Written by Kate Tietje, Contributing Writer
Last month, I wrote about dealing with challenging behavior. I wrote out my absolute best intentions in that post -- how everything would be in a perfect world. I'd be happy and patient and I'd mete out discipline lovingly, and there would never be any yelling or crying in my home. I'd have an endless ability to deal with whatever my children threw at me, and I'd never let their antics destroy my positive attitude.
If you've been a mother for more than five minutes, you might be laughing right now, because you know that's impossible. Only Jesus was perfect. The rest of us? Well, we fail daily. I fail daily.
And that's okay.
Motherhood Isn't Perfection
I almost feel bad, writing all of these lofty thoughts here, about how I'm striving for joy and to have a positive attitude and to be a patient mother. I'm afraid I'm one of the most impatient people out there, really, and that I don't manage to keep my perfect attitude all the time.
I intend to do well. Really. But sometimes those intentions turn into looking back at the thing I shouldn't have done or said, and reflecting on what I should have done or said instead. Oops.
I tell myself as the noise level rises -- with all the children crying, screaming at each other, smacking each other -- that I will not let this get to me. I will rise above it. I will separate them calmly and I will distract them, I will talk to them and listen to them and meet their needs, and everything will be okay. Sometimes that's what happens. Sometimes one of them turns on my newborn and hurts him, and I lose it. I can't stand to see the defenseless one hurt, and if my stress level's already high? I break down.
Then, for a few moments, I feel like the worst mother in the world, because, really, what am I doing? Here I am, preaching about patience and having a positive attitude and loving our children no matter what, and I just screamed at one of mine? Not to mention how the child now feels. I've had one of them sob, "But I love you..." when I was short and snippy and in a bad mood.
I fail. Everyday. I have good intentions and I strive to meet them, but I still fail.
I Need Grace
The Lord's grace is sometimes the only reason I feel that things are going to be okay. Sure -- most days aren't that bad. Most days are pretty neutral, with a few negative (but not terrible) moments, and mostly good moments. We're okay. But we have those bad days, too, where all I can do is pray for grace.
What a wonderful gift that it is, too! It's the main reason that my children are getting to know the Lord, even though I'm still struggling to find my way as a Christian mother. It's the main reason they love me even when I am not especially pleasant to be around
I was trying to explain the concept of the Lord's sacrifice and resulting grace/forgiveness to my children a few weeks ago. It was a Friday night and we'd been listening to praise and worship songs while we worked in the kitchen for awhile. I decided to try to explain Jesus' death and resurrection, since one of the songs was about it. It's something I've heard about all my life and I often think, Yes, sure, it's so awesome... But I don't feel anything. It's something I've always known.
But when I tried to explain it, I found I could barely even talk. I wanted to cry. It was that amazing.
Not that my kids really get it yet.... :) They are 2 and 3.5, so they're quite young. My 2-year-old now walks around saying "Jesus killed. Jesus back. YAY! Pay sins."
Imperfection is Good
The other day, my 2-year-old walked up to me and smacked me in the face. I pushed him away and said, "You get down right now. You can't sit with me if you are going to hit me like that."
My 3-year-old matter-of-factly said to me, "Mommy, it's not nice of you to treat him like that."
She was right.
It wasn't that it was wrong to tell him he shouldn't hit me. He needed to know that part. But he didn't need me to compound it by pushing him away, yelling at him. So I replied, "You're right, it's not. Mommy shouldn't do that, and I'm sorry."
They need to see that we are weak, and that we need forgiven, too.
When we make mistakes as mothers, we need to humble ourselves and admit it to our children and ask for their forgiveness. I struggle with this. I don't want to be humble. I don't want to be wrong. I want to say whatever I do is justified because "I'm the mommy." But that isn't true. If I can learn to be humble and ask them to forgive me, then they will grow to do the same thing. They'll know it's okay to make mistakes, and better to ask for forgiveness. And they'll know they are loved even when they make those mistakes.
I think, when we are raising children who are also imperfect people, that this lesson is even more important than trying to be perfect all the time in the first place. We're not. What does it teach our children if we pretend that we are? I think it makes them see us as hard, unfair, proud. It also could make them feel like they are the only ones who fail. Whatever happens, it's not good for their relationship with us or the Lord.
I'll be imperfect, I'll thank the Lord for His grace, and I'll strive to do better everyday. That's all I can do.
If you need a reminder, please join our link-up this month, Positive Attitudes and Living for Joy, each Friday!