Thursday, September 15, 2011

One Tiny Victory

I had one of those personal success stories today, a tiny victory.  You know, when you actually put something into practice that you've reminded yourself of more times than you can count?  We had finished the bulk of our homeschool work and I desperately needed to get to the grocery store for some essentials.  My husband is out of town, so there haven't been any evenings when I could sneak out and grocery shop alone.  I told the kids to go to the bathroom, and put on their shoes and jackets; we had four errands on the agenda.  The boys said they were ready and headed out the back door (for just a quick minute) while I was putting on Tessa's shoes.  Once I was ready to leave, they both came running in saying they needed to go to the bathroom and change out of their backyard shoes.  Okay, thanks for listening the first time, is what I thought.

We quickly took care of our first three errands, and were on the way to the grocery store--not the most fun place in the world to take four kids, but we would survive.  As we turned down the street towards the grocery store it occurred to me that I had probably left my grocery list and my hefty envelope of coupons at home.  I reached down in my purse to double check, and sure enough, no list or coupons!  I was slightly irritated.  The first thought that entered my mind was:  Well boys, if you would have cooperated and did what I asked you to do instead of running outside, I wouldn't have been thrown off my game and I would've remembered my envelope on the counter!  Yep, I admit it!  That was the first thought that entered my mind as the irritation of forgetting something necessary swept over me.  We were already running errands too close to the lunchtime hour and I wondered how long my 2 year old would be agreeable.  I felt irritated that I had to turn around and return home before we shopped. 

I'm sure by now you're wondering what personal success I experienced in all this.  Well, although the first thought that entered my mind was a negative one--blaming my children--I did not speak this thought out loud.  In fact, in keeping my mouth shut, I quickly came to my senses.

Was forgetting my grocery list and coupons my children's fault?  Absolutely not!  Have I ever blamed my children, in my own mind or out loud, for something that was not their fault?  Yep!  I am willing to admit that I have, although I am not proud of this.  More times than not, I've had to apologize to my children and explain that "Mommy was just feeling frustrated."  Is that fair or okay?  No!  But, I am human and I struggle with my emotions from time to time.  Okay, maybe "from time to time" is generous, but that's not the point!  I sometimes struggle with wanting to place blame or point a finger--even if it's pointed at me.  I'm especially guilty of this when something inconvenient or frustrating catches me off guard.  Again, I'm not proud of this; it's an area of struggle for me. 

On this particular day, I started my morning with a devotion that reminded me of times like these.  No matter how big or small, when something happens that is frustrating or upsetting, our reaction is what really matters.  It can be unfruitful, at times, to ask Why?.  Moreover, it often does no good to voice frustrations that cannot be helped.  In my case today, it would have been upsetting, hurtful, and possibly harmful to give voice to my irrational accusations in the heat of the moment.  My children would have felt guilty and responsible for something that was never their responsibility--no matter how they behaved before we left the house.  (Not to mention, I certainly would not have been modeling any helpful coping skills for them.)

I was not thrilled to have to run errands with four children so close to the lunchtime hour.  I knew that I still had to hurry home, unload groceries, prepare lunch, and finish homeschooling my boys.  However, I am thankful we had a morning like that.  I'm glad that I forgot my list and my coupons.  I'm glad because it gave me the opportunity to experience one tiny victory:  I kept my mouth shut!  Maybe you can relate.  Maybe keeping your mouth shut is a tiny but significant victory for you--as it is for me!  Or maybe that isn't you at all.  Whatever your personal struggle, no matter how big or small, victory feels great!  Sometimes that's all we mama's tiny victory!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Muddy Madness

Ever have a day when you feel like you've taught your kids nothing judging by the way they behave? Is it humorous that I'm even asking you that question--because you find yourself feeling that way more often than you'd care to admit?  I was there this morning!  Truthfully, I'm there more often than I want to admit.  So, at the risk of being considered an unfit mother, here goes my story!

Breakfast finished; girls upstairs to get some dolls; boys outside to play.  Probably not even 10 minutes later I head outside with my girls to push them on the swings.  On our way out I notice that the water hose is dripping.  I remind Luke not to turn it on without permission, to which he cheerfully replies, "Okay mom, I won't!"  (Good response, I think.)  Then as we head to the swing set, I look at my chaise lounge and notice that there are huge clumps of wet mud splattered all over it...ALL over it!  I am not happy!  I look at Jaden who smirks and quietly points to Luke.  Luke quickly explains, "That was a squirrel's mess!  A squirrel did that!"  Yeah, nice try!  Then I look at Jaden again and command, "You'd better start talking now and tell me the story."  Jaden continues smirking and says, "Luke did it."  (Obviously!)  Then I notice there are also clumps of mud splattered all over one of the swings.  I send the boys inside!

Now, I will not bore you with the details of their discipline, but I assure you that they were disciplined!  After their time of discipline was finished, I talked to both of them.  I talked to Luke first and he was well aware that he had acted wrongfully.  When I began to talk with Jaden I had every intention of reminding him that he was wrong because he didn't tell Luke to stop what he was doing and because he didn't come tell me.  So, I asked him "Now you do know why you were wrong, don't you?"  He replied, "Yes."  So I asked him, for the purpose of discussion, "Why were you wrong?"  His answer shocked me!  "Because I told him to do it."  Give me a stinkin break!  Are you kidding me?  My 8 year old told his brother to do such a thing?  These were my thoughts, though they may have been just a bit more colorful in my mind...  Now, insert the I have no idea if I've taught my children anything at all feelings.  Oh, and add to those the common mommy-comparison thoughts and feelings.  (Oh yes, guilty of those too!)  I'm sure so-and-so's kids would never ever do something like this.  Maybe some of you think I'm overreacting and that's fine.  I also imagine that poor, childish behavior--such as my boys' this morning--is more common than most of us mothers like to admit to each other! 

Now, on most given days I can think of a multitude of stories about my children that make me feel so proud of their character.  I love sharing those glowing stories.  I do not enjoy sharing the stories that reveal how they are still so lacking in judgment, decency (sometimes), and even common sense!  Come to think of it, they often remind me of some adults I know!  At some point, I will laugh at this situation, but this morning I was not happy and was certainly not laughing!  Later in the day, I heard a familiar song--the words seemed so fitting.

So I'll learn to love these days
Life along the way
In the middle of the crazy
God your love is so amazing
Through the ups and downs
You're the only hope I've found
Lord you meet me in the madness
I'll learn to love these days

And that is the truth of it, isn't it?  God is still so amazing and His love is unending!  Even in the mess and madness of my days, He loves me and He loves my kids.  Even when I question the ultimate success of my mothering (which by the way, I'm not supposed to judge...let alone judge by my children's behaviors), He's patient, gentle, and loving with me.  So..."I'll learn to love these days!" 

*lyrics by Mandisa