It started like most mornings start. I read something encouraging from a parenting book or devotional. I remind myself that today I would hug more, yell less. I would find patience and grace with my children today. I even cross-posted an inspirational picture on my Facebook page about being a positive parent, choosing love and gentleness with your children.
My boys started their morning like they usually do, picking at their breakfast then running off to wrestle over toys. After listening to the bickering and toy throwing long enough, I gave in to their request for “early TV time.” It’s not yet even 7:30 a.m.
I put on a show they both agree to, and head off to the kitchen for — hopefully — a couple minutes of solitude to make my coffee. It’s two minutes before they’re arguing; Big Brother James is upset that Little Brother Luke is sitting too close to him on the couch, or maybe they touched each other, or breathed too heavily. Who knows?
I decide to not be a “Helicopter Mom” and to pick my battles, so I continue my coffee-making. They can work it out. I hear Luke whining, then they’re screaming at each other. I keep telling myself, “They can work it out.”
Then I hear a smack and Luke’s screams become muffled. I abandon my coffee attempt and charge into the room. James is sitting on Luke, whose face is stuffed down in the couch. And just like that, my patience is gone. I do everything I said I wouldn’t do; I yell, I grab, I let my anger bubble over, seeping into my very being, leaving stains of guilt, regret and tears. So much for that inspirational picture on Facebook.
I scoop up a crying Luke (who was the culprit who hit James, which is a trick he learned from him anyway) and we leave a tantrum-throwing James in the family room in a “time-out.” I muster up a smile to calm Luke down, then safely tuck him away in the playroom.
James is screaming and throwing things in the other room.
I lean on the kitchen counter, my hand gripping it till my knuckles turn white. I close my eyes so tight I see spots. I try to slow my breathing down, and pray that somehow I can find patience and calm right now.
Like in a horror movie, I can hear angry footsteps coming towards me as James stomps across the kitchen. I keep my eyes closed, waiting for the miraculous calm that I desperately desire. He stops right in front of me. I don’t need to open my eyes to know that he’s glaring at me, tiny little fists clenched, his 3-year-old body shaking from the exploding emotions going on inside that are out of his control.
I open my eyes and, with a strange voice that doesn’t even sound like my own, I calmly say, “If you can’t be nice right now, go somewhere else.” And just like that, his face changes to a smile and he skips off to the playroom saying, “Okay, I’m nice now!” I let out my breath and stand there, dazed. Mommy 1; toddler 0.
I recently had a dear friend tell me I’m a great mom. She said that I handle my boys really well and do such fun things with them. She was striving to be more like me. I was grateful for her compliment. It was like healing salve for my heart that day, but I was worried too. I’m not always a great mom. I make huge mistakes every day. Am I really portraying an accurate picture of parenthood to my friends?
In today’s generation, it’s easy to show the world only what you want them to see. Our Facebook photo albums, status updates, Instagram uploads and check-ins can paint a picture of perfection that no one else is the wiser. And we, as struggling, broken parents, look at these images and words, wondering why we can’t obtain “that” in our life.
I’m certainly one who likes to look like I have everything together, but my friend’s words shook me. I don’t have everything together, and that’s okay. Because I am a great mom, I will keep striving to be better, and that is what I want the world to see about me.