I caught you staring this morning. I’m sure I’d stare, too. You saw me, sweating in the sun, pushing a 2-year-old, screaming “S-T-O-P” at the top of his lungs. And he repeats it like it’s all he knows.

STOP.

And I tell him—it’s time to go home.

STOP.

And I ask him—can you lower your voice?

STOP.

And in the middle of the zoo pathway, in the middle of the crowd, I say please, just listen to what Mommy is asking and obey.

STOP!

So, I’m pushing his stroller out to the parking lot like a race is to be won. And he fights me, and he screams even louder all the way home.

And I ask him if he will just stop.

I invested in a pair of stylish sunglasses this year. They’re reflective and big and come to find out, perfect to hide these teary mommy eyes. Some days, especially like this one, I just want to cry.

This morning was rough. I felt criticism beat hard at me before we even left the house. Their breakfast was the sugary kind, and I scolded myself, knowing I took the easy way out. And cue all the mommy guilt again; I had failed.

STOP.

In the van on the way, I felt tears swell up thinking back to the start of our day. The pitiful me crept up and took hold. And I just wanted to turn around and go home. And I prayed, God help me to . . . 

STOP.

It’s easy to take so much to heart. Especially, when parenting has taken ahold of all of yours. And the criticism, whether self-imposed or given by others can take a fresh day and spoil it. So it’s time to rein it back in and . . . 

STOP.

The thing is, often, we can take this reproach so hard, because in it, there may live a hint of some truth. And that part can tear us up, but the fact is—no one can get it all right. But we surely want to. More and more I’m learning I’ve got to redirect this self talk on something positive and make the negative STOP.

So in hindsight, sure, i may have fed them sugar when I shouldn’t have, but they ate something. And we’ll eat some eggs and oatmeal tomorrow morning.

And I may have cried because I struggle, but I realize all the more how much help I need along the way.

It may not look easy and won’t be perfect, real life never is. But I will try my hardest to stop dwelling on the messy when I know this is a beautiful, meaningful life we get to live.

I’ll take my timeout and reflect on what mattered most from the start, and I’ll say thank you to God for these babes, carrying such a big piece of our hearts. Tantrums and doubts will surely come our way, but join me in trusting God’s working in the midst of the messy today. 

Even if it takes a toddler to remind us to take a break. Do it, and heap on a boatload of grace and tell all that’s trying to tear us apart that we’re stronger than we were yesterday, and it’s time . . to . . . just . . . stop.  

Jaclyn Warren

Stay-at-home mommy of four on mission to encourage parents to savor the meaningful in the midst of the messy. Take your 15 minutes; it’s your turn for timeout.