You know how they say to keep your friends close, but your enemies closer? Well sometimes I think that applies perfectly to motherhood. Sometimes you feel like your children are The Enemy (I know they’re not really and yet in the moment there are some Big Feelings involved). They frustrate you and make you want to lock yourself in the bathroom crying with a large tub of ice cream and brownies and not emerge until they’re gone.
Sometimes I get so angry and worked up about things that I just want to (and sometimes do) yell. Loudly. I feel frustrated and helpless, and I feel like I should let them know how annoyed I am so that they don’t repeat the behaviour next time (no, I don’t actually advocate this technique, I’m just psycho-analyzing my own parenting failures). I think locking myself away with brownies would be a much better option for all involved, but for some reason it doesn’t ever actually happen.
Anyway, I digress. I wrote a while ago about praying for your enemies, and I realized that sometimes once we’ve hit that discipline stage it’s not just about prayer… forgiveness needs to be involved.
Part of gentle parenting is to respect your children as human beings with needs and wants, like adults. My children have the right to be spoken to respectfully, and the right to be restored to relationship. I often act foolishly and find myself in a position of needing to apologize and get over myself in order to have harmony in a relationship. For whatever reason I don’t particularly love the taste of humble pie, and I find this really hard.
The other day my kids were driving me nuts and I stomped away in a huff after raising my voice. I was rocking the bad mood like a grumpy emo rockstar when I realized that there’s this little (minor, really) commandment in Scripture about forgiving your enemies. Then it occurred to me (oh, you’ll thank me for this bit of brilliance) that it also applies the under 3-feet-tall crowd. Also? Those birthed from my very own loins. Yeah.
I swallowed my pride and came out of my funkiness, and rejoined my cute little family.
The 3-year-old’s eyes were big as he looked at me, wondering if Crazy Mom was gone yet.
I took a deep breath and smiled at him. I still felt grumpy and annoyed with him, but I knew I had a choice: I could choose to let go of the frustration (that he doesn’t even totally understand anyway – he’s a preschooler!), or I could hold on to it and ruin the rest of our day with grumpiness.
It felt unnatural at first, but after a second the smile reached my eyes and I said “Hi Sweetie, are you having fun with your trains?” (For the record, I often will apologize for my bad attitude and rude words as well).
He answered in the affirmative and smiled back. All forgiven (from both of us). A disastrous and unnecessarily bad day avoided, and more importantly a relationship restored.
Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. It’s better that way, I’ve learned.
So much better.