Lest you think that my last post means I harbor illusions of being a perfect mom, allow me to lay that idea to rest. I'm not perfect, and I'm very well aware of it. Yesterday afternoon, I yelled, slammed a door, yelled some more, said some very hurtful words, and ended up making my 7 year old cry. :-( It was not a stellar parenting moment, and I deeply regret it.
But even the worst parenting moments have lessons in them if you are willing to look for them. There are lessons about making amends, forgiveness, grace, and preventing it from happening again. Even bad parenting moments can be used for good.
On Sunday I talked to Elijah about God's grace and forgiveness when we mess up. Then on Monday, I messed up. Grace and forgiveness are truths that are so much harder to embrace when I am the one in need of them. The truth is, regardless of my beliefs about parenting and my ideals, sometimes I'm going to screw it up. Is that hypocritical? No, I don't think so-- it's human. I'm willing to admit that I'm not perfect. I'm so, so not perfect. And what amazes me, what stuns me every time I'm faced with the reality of it, is that God knows I'm not perfect too-- and he loves me. He forgives me. He extends grace to me. I don't have to be perfect.
Of course, grace and forgiveness in parenting do not do away with the need to make amends and experience consequences. Likewise, God's grace and forgiveness do not mean that I don't need to make amends or that I won't experience consequences. Immediately after my yelling, door-slamming, and harsh words, I realized how very wrong I had been, and I apologized. I hugged my son and sincerely apologized. I explained to him that I had been very angry, and that sometimes I feel like using loud, mean words to show how angry I am-- and I told him that doesn't make it okay. I asked for his forgiveness, and I made a promise to him that I would not say things I don't mean out of anger.
After a moment like this, it's important to examine what led up to it and to look for ways to prevent it from happening again. I seriously doubt I would have flown off the handle if I had not been feeling hungry, tired, and slightly under the weather. I have been reminded to take care of myself and to be aware of those triggers. (Side note: It's also important to remember that children who are hungry, tired, not feeling well, or otherwise stressed are also more likely to act out.) I have also been reminded to use self-calming strategies when I'm feeling angry instead of verbally lashing out. And I've been reminded to stop and listen to that little voice inside of me that's warning me not to do what I'm about to do (just like I had talked to Elijah about listening to his conscience the day before).
So in conclusion, no, I'm not perfect. I'm just like you-- I have some really great moments, and some utterly terrible ones, and plenty in-between as I fumble around at this difficult, rewarding, epic job of parenting. And each day I am unspeakably grateful for God's grace.