Getting out the door in this house is always, shall we say, interesting. We head out 30 minutes before we actually have to drive away and I always hope we don’t forget anything. (insert snort laugh) Yeah right! Do the math: 5 kids equals: 5 backpacks, 5 lunch boxes, 5 water bottles, 10 socks (how do we only have 7?), 10 mittens, 5 snow pants, 5 pair of boots, 5 coats, 5 underwear (yes they have been forgotten), 5 hats, 5 pair of shoes (I’m embarrassed to tell you how many times someone isn’t wearing them when we arrive), and one pair of glasses. Add to all that to the unimaginable amount of folders and paperwork, permission slips, etc, and you have yourselves a mobile Target Store!
The worst mornings are when the littles do the “noooooo I don’t want to goooo!!!” and my usual hostage negotiations aren’t cutting it. Especially when all three littles do it at once. I have been known to scream up to heaven, “I only have TWO hands!?! WHY!? WHY NOT MORE!?”
Since I don’t have extra hands, the only option for no-I-won’t-go kids is to wrestle them into their coat, sit on them while you put on their shoes and then press them into their car seat (if you can get them to stop arching their back).
Parenting trick #354: I always gently tickle the inner thigh and when they inevitably curl up, I use my lightning fast hands to get the one leg buckled. It’s the “How Fast are Mommy’s Hands” Game. Tickle, buckle, snap, tickle, buckle, snap!
(Insert evil mommy laugh…)
”MUAHAHAHAHA… I GOT YA!
Pause…. and realize all the other kids are looking at me in some kind of mix between shock and awe!!
Okay, maybe that was a bit too much, but sometimes just getting them in their seats feels like something that deserves a parade or at least a fist pump into the air.
An Ugly Morning
Way more often than I would like to admit, I have what I call an ugly morning. One morning in particular, I was ranting about the usual on the drive to school:
“You have a checklist to complete at night. You have a checklist for morning. You need to have things ready! You need to listen to me the first time! I understand time! I understand consequences! That’s why you HAVE to listen the first time! You are missing your sock…2 minutes…you didn’t finish your morning chores…3 minutes….you had to be told 5 times to brush your teeth…1 minute…..you didn’t get out of bed when your alarm went off…that’s 10 minutes! It all adds up people!”
All of this is a lecture they have heard before, but this time instead of stopping to take a breath I let my feelings take over, and the longer I talked, the louder and more angry I got. Eventually, I was screaming at the top of my lungs.
“I HATE asking you to get out of bed! I HATE telling you to brush your teeth! I HATE reminding you to put on your socks! I HATE HAVING TO SCREAM TO GET YOU TO LISTEN! AHHHHHHHH!”
I finished my selfish rampage as I was pulling up at the school. We were 10 minutes late, and I had made sure they knew it was their fault. I turned around to see 5 stunned faces. I didn’t care. I let them get out of the car and walk into school in silence. No “I love you.” No, “we’ll do better tomorrow.” Just a lot of “hate.” A word I tell my children not to say, and I had just screamed it to describe what I didn’t like about being a mom.
Hate me yet? I feel small just writing this and I wasn’t even the on the receiving end of this rampage. It was an ugly morning, and by the time I got the littles to school and headed off to my mom’s group, I was bawling. It wasn’t that my frustrations weren’t founded, but that rather than giving them an “educational opportunity” (my dad’s code word for his very insightful lectures, which I now appreciate totally) I was using them as my release. My own insecurities about being an unorganized, bad mom were leaking out onto their day. Not cool.
That morning, all I could see in my thoughts were those faces after I had finished berating them and smashing them down so far that I’m sure they scarcely felt an inch tall. I felt an inch tall, but in the midst of of my ugly, Jesus was there watching and loving me in spite of my ugly. In desperation, I picked up a book that I had been reading at the time called Parenting by Paul David Tripp and wouldn’t you know, within a few paragraphs I read this:
“If we are going to give grace to our children, we need to confess that we are but children in daily need of the Father’s care. If we are going to be patient, we need to admit our need for forgiveness. If we are going to persevere, we need to humbly admit that our only hope is that our heavenly Father will never give up on us. And if we are going to teach our children to run to Jesus daily, we must run to Jesus daily as well.”
I knew right then what I had to do. I had to apologize and show my vulnerability so that I might mirror the Father’s love through my own mistakes. That night, there was a discussion about that dreadful morning’s events and some tears shed on my part as I apologized and opened my sin for my children to see. It was hard and humiliating, but the beautiful part is that in seeing my repentance my children in turn, witnessed the grace of Jesus.
What I hope to convey by sharing my ugly morning is that even in our failures, we can remind ourselves and our children that Jesus heals all.
Needless to say, many mornings I worry that I might fail before I even begin. I often stand outside my children’s doors before they wake praying, breathing deeply, crossing all my appendages in hopes that I won’t have any mommy fails in the morning hours that are soon to follow.
I have found that if I pause to pray and ask for Jesus’ help before I wake them, my mornings run a lot more smoothly, but this means I have to wake up at least a few minutes before them. A small price to pay for the peace that follows. When I start with a prayer that acknowledges my inabilities and asks for grace to fill in the places I fall short, the morning looks different. I notice the good things: the big kids helping the littles with their shoes, a little one putting his plate in the dishwasher, the way the three-year-old hides behind her messy hair upon waking until she is ready to be spoken to. I laugh more, I breath more, and I convey God’s love for me, to my children with more clarity.
Now instead of a few minutes, I get up almost an hour before them to pray, meditate, talk to my husband, express some gratitude and ask for a lot of grace for the day ahead. My eldest even started a tradition of praying on the way to school. The kids are the ones who remind me of this new practice, lead the prayers and are especially thoughtful when they notice the morning was a difficult one. Trust me, nothing will fill your mom heart more than hearing your kids pray for you and their siblings.
The message is simple as Tripp describes it.
“If all that your children needed was the knowledge and enforcement of rules, then the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus would not have been necessary.”
In other words, he reminds me of something I’ve known all along… I am not enough. I never was and never will be. However, if I show that vulnerability openly to my children and allow them to see my brokenness pulled together by Jesus, it will speak loads more to them than I ever could. They will see that with Jesus I am enough. With Jesus, they are enough. With Jesus, you are enough!
Until next time, go out and SHARE some chaos, CREATE some confidence, and INSPIRE some grace of your own!