It was a particularly rough night recently in our home. My husband was at work, the baby was incredibly fussy and my two oldest were struggling with following anything that resembled directions. My patience was waning and I knew it. The problem was, I was committed to “push through,” instead of stopping and asking God for help. As if to be a warning sign, my daughter even came up to me and sweetly said, “mommy, don’t be frust-er-ated with us.” The night continued to spiral downward until I finally started yelling over how slowly toys were being picked up. And then it happened. Her sad eyes met mine, tears spilling over. I had blown it. Again.
I pulled her into my lap and apologized (again) for blowing it(again). Through her tears she kept saying, “I told you not to be frust-er-ated, mommy. I don’t want you to be angry with me.” “Oh sweet girl, I’m not angry with you. I’m angry with myself. I’m angry that I’m selfish, and that because I chose to be selfish, I yelled because things weren’t happening on my time. It’s important to listen and follow directions and obey mommy, but even if you choose not to listen, mommy should never yell.”
She leaned in, sniffled a few more times and kissed my cheek. “it’s okay, mommy. I love you. I forgive you.”
At the very core of it, my impatience and anger with my kids is just selfishness. Kids are not getting dressed as quickly as I would like. The toys are not put up in the way (and at the rate) that I believe they should. The noise level is elevated to a point where I find it difficult to continue whatever (usually unimportant) task I’m doing. While it is our responsibility to teach and discipline our children, I have to be careful not to justify my actions, saying something similar to, “I’m sorry I yelled, but you need to listen to mommy!” My kids are not responsible for my actions. They may act poorly, but I am always accountable for my response and attitude. I can’t season it enough and call it “discipline”, when I really need to call it sin. When I lose my patience with my kids and raise my voice, I need to own that. I need to recognize that my anger is MY anger. I need to stop and humble myself and ask for their forgiveness.
Here’s the part that is hard for me….after I ask for their forgiveness, I need to move on. I can get stuck on a moment where I really blew it and dwell on that. I can give into the thoughts that tell me I’m a terrible mother as I replay for my husband the events of the day. Just as I need to learn to give my children grace, I’m learning I need to accept the grace that they give me. Children are remarkably forgiving and in my world where I’m so used to adult-sized grudges, I have a hard time understanding it. I’ve made it a habit of apologizing to my kids when I’ve been angry or selfish, and my daughter never fails to throw her arms around me and whisper, “It’s okay mommy. I forgive you.” My kids need to see this model. They need to see mommy and daddy confessing their mistakes, seeking repentance and creating new habits. They need to see me asking Jesus for strength and grace for the day.
Marriage showed me just how selfish I am, but parenting has put that under the largest spotlight possible. My sins are illuminated because my children reflect my actions back to me. I yell at them for yelling at each other (ironic, no?) I lose my patience because they get into stuff of mine that I want left alone, yet I expect my four year old to willingly share all of her prized stuff without hesitation or frustration. I need grace just as much as my children---and I need to learn to accept it and move on.