I start putting a load of laundry in the washing machine when I hear the kids begin to argue in another room, no doubt over one of the many tractors that line the halls. “No, you need a time out! You go to your room!” my son yells. As soon as I hear it, a familiar sense of shame builds up in my stomach. I walk down the hall and calmly say, “Please don’t talk to your sister that way.”

Why wouldn’t he? He had obviously heard those very words before in this house.

That morning I tripped over a tractor in the kitchen and yelled, “I asked you to pick up your toys!” My son immediately put his head down and whispered, “I was just working, mom.” I loudly sighed and pointed down the hall, “I get tired of asking you to do something and you not listening! Take a time out and go to your room!”

Four short years ago I held my newborn son in my arms, falling in love with every inch of his soft skin, his dark eyes, his bottom lip that always stuck out when he was curled up in my arms. How have I arrived at this place in such a short amount of time? That day in the hospital if someone had told me I would yell at my son, or even raise my voice, I never would have believed it.

Later that afternoon I am in the kitchen making dinner and the kids hear the garage door open. They run down the hallway and excitedly greet their dad.

He kneels down and asks, “How was your day?”

My knife pauses above the wooden cutting board as my son says, “We played with my tractors, I seeded 30,000 acres and then we had a snack.” My husband glances over at me and chuckles, “30,000 acres? That’s more than I can do in a day, will you help me plant this spring?” He lunges toward his dad and his arms lock around his neck, “I love you, Daddy.” My husband squeezes him back and says, “I love you, too. Were you good for mom?”

Glancing down at the cutting board my stomach clenches.

What if he says, “Mommy yelled at me.”

At that moment he runs over and wraps his arms around my legs and says, “I love you too, Mommy.”

Placing the knife down on the counter, I crouch down to his level. His dark brown eyes sparkle when we lock eyes, “I love you too, buddy.”

That night I lie in bed and stare up at the dark ceiling, unable to turn my mind off.

What if everyone knew how terrible of a mother I am?

Shame fills my heart, knowing God does know my sins.

The next morning my arm hits cold sheets and an empty bed when I roll over. Taking a deep breath, I silently pray, “Dear God, please help me to do better today, I don’t want to go to bed feeling the same way I did last night.”

Walking out of our bedroom, I shiver and bump up the thermostat a couple notches while slipping on my sweatshirt and slippers.

Maybe today I can be a better mom. I won’t yell.

Shortly after my cup of coffee has brewed, my son calls out from his bedroom, “Mom!” For the first two weeks of the calving season, he cried out every morning for Dad, only to be disappointed when I walked through the door and had to remind him, “Dad’s already gone to the barn for the day. We’ll see him at lunch, OK?”

So much for a hot cup of coffee. “Be right there!” I walk into his room and kneel down beside his bed and start softly rubbing his back, “Morning, buddy. What do you want for breakfast?” He mumbles something about not being hungry and snuggles his face into the pillow. Gently pulling his chin toward my face I whisper, “I’m sorry for yesterday. Can we have a better day today?”

He slowly sits up and says, “Sorry for what, Mom?”

Tears begin to well up in my eyes. “I’m sorry for when I yelled at you. Sometimes I get upset when you don’t listen to me.” He doesn’t respond but sits up and wraps his arms around my neck. I pick him up and we walk into the living room to start our day.

With the sun glistening off the pure white snow that afternoon, I bundle him up to go out and play. The kitchen faces the backyard and as I’m washing the last plate, I pause and glance out the window. He is driving his green tractor through the cold dirt in my garden box; his concentration is evident. His mouth is moving as he is talking to himself, and I start to smile as I know this isn’t play to him; he is doing what his daddy does.

I feel my heart tighten. There is something about watching him while he doesn’t know I can see him. I see how full of innocence he is and bring my arm up to wipe a single tear that has slipped down my cheek. Forgiveness brings the most pure form of gratitude, and it often looks like tears.

He looks up from his tractor and notices me watching him through the window. I raise my hand and slowly wave at him. He starts to wave and yells, “Mom, I’m seeding!”

Forgiven, once again.

You may also like:

Dear Toddler, Thank You For Loving Me at my Most Unlovely

Our Superhero Wears a Dusty Ball Cap

Stacy Bronec

Stacy is a farm wife, mom of three, lover of baked goods, and writer. She and her husband farm and ranch in the middle of nowhere Montana. In her previous life, she was a high school counselor. Now, when she’s not taking meals to the field or cleaning grain from the dryer vent, she’s doing barre workouts in her kitchen, reading, or scribbling notes to turn into stories. She has been published on Coffee + Crumbs, Motherly, and Her View From Home. She is also a regular contributor at The Mom Hour. You can find her occasionally on her blog at stacybronec.com.