“Yes. Those are my children.” 

I was waiting in the return line at Target. I found a bag from Target in the bottom of my closet with an item in it I had forgotten and therefore obviously didn’t need. I decided it would be fun to run into Target with my husband and children.

There are many decisions in a day I thoughtlessly makeand this would be one with consequences. 

Before waiting in line, I had loaded two children into a cart and one into my handy Tula carrier. I thought I’d just return my item with one child while my husband pushed the other two through the store until I could catch up with them. I expected to hear giggling and precocious chatter.

Instead, I heard shrieking and banging. My 2- and 3-year-olds were losing their minds in the cart my husband was pushing through the store. Screaming, yelling, and what sounded like an exorcism rang out up and down the Target aisles.

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Waiting in line, I heard them get closer and then move further away. Target is busy on Saturday but not busy enough to drown out the spectacle that was my children.

The people in line had not seen that the parent pushing those unruly children was with me.

They felt free to make knowing faces at each other and comment on their behavior. A person in line behind me said, “I wonder who those children belong to.”

“They’re mine. Those children belong to me,” I responded.

Before I had children, I knew everything there was to know about rearing them. I would have judged my older self very harshly for what I considered a lack of parenting. My children will never behave that way, I would have thought and signed my own future death warrant.

It’s very easy to look on the outside of a situation and think you’d be capable of the perfect solution.

There are times when a stern look won’t work, when a time out won’t work and when a spanking won’t work either. There have been times when despite my consistency and best efforts, my irrational child is incapable of being managed at the moment. 

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Each of my children has brought me closer to Jesus. Just when I think I have one child figured out, I am thrown a curveball with the next. If you’ve seen me play softball, you know I can’t hit anything, but a curveball could prove especially challenging.

God likes to remind me that not only am I not in control of myself, but I’m not in control of my little blessings either.

I need Jesus every minute of every day to keep me in check but also to shape these little humans He’s entrusted to me.

It’s too much for me alone, and He shares little glimpses of that with me from time to time. 

I fail a lot. There are days when I’m not a loving mother. Sometimes I’ll get to dinner or bath time and realize I’ve yelled more than I have loved. I have found when I realize my mistake, God always provides an opportunity for me to make it right. My children will tell you their mom apologizes a lot, “Momma says sorry when she’s mean.”

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With three babies under four, my patience wears thin sometimes. My babies have seen me fail, but they’ve also seen redemption. I think sometimes seeing the imperfect in their parent can bring about more learning than seeing a perfect parent.

I want them to know what it means to be human and a sinner but also to be loved and forgiven by God.

You can always make a comeback. 

I want my children to be respectful. I want them to sit nicely. I want them to say “No, ma’am” and “Yes, ma’am.” I want them to listen to me with complete obedience. I want them to eat all their dinner and always brush their teeth. I expect clean rooms and for them to contribute to our household through chores.

Mostly, I want my babies to love Jesus.

I want their love for Jesus to produce fruit. I want their hearts to be in such good shape that they’re wonderful adults later in life.

We’re a hot mess right now because my babies are learning how to be. I’m doing my best to show them the love of Jesus and shape them into lovers of Jesus. Sometimes making a masterpiece is messy. Please excuse the mess. Yes, those are my children, but they won’t be forever. 

Previously published on the author’s blog

Shelley McCauley

Born and raised in northeast Florida and transplanted to Minnesota, I am a stay at home mom of four, daycare provider, and foster parent. My faith and my family drive me to get up each morning and encourage me to go to bed early every night. Writing has become free therapy and my outlet to connect with other women.