I’m a mama of two with a third on the way, and if you ask me about my life, I will honestly and truthfully tell you how much I love my family. I will tell you that every night when I put them to bed, I feel like the emoji with hearts for eyes. I will tell you that I would do anything for my littles and that being their mama brings me so much joy. And I will mean every word.
The last five (ish) years have been the most meaningful and precious of my life, but somewhere along the way, I lost sight of the day to day goodness, and I stopped treating my children like the gifts they are. At some point, I began surviving my days at home with them instead of enjoying them. I allowed myself to treat them without respect and kindness simply because they are children. In our own home, with no one watching, I became short tempered and rude.
My harshness became impossible to ignore one day after I snapped at my daughter for waking up the baby. I had asked her to play quietly, but an (accidental) crash of her toys woke the baby from a very much needed nap, and he screamed.
“Uggh!,” I huffed, before going off on a full blown mama rant- the kind that unleashes a month’s worth of exhaustion and frustration with the hard parts of this season and unfairly hurls it all at my young child.
I looked down at her, my eyes full of anger, and she asked, “Why are you being SUCH a meanie?!”
The baby cried. My mind raced.
In my head, I thought, “I’ll tell you why…I bounced and hummed and swayed and bounced for that nap! I earned that nap, and she cut it short. I asked her not to play so rough. I needed that break.”
I was angry. I was tired. And, in that moment, I was so wrong.
I wish I could say I immediately got down on her level, apologized and talked through what we both could have done differently. I wish I could tell you I took the opportunity for a teachable moment to model humility and sincerity. But that’s not what happened. Instead, I picked up the baby and largely ignored her and the whole situation. Instead of an even tempered mama responding to her with love and humility, my daughter was met with an eye roll and a glare from a mama who went on trying to soothe a cranky baby, ignoring her preschooler.
My harsh demeanor didn’t soften even as I mentally acknowledged and thought over my mistake. Guilt crept in…but I pushed it aside.
Until that night.
In the stillness of our post bedtime quiet, I lay awake with those mean mama words playing over and over. I had held her to an impossible standard and viewed her honest mistake into an act of disobedience. I remember seeing her little eyes, and I can’t ignore the hurt in them. I cried for her. My heart broke for the words she had heard me say. Because it wasn’t a completely isolated incident.
I won’t say it happens often, or even regularly, but anger over simple accidents and general childlike, age appropriate, behavior sneak into my daily thoughts and occasionally bubble over in my words. I talked to my husband that night about what had happened. I told him I wasn’t mothering her in the way I felt called to. I told him we needed to build her up while we had the chance, and that I couldn’t stand to think that I was hurting her spirit. I told him that I wanted to be better for them. I told him we needed to reset. And so I did.
The next day, I talked to my daughter about how I had responded and how she had been feeling. I told her I was frustrated and tired, but that I still should have used kind words and had more patience with her. I told her I was going to do better, but that I might make mistakes. I asked her to help me by telling me how my words make her feel, and I told her I would be telling her about my feelings, too.
Now, when one of us snaps (because, if you can believe it, I still do), we take a step back. We give each other second chances and practice do overs. We offer apologies as freely as we offer forgiveness, and we do our best to be better.
Do I wish I could be the perfect picture of patience for my kids? For sure. But I’m human. Perfection isn’t going to happen. So, instead, I’ll be the best version of myself possible, acknowledging that my best will vary day to day, and even hour to hour. I will model humility and the need for grace. I won’t be perfect, but I won’t stop trying to be better.
Good mamas have bad days when parenting stretches us. It takes our tired and it gives us exhausted. But if you’re struggling to enjoy your children… If you’ve stopped noticing the light they bring when they walk in a room… Take a minute. Hold them. Smell them. Kiss them, and tell them what you love about them. I promise, you will benefit from that love and affirmation at least as much as they do.
We are never too grown up, nor they too little, to ask for forgiveness. Needing to apologize to your children doesn’t make you a weak authoritarian or a bad mom; it just makes you a human one. And as long as you are extending and accepting forgiveness from your children, please extend it to yourself. Choose to give yourself grace over guilt. Reset. And try again tomorrow.