My oldest children and I had just navigated a tabletop board game. My son lost. My daughter won. I also lost. She’s four. For the record, I was trying my best. We were all putting the game away together when my son grabbed my daughter by the face and yelled, “IT DOESN’T MATTER ANYWAY BECAUSE YOUR BREATH STINKS!”
And then, Mount St. Meredith erupted.
I (not so gently) removed him from the situation and (not so calmly) insisted that he . . . brush his own teeth.
For the record, I was trying my best.
Five minutes later, both of us were standing in the bathroom brushing our teeth rather aggressively, staring at each other in the mirror. I was thinking to myself . . .
When did I become such an angry person?
Until roughly five years ago, I never would have described myself as angry. Then I started having these children. And then I started having these uncharacteristic outbursts. I can’t really call them “uncharacteristic” anymore.
A few thoughts on that theme.
To answer my own question, I did not somehow become an angry person when I became a mom. Like an underground river of lava, the anger was there the whole time even if it couldn’t be seen from the outside. Becoming a parent completely reorders the priorities. Attending to the baby is suddenly more important than being on time. Finding a way to sleep—even for just a few minutes—is suddenly more pressing than the pile of laundry on the bed. Leaving the house takes priority over making sure everyone has matching socks. Amid all the reconstruction, things start to surface.
For example, red-hot boiling rage.
This reordering is a feature, not a bug.
I mean, the outbursts aren’t good, but the reordering is. Because, as it turns out, I don’t know everything. And the increased awareness of areas where I need to grow is good.
If I did not have these children, I would think I was kind, and patient, and gentle, and loving. I would think that I was just so great with kids. I would think I loved well.
Instead, I now understand that every single instance of patience and kindness on my part is God’s mercy breaking through. Every gentle touch and every loving word is God loving my children through me.
I can do nothing for them apart from Him.
That said, I really have to work against this thought: If I loved my kids, nothing like this would ever happen.
Who loves tennis more?
The magical tennis robot, who is programmed to hit the ball exactly right every time and has never lost a point . . .
The human being who keeps missing the serve, who lost every point in an important match, and who doesn’t want to go back to the court today but goes back anyway. (I should have chosen to make an analogy about something I know more about.)
Loving your kids looks like getting back in there, even when you feel like you keep getting it wrong. Because maybe what they’re saying (or screaming) is that they need more snacks, but somewhere in their teeny, tiny, internal monologue is this: Mom is still here. She’s not perfect. But she’s still showing up.