I slammed the car door shut and burst into tears. They were tears of frustration, exhaustion, defeat, and frankly embarrassment. I was a total hot mess and the boys were SCREAMING in the car as I stood in that mall parking lot crying next to my SUV. It should have been a great day. The sun was shining, the snow had melted, and I was meeting my two best friends who I rarely go to see for some shopping. I should add that my best friends did not have kids yet so naturally I wanted mine to act all adorable and perfect while my besties saw me ROCKING motherhood.
I think the only thing I accomplished that day was ensuring that they would hold off on having a baby for as long as possible. Maybe even forever.
Instead of relishing in the joys of motherhood and friendship while trying on cute shoes I was trying to keep it together as both boys threw simultaneous and untamable tantrums of epic proportions. They refused to walk. They refused to talk. They refused to cooperate. They refused to calm down. They even refused the candy bribes! They were committed to their meltdowns and defiant toddler fits of rage and I was at my wits end with how completely out of control the whole situation was. So we left. My amazing friends actually helped carry my writhing inconsolable kids out of the mall quite literally KICKING & SCREAMING.
I just stood there crying wondering where I had gone wrong with my parenting and how I was ever going to regain control and be a joy filled mom with adorable little kids that make other people want to have babies.
That day was hard. It was really, really, really hard. Somehow there’s even video footage thanks to Dayna who was probably scarred for life that day but never fails to capture every moment.
In my pre-kid adult life if I saw a child throwing a tantrum in public my naïve resolution was always, “When I have kids they are NEVER going to act like that” and “I’ll never be the mom who bribes her kids with suckers in desperation at the store.” I was going to be the consistent disciplinarian and my kids were going to know their boundaries ESPECIALLY in public. Fast forward to today and I buy Dum-Dums by the big bag and usually have one in my purse “just in case”.
The truth is I’m an imperfect mother who is raising two imperfect little people in an imperfect world which paves the way for lots of potential to have more imperfect days.
Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Easier said—or read-- than done! That’s because the act of “training up a child” is actually a REALLY long process that requires loads of love, patience, and consistency and commitment for the long haul. The kicker is, EVEN WHEN you have all of those things you are still going to have imperfect days. Days that are hard and make you cry in front of your friends.
Some days your love and patience will stand the test of Sam’s Club on a Sunday and you’ll walk out of that warehouse expecting someone to give you a pat on the back for noticing how calm, cool and collected you were.
Other days you’ll dish out Dum-Dums like a dispenser to keep your kids settled just long enough to get through the checkout line. After all, you’ve got all those groceries in your buggy and you aren’t about to put them back and walk out of the store just to prove a point about bad behavior.
Some days you’ll apply the perfect consequences that equally fit the crime. It will go so well you start to think you could have written the book on parenting.
Other days you will overreact. You won’t be proud of it at all, and you will get down on your knees eye level with your little one to apologize.
Some days you’ll role model all of the right things. Your children will watch and learn from the excellent example that you set.
Other days you will get after your children for doing something only to realize they probably picked that up from you. That one always stings a little.
I wish I could say I rock it every day but I don’t. Most days are good and other days I realize I’ve still got a lot of work to do.
But here’s the thing… every day I am given a new opportunity to shape my little boys’ lives and help them learn how to be responsible young men in the imperfect world they were born into. My role as their mother doesn’t have to be perfect to be purposeful. Read that again, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be purposeful. And maybe that’s where we all get tripped up anyway, expecting perfection from ourselves and our kids in an imperfect world. Maybe it’s ok for them to see us mess up, apologize, and fail forward. Maybe it’s ok for us to see them throw tantrums and try to figure out what’s really going on instead of feeling frustrated we didn’t get the cute shoes. Maybe-- just maybe-- we can use our own imperfections to teach our kids about grace and forgiveness. And I’m positive we can learn a lot about unconditional love and forgiveness from them.
I don’t know nearly enough about discipline and parenting. Some days I get compliments while we are out in public and other days I get dirty looks. My nightstand is stacked with books about raising kids and I still have rough days. I’m sure there will be many more. But I do know that even when I don’t feel like I’ve got it all together, God does and He’s got the wisdom that I lack. All I have to do is ask for it!
I pray God gives you guidance when you need it, wisdom where you lack, and the perseverance to “train up your child in the way he should go”. And if I should run into you in public while you are having one of those hard days with your kids, I promise not to be the person that sends you a dirty look from across the store. I’ve been there too many times not to send you anything but a look of understanding and a firm “You’ve got this so hang in there!”.