awash in shame and guilt and my immediate instinct was to run and hide and say, “But I didn’t do it!” (even though it was clear I had).
All this. From reading a letter.
No one was angry and yelling at me. There wasn’t a single person around. Not even a stranger, much less someone I loved. Someone whose positive opinion of me I valued.
It wasn’t until days later that it hit me: If I – a grown woman – have this kind of reaction to getting “yelled at” by a politely worded form letter, what must is feel like to my three year old when I yell and berate her for everyday minor infractions? My three year old with sensory processing disorder.
I felt like I light switch had been flipped on, allowing me to see into a tiny part of Zoey’s world. I also felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach. No wonder she can’t make eye contact when she’s in trouble; even when we say we just want to “talk” about it. No wonder she cries and throws things when we yell at her. No wonder she can’t absorb a single word of what we are yelling at her about.
It’s overwhelming. It’s terrifying. I have such a deep-rooted fear of being in trouble that I can’t emotionally deal with a letter. What makes me think my pre-schooler can handle me yelling to her face? What makes me think she would feel any differently than me about being seen as “bad.” I honestly don’t know where my goody-two-shoes-ness came from. My parents certainly didn’t instill fear in me via violent responses or anything like that. It’s just in my nature to want to please everyone, all the time. I’m fairly certain its in Zoey’s nature too.
It’s a humbling thing, seeing yourself through your child’s eyes. I never thought I’d be grateful for a $200 fine, but honestly, I think this time I am.