Not for the faint of heart

Photo by Jenni at Avodah

I walked in the door after a beautiful weekend away and kissed their sweet, sweaty faces. They’d been outside running, playing, relishing in all that is childhood. They looked like children who were having a grand old time.

In short, they were filthy. So I suggested a shower. Crazy, right? I know!!

Here’s the thing – generally we do not make our children shower every night. It’s a pain, they don’t like it and I can handle a little bit of dirt and slightly crusty hair for a few days in a row. However, when they play outside for hours without shoes on (yes, I am raising those kids) I generally think it entirely reasonable to have them jump under the running water long enough to bring their feet back to a normal peachy color and less…blackened by mud.

But I was unaware of the fact that showers were taken the night before and the night before that and oh you’d think I’d come home with a whip in hand and walked through the door cracking it. There was weeping, gnashing of teeth, glares that could easily turn one into a pillar of salt. The horror of suggesting a shower for a third night in a row.


Welcome to parenthood, right? You attend a conference established to encourage and refresh you in the journey, you come home armed with loved and gratefulness for the small ones lent to you for this lifetime and you prepare yourself for a sweet reunion complete with kisses, snuggles and giggles. It will be a beautiful time as they gather around you, sitting quietly with hands folded sweetly in their laps, their hair clean and slicked to the side.

“Tell us about your weekend, Mother,” they will say, all sugary and precious. “Tell us more about how truly wonderful you are going to be from here on out. Tell us how magical life will be now that you have been blessed with so much knowledge and wisdom.”

(Side note: You should read the above dialogue in a British accent because it sounds a lot cooler and gives a better dramatic punch. Just give a try…)

(See what I mean?)

You imagine that surely your job will be easier now, because you’ve just learned how to be a better mom. You’ve just learned how to love them more graciously. You have new tools in your arsenal to build them up and point them toward their full potential.

Unfortunately, the kids don’t get the memo about all of that. They go on acting like…kids. They haven’t become the perfect little robots that will make your job a walk in the proverbial park. It’s like a cruel, cruel joke.

Does this happen to anyone else? Is it just me? I hope not, because within fifteen minutes of being with my children last night I was already completely fed up.  It was all I had in me not to point my finger, grit my teeth and mutter, “Look, kid. I just learned how to be the best mom I can be and you’re in here making it difficult. Be nice so I can be AWESOME.”

I didn’t say that, of course.

Out loud.

We finally got them in bed (with only two actually showered and one with clean feet after we comprimised and wiped them down with a wet rag) and I collapsed on the couch and looked wide-eyed at Lee, my eyes conveying every emotion and frustration I felt. I’m home fifteen minutes and I already want to cuss? Hellooooo real life! Thanks for smacking me in the face.

Lee smiled, winked and patted me softly on the shoulder. “Welcome home,” he said with a grin and I could hear the chuckle in his voice.

Parenting. Not for the faint of heart. At all.

At. Freaking. All.

Can I get an amen?!

Good, Kind, Important

I read The Help this summer as we made our long and exhausting move from St. Louis to Florida. I was emotionally vulnerable and the book was the perfect escape during that first week we were here. I got lost in the story, the rich development of the characters taking me out of my momentary troubles and giving me someone to root for.

I was most struck by the relationship between Aibileen and Mae Mobly, the little girl she watched and loved. Aibileen took it upon herself to make sure that little girl knew and understood her value and her worth.

“You is good. You is kind. You is important,” Aibileen crooned to Mae Mobley over and over in an attempt to undo the emotional harm and pressure the child received from her young, inexperienced and judgemental mother. This relationship was precious and I bawled, both in the book and in the movie, as Aibileen walked away from Mae Mobly after giving her one last reminder.

“You is good. You is kind. You is important.

I’ve thought about this a lot as I’ve parented my children these last few months – particularly as I have schooled them at home. I will be the first to admit my weaknesses as a mother. While I am constantly challenging my children to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry I myself am not always following that.

I am slow to listen, quick to speak harshly and even quicker to become angry. And in so doing, I tear my children down. I. Hate. That.

Sloan takes the brunt of my quick to become angryness. Mostly because he is equally quick, and perhaps even quicker, to become angry and I react. It’s not that I don’t try to stay calm and patient. I try and I try and I try. And he pushes and he pushes and he pushes.

Round and round we go until one of us snaps. On the precious few days when I manage to not be the one to snap I collapse into bed exhausted and depleted of all sense of myself. Most days, however, I crawl into bed heavy hearted at once again losing control of my own emotions. And I wonder…

Does he know that he is good and kind and important? If I think back on the days events have I given him any reason to believe that I see him as good…and kind…and important?

The thought that perhaps my child is going to sleep unsure of these things can be paralyzing. He knows I love him. He knows this because I tell him all the time. A hundred times a day he hears me say I love him and I sincerely mean it when I say it. I love that child fiercely.

But does he know how good I think he is? Does he know that I think him to be one of the kindest young boys I’ve ever known? Does he know how important he is not only to me, but to so many others? Does he know?

Today found Sloan and me locked in yet another battle of the wills. Each day is new and yet each day is the same. It’s a battle and a war and some days I feel like I am losing. I’m at battle with all three children, of course. You’re at battle with your kids, too, if you think about it. We’re all fighting the war against their sinful natures and desires. We all wake up each morning and walk into the battle zone and it’s a war we must win when they are young and their hearts are pliable and easily molded.

As I felt the frustration bubble up inside of me, I looked into his challenging eyes and saw so much anger. So much confusion. You see, Sloan isn’t the only child needing correction in our home, but he receives it more than the others. This is partly his fault and partly mine. He tries to parent the other two kids and gets in my way and so I have to deal with him before I can deal with them. But many times I deal only with him and forget to correct the other two for pestering and nagging him in the first place. And Sloan feels worn down – I can see it.

So after a particularly grueling hour of back and forth, I stopped and grabbed his hand. I was angry and he could tell, but I was fighting against the anger with every fiber. Looking deep into his baby blues, I spoke softly.

“Do you know that you’re good?” I asked. He blinked, surprised by my reaction.

“Do you know that I think you’re amazing? I think you are kind and gentle and humble. Do you know how good you are?”

Slowly, he nodded his head yes.

“Do you know that I think you’re important? You’re important to me and you’re important to God. Do you know that?”

Again he nodded, his eyes welling up with tears.

“Good,” I said, the anger melting away. “I want you to know that.”

I’d like to say his behavior changed and that he was immediately kinder and gentler with me and his brother and sister. It didn’t exactly work that way, but as the day went on, when he lost control I would look him in the eye and raise my eyebrows and he would stop and nod.

He knows.

He does know. And my prayer tonight is that he would embrace those things and bury them deep. Tomorrow is another day of battle and I feel more prepared now that I’ve added another weapon to my arsenal. We’re going to win this war, he and I. He’s too good and too kind and too important for me to give up on.

Losing is not an option.