Friday, June 28, 2013

Confessions of a Mean Mommy

Yesterday morning, on the way to my daughter's piano lesson, I took my two children and my little niece to Wegmans to get a special breakfast treat. My 11yo. son couldn't decide between a donut and a bagel, and he didn't understand why he couldn't have both. He gave me all the reasons he thought he should be able to, insisting I was wrong to make him choose. My son is big on reasons, always trying to logic his way into what he wants. And when he thinks someone is being unjust toward him, he can. not. let it go. And he will punish everyone around him with his attitude. His sense of fairness offended, he announced we would be staying there all day because he couldn't decide. This is a scene played out over and over, just in different times, places, and for different reasons. The obstinance. The disrespect. The fighting. I was tired and couldn't deal with it.

So did I take a deep breath, say a prayer, and be an awesome mom to him? No. I did something that was so awful, I almost broke down in tears the moment after I did it.

It's not easy for me to write this post. I wish I didn't have the material. But, like most parents, I fail. And sometimes I fail big time. The sinner in me wants to hide my shortcomings, and pretend I'm the Christian that has it all together. Insert wild laughter here. And don't just laugh because you know me, and know I don't have it all together. Laugh because there is no Christian who has it all together. And if you think you know one... well, they are probably working hard to make sure they keep that facade (and are probably miserable for it). Because sin hides in darkness and secrets. There's a reason Scripture tells us to confess our sins one to another. It reaffirms what we all know, even if we try to deny it: we all sin. It also reaffirms what we all profess: that there is forgiveness in Christ. As we confess and forgive, we preach the Gospel. And here's my confession: I am usually a very nice person, but I can be really mean to my kids.

My two wonderful, beautiful, amazing children often drive me to the ends of my patience and grace. You with me parents? You get this, right? If we were perfect, this wouldn't happen, because God is always ready to extend his infinite patience and Grace to them through us. But, unfortunately, we are not perfect. And, for me, that means getting to the "end of my rope"more than I'd like to admit to you. And, unfortunately, sometimes I treat my kids worse than I would ever treat anyone else. (Why do we do that to the people we love?)

I promised myself that I would never scream at my children. That I wouldn't call them names or slap them in the face or cuss at them. And I've done pretty well, thank the Lord. Admittedly I raise my voice   more than I should (which is never), but my kids are quick to remind me, and I try to be quick with my apology. Here's what I know, though. Screaming and name calling aren't the only ways to be mean to your children.

Someone on Facebook shared this blog post called "You Just Broke Your Child. Congratulations." He makes good points about all the ways we can break our children, and I encourage you to read every last word. (It's written to dads, but it applies to moms too.) At the start of the post, Single Dad Laughing Dan Pierce talks about the event that prompted him to write the post. A dad in Costco being mean to his child:

As Noah and I stood in line to make a return, I watched as a little boy (he couldn’t have been older than six) looked up at his dad and asked very timidly if they could buy some ice cream when they were done. The father glared him down, and through clenched teeth, growled at the boy to ”leave him alone and be quiet”. The boy quickly cowered to the wall where he stood motionless and hurt for some time.
The line slowly progressed and the child eventually shuffled back to his father as he quietly hummed a childish tune, seemingly having forgotten the anger his father had just shown. The father again turned and scolded the boy for making too much noise. The boy again shrunk back and cowered against the wall, wilted. ....
We were three from the front now, and the boy started to come towards his dad yet again. His dad immediately stepped out of the line, jammed his fingers into his son’s collar bones until he winced in pain, and threatened him. “If you so much as make a sound or come off of that wall again, I promise you’re going to get it when we get home.” The boy again cowered against the wall. This time, he didn’t move. He didn’t make a sound. His beautiful face pointed down, locked to the floor and expressionless. He had been broken. And that’s how his father wanted it. He didn’t want to deal with him, and breaking him was the easiest way.
While I totally agree with the majority of the points made, Dan Pierce writes with self-proclaimed awesome dad status. I would say all the same things about being an awesome parent he said. But I'd be saying it from a place of not-so-awesome. I really try to be a great mom. But yesterday at the grocery store I had a moment of colossal failure. Instead of being that awesome mom who recognizes the strong-willed child who hasn't had the years I've had to mature and learn to control himself, I sighed and said to my son,

"You make me miserable." 

Ack! I want to cry now just thinking about it.

My son countered by asking why I was being so mean to him. And I had nothing to say but I'm sorry. I'm so, so, so, unbelievably sorry.  And my son - my strong, sensitive, seeker of justice, gift from the Lord - said,

"I forgive you."

Just like that. He forgave me. And he apologized for his behavior. And I forgave him. Why? Because that's what we do in our family. We modeled Christ right there in the bakery department of Wegmans. Maybe I'm not such a bad mom. My kids know I'm far from perfect.  They know that's the human condition. And they've been taught to confess, repent, and forgive. 

Dan Pierce says he's far from perfect, but he also is very sure of his awesome dad status. And, he is critical in a way that leaves no room for failure and redemption. Who knows what kind of day that dad in Costco had before that point? Who knows if that kid had pushed his dad to the breaking point just that morning? Who knows if that dad didn't realize his failure and cry in the car and beg his son's forgiveness? 

If Pierce had seen me in the grocery store that morning, he would have made all kinds of assumptions about me. And if he had walked away before the Gospel started playing out, he might have gone home and written a post about the awful mom in Wegmans breaking her child.

Let me tell you something from one parent to another. You are going to break your children. If you haven't already, it will come. And you'll probably do it many times in the course of your parenting. I just hope you are awesome enough to beg their forgiveness. Humbly and immediately. And if you, as an awesome parent, have already taught them how to forgive like Christ forgives, those wounds can be healed. 

And everyone can try to do better next time, with the Lord's help.