Today was one of those days. You know the kind… they’re just rough. There’s no standout reason–no one is sick or extra tired, but we are all just out of sync. Most of the day involved butting heads, bad attitudes, short tempers, and exceptionally needy babies who wanted to be held without end.
It started with my toddler having a meltdown because I gave him the wrong cheese, then another one because I moved his step stool over six inches, then another because I wouldn’t let him push his sister out of the way so he could flip the pancakes.
It ended with me chewing out my kids at bedtime. I wanted to end the day by reading our favorite chapter book together. All they had to do was get jammies on and teeth brushed in fifteen minutes. But twenty-five minutes later, only the three-year-old had done that. The five-year-old was running around in his undies and a Batman belt with a plastic sword at his side, and my oldest was neglecting her own responsibilities in order to boss her siblings (and then sassed me when I corrected her).
I just wanted to hang out with them. I just wanted to do something fun with them for a few minutes before bed. But instead, they lay in their beds as I lectured, and for two of them, that was the last thing they received from me before they went to sleep.
I’d be lying if I said that was the first time I’d lost it at bedtime. I was especially hard on my oldest. We are so alike that we know just how to push each other’s buttons and cause legitimate hurt.
I sat in her room, rocking the baby and silently fuming about her actions, but also about my own. The silence broke as she tried to stifle the sobs.
For some reason, I was annoyed. I didn’t want to feel guilty. I didn’t want to admit I was in the wrong. Each sound of her muffled crying reminded me I was.
“Mom,” she sobbed, “I don’t know why I am so bad.”
Let me pause for a moment to make something clear. This child is amazing. She is brilliant. She is kind. She is good to her siblings. She adores making gifts for people. She loves every living creature, except for maybe spiders, and she is incredibly affectionate. There is no bad bone in her body. Sure, she tests limits, as every kid does, but I would never use “bad” to describe anything about her.
Her sobbing statement broke me. My words had cut so deeply that she lay in bed believing the most opposite thing about herself to what she actually was. I had done that to her.
That’s the power we as parents have over our kids. I never meant to communicate that to her, but in my lecturing and short temper, she decided that she must be a bad kid. My words, meant only to discipline and correct, instead broke her spirit. This is my greatest fear as a mom, that my carelessness, my sin, my mistakes, will break and wound these tiny people whom I love so much. And this is a fear that I have to lay down at the feet of Jesus daily.
But today I didn’t. Today I picked up my self-made burden of the stresses going on around me–a broken windshield, my husband’s 14-hour shift, grief from a recent loss–and I made my target an eight-year-old.
What would have happened if, instead of looking at those things as reasons to be mad, I looked at them as reminders to be thankful? I’m thankful we have a safe, warm car. I’m thankful my husband has a job. I’m thankful my life was touched by the sweetest woman and that God is with me when I miss her so. It is our perspective that shapes our actions. And it is grace that steps in when we fail.
Tonight grace came through my daughter and her generous, loving heart. She didn’t need to forgive me as soon as I asked, but she did. And then, she immediately told me she loves me. Her grace for me, in my anger and my failings, touched my heart even when I broke hers. Her love changed the course of our night.
On my better days, I send my kids to bed with a whisper in each one of their ears that goes something like this:
- Did you know that you are my favorite eight-year-old in the whole wide world?
- Did you know that you are one of the best gifts God has ever given me?
- Did you know there is no one else that I love the way I love you?
We can be a force for good in our children’s lives, and each new day, each minute is a chance to try again.
Here’s some even better news. God is a good Father. As much as we love our kids, God loves them more. And, dear mama, God loves you more.
- Did you know that even on your worst days, God loves you deeply and completely?
- Did you know He loves you like no one else does?
- Did you know that you are one of His best gifts?
Even when we fail, His grace is more, and He often uses our kids to show us that.
I’d love to hear from you. When the days are rough and tempers fly at bedtime, what strategies do you use with your kids to end the day in a peaceful way, even when your heart, or theirs, isn’t at peace? When you blow it (we all do), how do you nurture your relationships and your own heart back to health?