The day the devil stole wasn’t unlike most days. I suppose that’s how he sneaks into our thoughts, actions and our hearts. I yelled, I blamed, I was very impatient (even more than usual), I was angry, I was bored, I was overstimulated, I was over-touched, I was so grumpy, AND it was only 1 pm on a Wednesday.
The only circumstance differing from my routine was my oldest daughter stayed home from school due to illness. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe my five-year-old had a one-time vomiting episode due to a coughing fit, so I decided to keep her home with me and her two-year-old sister.
Our youngest girl and I stay home most days together while her big sister goes to school, so she is used to staying with me and getting my full attention. Sharing isn’t a strong virtue in most toddlers I know, and our Milli is toddler by strict definition, ha!
I fall somewhere between liking a routine and longing for spontaneity. I do find comfort in planning out my days. I make lists to include chores I want to complete, meals I plan to cook, what day I will grocery shop, and what outings are on the calendar. Other days, I can embrace chilling out and letting the day just unfold. I am a classic Type A personality, so the number of outlined days far outweighs the number of relaxed days. I like ordinary. And it’s apparent the devil knows I embrace structure as well.
When the devil robbed me of this day (unfortunately, I have given him a few more days since), I had been utilizing a yoga routine online. I participate in yoga in the downstairs living room of our house, which is open-concept, allowing me to see what kind of trouble the girls stir up. I enjoy yoga to help me stretch, strengthen my post-two-babies core, and release tension. My attitude stays more on the positive track when I complete a sweat session. I spend those quiet moments talking to Jesus and expressing my gratitude for His blessings. Despite listing all those wonderful benefits while in tree pose, one thing really irritated me amid my peaceful mindset: interruptions.
Interruptions, yes, plural! Those of you who know me well might be thinking I’m being unfair! I chronically interrupt people! My bad habit of interrupting is while people are talking—not with activities. While I know a phrase with “pot” and “kettle” comes to mind, I want to make this a learning opportunity for myself—not just judgment. My greatest disturbance throughout my morning exercise was the constant bickering of my two daughters back and forth. Did I mention the yoga program I was doing was only 31 minutes in total length? I understand most young children have the attention span of a goldfish, but I remained hopeful! (Side note: the attention span of a goldfish is approximately nine seconds, according to time.com. Time also cited new studies that point to an eight-second attention span in adults!)
The fighting continued between my kids, with whining quickly ensuing! We have a small toy store located downstairs, formerly known as the office. We have crafts, blocks, dolls, castles, Barbies, race cars, farm animals with a barn and tractors, and a seemingly unending supply of “stuffies.” We have an abundance of toys and activities, so why on earth can’t my kiddos entertain themselves? After all, it was 31 measly minutes of desired “me” time! Another concept to point out: no toy is ever as appealing as the one the sibling is holding!
The devil crept in early. When I realized my oldest would be staying home, I already needed an attitude adjustment. The sentimental mama ship hadn’t docked at our house over a tiny cold or stomach bug. I am a registered nurse, so if there isn’t a moderate amount of blood involved, then I just don’t get all gushy on the kids. I had tasks I wanted and needed to complete! My list included closet clean-outs and size rearranging and storage—which were hanging in the balance of how my kids would behave. I initially tried to pursue my own intentions for the day but quickly realized my kids, Letti and Milli, couldn’t hold it together. Four to five minutes was about their max capacity for self-entertaining or minding their own business. After all the diaper changing, snacking, cup refilling, toy getting, and playing moderator or negotiator, I could sense their need for me. At this point, I thought I had it figured out and put the youngest at the table with Play-Doh, the oldest playing Barbies on the floor, and myself doing yoga right by them so we could chat. Win-win, right?! WRONG!
I was 12 minutes into the flow when I had to pause my yoga for the third time to diffuse a situation. At the 15-minute mark, I had to pause again for the girls’ yelling, bossing each other, and whining. I could feel the skin on my neck getting hot, my downward dog focus shifting, and my patience in trying to let them work it out fleeting. Pausing the video for what felt like the 400th time did not sit well in my soul. My thoughts no longer involved trying to talk it out with Jesus. I flipped a switch; I was raging in my mind. All I wanted and needed were those few minutes! I wanted to get my calm on! But nothing calm became of it. My rage started in my mind, then quickly came out of my mouth. I became the mom no one needed and, certainly, no one wanted.
