(The above picture was taken on Mother’s Day, 2014. My children’s restaurant etiquette usually ensures that I will end up feeling like The Worst Mom Ever.)
I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me feel more like the “worst mom ever” than when my children embarrass me, and nothing embarrasses me more than my children causing bodily harm to other children. Ever happen to you? You watch in horror as your toddler pummels the little boy trying to get in front of him on the McDonald’s playplace slide. You cringe as you see your preschooler reach out to smack the little girl who just snatched her toy during a play date.
When my son was around a year and a half, we were enjoying dinner at our friends’ house while our little ones played nearby in the designated play room. Suddenly, we heard our friends’ son shrieking in terror. The mommies and daddies rushed to the room to find my son on top of the other little boy, straight up beating him (on the head!) with a wooden block. The first order of business was obviously to stop the mayhem, and as we did, I wanted to go through the floor. I decided right then and there that my son must be a sociopath and a long, scary road of psychiatrists and straightjackets flashed before my eyes. (My son is my first child, so at the time, I didn’t realize that this can be perfectly normal behavior for one and a half year old little boys.) Our friends were very gracious and their little boy was okay, but I left feeling shaken to my core.
A couple years later, I took my kids to another friend’s house to drop off a meal, as she had recently had a baby. While we were there, my youngest daughter (also one at the time) decided to try to bite off the newborn’s nose. (Not kidding.) I think I was more rattled than anyone else in the minutes after this happened, frantically offering to stay at the house while my friend took her baby to the ER. My (again, very gracious) friend calmly told me that it wouldn’t be necessary, and that she was sure her baby would be just fine. Thankfully she was, but I cried the whole way home.
I am happy to report that now, at ages 4, 5 and 6, my children haven’t beaten and/or bitten anyone very recently. Amazingly, both of these mamas are still dear friends of mine, for which I am grateful. But I am sure that few things in my life have left me feeling more humiliated or unsettled as these incidents. Thankfully, they have also served as learning experiences. (For one, I’ve learned to be the gracious mom when my kids are on the receiving end of the pummeling!)
While I aimed to provide you with some extreme examples, as a stay-at-home mom to three young children, there are thousands of moments during the day that can leave me feeling like the worst mom ever. I snap at my daughter for accidentally spilling her milk. I sigh in exasperation at my son when he tracks in dirt from outside. My kids fight. I yell. Some days are harder than others, and at the end of them, I feel exhausted, depleted and like a failure. I know it’s not just me. My mama friends tell me that they struggle too. Of course we do!
But the object of this game is not to avoid the struggle. There are about a million books out there which try to tell you how you can avoid the struggle. Some are certainly helpful, but after all is said and done—we’ll still struggle. We’re sinners and so are our children. The purpose of this mama gig is to look to the One Whose grace for us as mamas never runs out, Whose love for us endures no matter how much we fail, and Who lived a perfectly righteous life so that we don’t have to.
This is the good news, girls, and it doesn’t just save us later, but it saves us now, in the day-to-day grind and messiness of motherhood. Take hold of it, preach it to yourself and praise Jesus for His gift to us. Your children will embarrass you, you will have hard days, and you will sometimes feel like the worst mom ever. There is forgiveness, grace and strength waiting for you.