Raise your hand if you’ve found parenting is just as much about growing yourself as it is about growing your children. As parents, we are learning right alongside our kids and sometimes those lessons smack us right in the face. And, if we’re lucky, it gets our attention and causes us to take notes and make changes.
A few months ago, I had just gotten my first grader settled in at the kitchen table with his spelling homework. He was supposed to write each word three times and he was already on word number two, so I left him alone to go throw some laundry in the wash. When I walked by him no less than five minutes later, he had traded his pencil in for a large silver sharpie and was writing each word as large as he could on one sheet of paper per word.
My first thoughts came flooding out of my mouth like a torrential downpour onto my son. It was accompanied my high pitch screaming wind.
WHAT are YOU doing?!
Why are you using a Sharpie?!
Why are you writing one word on each paper?!
You’re wasting paper! This notebook is supposed to last you all year!
Who writes one word on each paper?!
It all came out rapid-fire before I looked down at my little one’s head downcast by all my fury.
Why was I so upset over this? Maybe it’s because as a mom my fuse had gotten shorter and shorter. Maybe I expected him to know better since we were six months into the school year. I’m not sure. But the moment I saw his face, all that hurricane force wind was knocked out of me.
I talk a lot about speaking life to my kids. It truly is one of the guiding principles of my parenting. I try to speak words that encourage them and point them to who they were created to be. But in this moment, there was no life. Only death. There is life and death in the power of the tongue and I was the grim reaper. It’s not that my questions weren’t relevant, but they were frustrated, accusatory, and angry.
As soon as I saw his face, I panicked.
Oh no. What am I doing? How can I fix this?
If you’re a parent, you’ve been here. You’ve overreacted. You’ve beaten yourself up at the end of the day for yelling too much or not having enough patience. You’ve promised to do better and by the next day, you find yourself in another unhinged moment.
But, I’ve got good news for you. News that hit me in that moment that made all the difference. News that can help you in your own parenting when you catch yourself in a moment that you regret.
You can turn it around.
YOU can TURN it around.
We’re not perfect. But all is not lost when we have an imperfect moment. We can stop and turn it around and make imperfect progress.
I looked at my son and instantly shut my mouth. I bent down eye-to-eye with him.
Did your pencil break? You’re so smart to find something else to write with. You’re a problem solver. I’m so impressed how you always find solutions to your problems. And look how neatly you wrote that word. Your handwriting just keeps getting better and better. You are becoming an excellent speller. I’m sure your teacher appreciates all your hard work. I’m so proud of you.
As I was speaking his head raised up like a parched plant that had just soaked up new, spring rain. My sudden turnaround caught him by surprise and he looked at me wide-eyed and curious.
Mom? Do you really mean all that?
Yes, every word.
And all of a sudden a moment of failure turned into a glorious moment. A moment where mercy and grace fell gently on both of us. Whenever I find myself in a moment of coming undone, I can stop and turn it around.
I don’t have to wallow in the despair of the moment. I don’t have to throw my hands up and embrace defeat. I can turn it around. It sounds so simple, but I believe that most things are. We just make them harder than they have to be.
Take a hold of the grace you need today and don’t waste one more precious moment consumed with failure. You can turn it around, mama.
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