Guys, I’ve been quiet for a while. And I’m sorry. The new year brought some resolutions – to be more present in each moment, to allow myself to practice some “self-care”, and to become an all-around healthier version of myself. It brought a new job, with a shorter commute. It also brought a 2-year-old – and all the rumored terribleness that comes along with it (not without all the joy too, I must add).
This third year of parenting has started off with a bang. I am mommy to quite a brilliant little lady. She carries on full conversations with me in almost full sentences these days. She remembers everything….and I mean everything…. that I tell her. She corrects me when I am doing something that I have scolded her for. She takes all of my comments literally. She argues with me when she doesn’t agree with what is happening. She makes decisions for herself and is very aware of what she wants…and what she doesn’t want. These are all blessings and are such a joy to watch (most days). What isn’t always a joy is her defiance and incredible strong will. It is a will that I have so deep within my own core. A will that has carried me through some rough points in my life. A will that drives me and sustains me. A will that has made me the strong, successful woman I am today. But it’s terrifying. It is terrifying to look into the eyes of a tiny little human that you created – and see the same will. The will that fights back with all her might when she doesn’t want to do what you’re telling her to do. The will that makes her hold strong to her conviction no matter what you threaten to take away or what punishment you throw at her. The will that doesn’t want help with anything until she has tried something every way possible herself. The will that doesn’t want to be told what to do in life when she already has her own way of exploring this world in her mind.
Parenting is such a humbling experience. The past few months have humbled me more than I can put into words. In a way, parenting breaks you. It exposes things and it opens your eyes to things you never realized before. It breaks you right open. And this past weekend, I was broken. I wish I could say our first experience with swimming lessons went well. I wish I could say she had a blast and learned a lot. I wish I could say we made it through one lesson. But I can’t. What I can say is that it ended with leaving early. It ended in a lot of tears, screaming and kicking. It ended with some embarrassment as I carried an uncontrollable child out of a pool. It ended with one very unhappy toddler and one extremely defeated mommy. I am not sure where exactly things went wrong – but it was most likely a combination of lessons being too close to lunch/nap time and being told what to do by a complete stranger in a normally very fun pool. All I know is that my child was done. She was done listening, she was done participating, and she was done trying to be calmed down. I won’t go into all the ugly details of what the scene looked like in the locker room trying to get us both changed to be able to go home – but – if you can picture wrestling an alligator that has been crossed with Mike Tyson…. that will get you close.
It took everything I had to hold in the tears and walk out of that gym as fast as I could. I was mortified, I was defeated, I was hurt. And we both cried the whole way home.
I put the sleepy monster down for a nap – and cried some more. In that moment, I felt like a failure of a mom. I felt like a failure for not being able to control my child, for not being able to get her to calm down, for not being able to get her to listen during lessons, for making her leave early, for losing my cool and yelling at her, for being angry with her. All the mommy guilt welled up within me. I felt defeated. Like, why do I try so hard to plan all these fun activities and adventures, when they just end in tears and frustration these days? I felt hurt. My heart hurt seeing the anger in her eyes towards me, hearing her scream back at me, feeling her hit me in frustration.
After being comforted and reassured by my amazing husband and best friend that I am indeed doing a good job at this mothering thing, I accepted that it was just a bad day and that I shouldn’t take anything that happened personally. But – I’ll admit it – before becoming a parent myself, I always had a simple equation in the back of my mind: bad child = bad parent. Don’t hate me. I had no idea what actual parents went through and were forced to deal with day in and day out. I thought for sure that if you were a good mom there was no way your child would ever be the one throwing themselves on the ground in the middle of the grocery store isle. I thought that if you did everything right at home, there would be no reason that your toddler would look into your eyes and hit you right across the face in public. Oh, if only it were that simple. I’ve quickly learned to forget about the “bad parent” equation because…. it simply just doesn’t add up.
Once I was able to look back and reflect on the day, something even more humbling happened. I thought about all the times during my life that I rebelled and went against God’s direction for my life. All those times that I just wanted to swim freely in my pool without having to listen to anyone. All those times that I dismissed him. All those times I acted out when I didn’t want to do what he was asking of me. How bad have I hurt the heart of God? How bad have a disappointed him throughout my short life? But each time, He always responded the same way: with grace.
God already knows what is best for us as his children – in every situation. He knows what will make us happy and feel satisfied. He knows what will allow us to live this life to the fullest – how he designed it to be lived. And we as mommies can know and want the best for our kids, but that won’t always be how it’s played out. They will act out. They will disobey. They will disrespect. They will oppose everything you have willed and planned for them. In my weak moment, my awesome best friend had some very wise and comforting words –
Never take too much credit for your child’s accomplishments and never too much blame for their failures.
I’m learning, the more you see your own sin and your own shortcomings, the more precious and amazing God’s grace appears to you. So, my prayer for myself – and for you – is that we allow ourselves to live and walk in that grace. That we wake up every single morning striving to give that same grace to these tiny little humans. And that we throw that grace around like confetti when we witness a fellow mother caught in a rough moment. Because – we’ve all been there…. and we all so desperately need it.