I paused the yoga, and I screamed. This hurts my mama heart to admit, but I can still see both of their little bodies startle. I picked up my youngest, Milli, and put her on the couch. I pointed my finger in Milli’s face, proceeding to yell at her to stop taking her sister’s toys and fighting. Then I hollered at my oldest, Letti. I told Letti to stop being bossy and whining all the time. I threatened time out and taking toys to Goodwill. I shrieked at them about disrespect (there is that “pot and kettle” again). I actually told my sweet girls they hurt Mama’s heart with their behavior and that it made me angry. Letti didn’t cry, which was so unusual. I watched her melt and hang her head low in disappointment, while Milli just sobbed. Throughout the yelling, I was crying too. I had never raised my voice to that caliber until that day. However shameful it is to admit, I’m about 99% certain I told them to “shut up.” Talk about a parenting fail.
My actions didn’t end there. I stomped up the stairs behind my oldest, made her go to her room, alone, to lie in her bed quietly. I put my toddler in her crib and left her room. These actions may not appear abnormal, but our girls have never gone to bed alone. Letti gets some mom or dad time while we lie next to her until she falls asleep; Milli gets to be rocked or patted in her crib until she falls asleep. I sat on the threshold of Milli’s doorway knowing my girls’ hearts were breaking, as they couldn’t possibly understand my displayed behavior. Occasionally, Milli would cry out for me to “pat pat” her bottom, as she knew she was in her crib to nap. I quietly sobbed into my arms, my shirt soaked. Milli cried out again for Mom, and at that point, it felt like a knife in my chest. That pang of pain is almost indescribable. Unfortunately, my children saw the reality that mamas get mad, and their mom completely lost her temper.
I continued to cry in the doorway, never patting my baby’s bum at her request. I was overwhelmingly embarrassed and flustered with myself. I didn’t want my baby to see me now, crying nonstop. Milli fell asleep quickly, so I checked on my oldest in her room. Letti was lying calmly on her bed—her eyes displaying that I had hurt her tiny spirit. I felt like a failure, even questioning why God gave me these children. I know He could see all my failures of the day!
Letti invited me to lie down beside her while she explained she was waiting for me to come help her fall asleep. After all of that chaos, she still wanted and needed me. Now that is grace from a child! I quickly apologized for my actions and, especially, for yelling. I continued to explain that mamas sometimes get stressed out, and we are responsible for figuring out the best way to handle our emotions—much like I am trying to teach her how to handle hers. I went on to ask for forgiveness and told her that my expectation for her and her sister to never have a bad day is ridiculous and unfair. I don’t have good days every day, obviously! My girls deserve the same courtesy.
If you are wondering if my sweet girls forgave me, they did. We painted nails, read books, and played together like the morning never happened. I know their childish love is a God-designed gift; how I am oh so thankful for His ways!
I share my story in hopes of it bringing anyone else struggling with the situations described above the feeling of a warm hug! Everyone deserves grace! As a mom, friend, child, employee, sister, and in many other roles of your life. Jesus paid an unimaginable price to give all of us grace. Jesus gives us His grace on our best days and on the days we feel like failures. I understand living that concept out is so challenging; that is why I need Jesus. If I can’t have my quiet time with Him in yoga, I can do it in small snippets during the day. I can get up earlier to have some peace before tiny feet hit the ground running. He hears my cries for help, my pleas for patience, and He doesn’t care if I say it in a long-winded prayer or in a simple request.
Here is what He does care about: my kids are on loan; they aren’t mine. Psalm 127:3 (NIV) says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.” The day the devil stole still haunts me; however, I can acknowledge that becoming more self-aware of my parental behavior has allowed my relationship with God to mature. The devil no longer steals the joy from my children and my being their parent. That’s not to say the tough days don’t creep in, but now, I try to yell more at the devil and less at my kids! I acknowledge what sweet and undeserved gifts they are from God. I pray I continue to cherish their loving spirits, occasional bickering, and crumbs on the floor. Remember, on your worst day, God loves you just as much as on your best day, and so do your children.
In the grip of grace,