Yesterday, like so many other days lately, was a really hard day as a parent. Somedays, I feel like such a failure at mothering my children. The emotional highs and lows are almost too much to bear day-in and day-out, and I’m not the only one that has them – my daughters seem to be mini emotional rollercoasters too. At this stage in the game, the household is intense, and some days (like yesterday), I just crack under the pressure. I crack and I shatter, and they get a good hard look at their mother, the human.
Some days, after hours of the kids melting down, tattling, arguing, hitting, screaming, bickering, and ignoring the very sound of my tired voice, this mama just breaks down. We can only take so much sometimes, and it’s on those days that I let my girls see my humanity – my brokenness, and here’s why…
I hope that they remember more than the uglies.
My girls need to remember me, in all of my complexity. I know, myself, that I have very few memories of my own mother showing a variety of emotions. I clearly remember when she’d had enough and lost her cool, and I remember a few specific times in which she was crying for reasons beyond my childish understanding.
I want my daughters to remember my brokenness as much as my laughter, because one day, they too will be wives and mothers dealing with the highs and lows of the mundane. I want them to know that emotions are real, and okay, and not to be suffocated. I want them to remember that their mom did more than yell. She laughed, she cried, she praised and she sighed…she was human.
I hope that they observe that their choices affect others.
Even if that “other” is their own mama. We were reading the story Cinderella: Kindness and Courage (aff. link), and as I was reading the words on the page, they were sounding familiar to both me and my girls…
They made her do all of the chores.
Who does all of the chores? Mama. Not because I want to, or because I don’t require help from them, because I do. Little ones are expected to pull their weight around here in little ways – bring mommy your dirty dishes, throw your own trash away, clean up your toys, put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket, hang your coat and place your shoes in the closet… Little stuff. I don’t think I’m being a terribly mean parent by giving them responsibilities. They choose, however, more often than not, to ignore me. Yes, there are consequences, and yes, they oblige under pressure, but they don’t willingly offer to lend a hand when the task at hand doesn’t involve “testing” cookie dough or stirring cake batter.
So we had a brief chat after that line.
Cinderella’s family makes her do all of the chores. They don’t help her out. Who does all of the chores at your house? Mommy? Right. The book said that that was cruel of them. Do you think her step-family is being cruel? Do you think it is cruel to ignore mommy when mommy asks for your help? Do you think that if they helped Cinderella more and maybe took care of themselves sometimes that Cinderella would be thankful?
It’s important that my girls grow up with the understanding that their mom is not a doormat. Yes, I serve them and serve them with love, but they need to appreciate being served or else they will grow to expect it. When a service is no longer perceived as an act of love but rather as an obligation on my part and an entitlement on theirs, we are headed for trouble when they step into the real world.
I hope that they learn that others’ feelings matter.
A few weeks ago, I really angered my four year old. I forget now what I said or did that made her so angry, but I think I put one of her favorite toys on top of the refrigerator for naughty behavior. She was stomping her way down the stairs towards me, looked me right in the eyes and said,
I don’t like you, Mommy. You are the worstest mommy ever!
And she meant it with all of her little heart, which broke mine. It was the first time she had ever said those kind of words to me, and they hit me hard. Little baby darts that stung her mama’s heart. As I directed her to “Time Out”, a few tears streamed down my cheeks. She locked eyes with me as I sunk to her level.
I know that you are angry with me for taking your toy away. It is your consequence for naughty behavior. You hurt my heart with your mean words. I love you very much. I love you too much to let you make bad choices. Do you know that I love you? Good.
And then, I hugged her tightly. She didn’t escape her “Time Out”, but I didn’t want to let that moment pass unaddressed. Otherwise, her harsh words could become commonplace, next time directed at her sisters or a friend… I want her to remember my tears and think twice before uttering cruel words again.
I hope they see me modeling unconditional love and forgiveness.
In every situation, they need to see and feel the effects of my love for them. As their parent, my love is unconditional. I need to use these times of weakness to emphasize that truth. Sometimes, it’s not easy. Sometimes, I flat out want to take a break from being “mommy”. You know that saying, “I love you, but I really don’t like you right now”? If their constant fighting pushes me to tears, I need to let that be evident (within reason). Sometimes, moms cry. Guess what?
Mommy is a person, just like you, with thoughts and feelings, even frustrations. What do you do when someone hurts your feelings? How does it make you feel when your sister shouts at you? Does it upset you when you ask her nicely to help you with something, and she says ‘No!’ and walks away? It does? Well, I feel the same way. And even when I am angry or frustrated with your choices, I still love you. I forgive you for your naughty behaviors and love you always. Do you know who else loves you that way? Jesus.
I hope that they see me relying on and learning from Jesus.
In teachable moments, I use my brokenness to share with them the love of the Father, our need for Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds.
After our really hard morning/afternoon yesterday, both of the Bigs were enduring “Quiet Time” in tears. I won’t go into great detail, but they are required to have a “QT” every day, and all they must do is remain on their bed for one teeny hour either sleeping or reading. That’s it. Well, a rowdy, frustrating morning rolled right into an even more frustrating “QT”, and neither child was giving in without a fight. I let my humanity leak (too much) and yelled at them both, vowing to take away their most precious belongings for the rest of the day. When they saw that I wasn’t budging and my inner monster had reared its ugly head, they tearfully retreated and laid in their beds just sobbing their little hearts out. It was just a cumulation of the entire day’s frustrations boiling over within each of us. I thought, “We can’t keep doing this. They need to know what my intentions are here.” So I sat down with the oldest one first.
Ava, all I want to do each day is wake up, make you and your sisters a good breakfast, and enjoy our time together. I want to read you stories, watch movies with you, play with you in the playroom, run around outside with you, help you make things and watch you paint and draw… I want to have fun with you and your sisters.
All I need from you is for you to listen to me. Obey when you are told to clean up your toys. Then, I will have more time to play with you. Be kind to your sisters, so that they will want to play with you. Take your “Quiet Time” without fussing, so that it’s short and you’re up in time to enjoy the rest of your day. You are still growing, and your body needs good rest.
I don’t want to spend my day yelling at you and putting you in “Time Out” for things. I want to enjoy you and laugh with you and play with you. It hurts my heart to yell at you. I am working on that. I don’t want to yell so much. Can we both do better?
And then, I repeated my conversation with Isla, stroking her face and wiping her tears. She fell asleep in my arms, and while I knew this process was painful for them and ugly for me, I found some reassurance in knowing that all three of us were learning and growing through it.
Today, I’ll try to do things better than I did yesterday. I may actually do worse, but I’m still trying and learning, and I want them to know that. I want them to grow up seeing that. I want them to watch me change before their very eyes into the mother, wife, and woman that God created me to be.
Mommy is human, just like me, and she messes up and makes mistakes. She gets back up when the day knocks her down, and she asks for forgiveness and gives it too. She loves me even when I’m making bad choices and her arms are always ready to embrace me, even when I’m disobedient. She expects good behaviors, because she knows that I am good. She prays for more patience and kindness, and she leans on Jesus for strength and grace. I know Mommy has Jesus in her heart, because I can see Him working on her. He’s changing her and helping her to be the best mommy I know. I’m glad that she wants to be more like Jesus. I want to be more like Him too.