Recently, a friend mentioned how we should always strive to maintain control of our emotions and that we should extend grace to our children when they frustrate us.
Can I just say that I failed miserably at this last week? (And people who are gentle and self-controlled and have perfectly wonderful, compliant children make me ill.) (But I guess that’s not “maintaining control of my emotions…”)
Anyway, last week, Peter went out of town from Sunday to Sunday. (He was home for about 24 hours on Thursday, but it didn’t really count because he worked all day and had class that night.) While he was gone, I was a wreck.
First of all, let me say that I’ve never been one of those women who pine after her husband when he’s away. I don’t stay up all night crying when he’s gone. That’s just not who I am. Basically throughout our entire relationship, Peter would be home for a month or so, then he would be gone for a bit. In fact, for most of the first year that we dated, he was stationed in Florida for training and I was in grad school in Louisiana. So the long-distance thing was just part of the package. Since we’ve been married, he has deployed 5 times and has been TDY too many times to count. It’s just the way of life in the military and it has always been no big deal for us. In fact, sometimes in the past when he’d been home for an extended period of time, we would even “joke” that it was time for him to go on another trip. (Oh, don’t judge me. I know you’ve all felt that same way about your husband once or twice.)
But something has happened to me over the past year. Maybe it’s the addition of a third child. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m getting older. I don’t know. I just know I’m turning into a sap.
Like last week…
Last Monday, Jonah got sick. Coughing, green sticky snot (sorry for those who don’t have kids and are grossed out by that image), and a very painful ear infection. Then Wednesday, Vivi woke up sick. Thursday, Jonah’s fever spiked to 104, so, super fun. Whiny kids everywhere. And I don’t even want to get into the Brienne drama. Let’s just say being a 10 year old girl is hard work. Friday morning I had to call a plumber because, plumbing problems. And also that morning, our thirteen year old dog had a seizure. (Apparently he’s fine, by the way, although I felt certain he was going to die while Peter was gone, and what was I supposed to do with that??)
And then of course we had all the normal daily routines: grocery shopping, never-ending laundry, sibling rivalries, bath time (sometimes accompanied by poop in the tub), a hand towel being thrown in the toilet, tantrums over books, forcing/bribing/begging the kids to eat their dinner, etc etc.
All the little things just kept adding up and I kept wondering what would happen next. Will the air conditioning go out? Will the van break down? Nothing would’ve surprised me.
My hidden stash of chocolate was depleted.
I had just about had enough.
So one afternoon I lost control of my emotions, and I yelled at my kids.
And then the attacks from satan began.
“You are a terrible mother.”
“Godly mothers never yell at their children.”
“Good mothers love their children and never feel anger towards them.”
“Maybe you’re not meant to be the mother of these children. They should have a mother who loves them.”
“You’re scarring your children and they will be in therapy for years because of you.”
I felt like satan was attacking my call to motherhood. Have you ever felt like that?
Obviously, guilt is never from God. And I was feeling desperately guilty. Why wasn’t I good enough? Why couldn’t I control my outbursts? Am I scarring my kids for life?
The Lord convicts us of our shortcomings but He never makes us feel guilty. And He is so faithful to grant grace to us. But I need to be better about giving grace to myself when I fail. No one is perfect. And God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He does, however, want us to strive to be like Him. To love like He loves, to grant mercy when our children mess up, to pick ourselves back up when we feel desperately incapable of raising little humans.
And I think it’s important to pray with fervor for our family.
“Father, give me your unconditional love for my kids, even on the hardest days when I don’t like them very much.”
“Teach me to demonstrate self-control when I feel like I’m falling apart.”
“Mold me into Your likeness, Jesus.”
Because isn’t that really the point? To live like Christ? To completely depend on Him to get us through our days? If we are truly followers of Christ, we should rely on Him for everything. Everything. We can vent our frustrations to Him. He can handle it. He is big enough for our problems. And He will give us patience and love and self-control and joy.
I’ve been thinking about last week and how I could’ve reacted differently.
I need to be intentional about spending time with The Lord each morning. Last week I was so tired. Parenting alone can be so exhausting, and I didn’t exactly want to get up at 5:45 every morning to read God’s Word and spend time with Him in prayer. But on the days when I did get up and have some quiet time, I was calmer and better prepared for whatever was thrown at me.
I need to lower my expectations for the day. Sometimes I wake up and decide that today will be the day I finish that book I’ve been reading or today I’m going to take a nap or today I’m going to… (you fill in the blank). When I have selfish expectations for the day and they don’t come to fruition, I find myself getting frustrated with my kids and with all of their requests for my attention. (I mean, I just want to sit for 20 minutes and catch up on a tv show. Is that asking too much?) But when I start the day with no expectations other than being a good mom and serving my children, we all have a better day.
When I am frustrated, I need to remove myself (or the offending child) from the situation. When I reach a point where I just can’t take it anymore, I need to take a deep breath, count to 10, put myself in timeout, or take the child who’s making me crazy to his room for a bit. Just so I can cool down and figure out how to respond appropriately to the offense. Timeouts work wonders. For all of us…
I need to get more rest. Now obviously this isn’t always possible. I mean, Vivienne still wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes. (I wonder if she’ll still be waking me up at 12:45 a.m. when she’s 15. Probably…) However, maybe some nights I need to forget the dishes in the sink and just go to bed at 8:30 in order to ensure that I get a bit more sleep.
I need to gain perspective. Perspective is always a wonderful thing. Life could always be worse and there is always something to be thankful for, even on the most difficult days.
These are just a few ways to regain my composure when my kids decide to frustrate me. I could also threaten Peter so that he won’t go out of town anymore (but somehow I think that might backfire on me).
And of course, a secret stash of chocolate never hurts…