Mommy Messed Up…… On Purpose.
I. Lost. It. “It” being my sanity. The event that tipped me over the edge that day wasn’t major. It wasn’t major at all. I wasn’t hurt and nothing terrible had happened to me or anyone I loved. Up to this point, I had made a million mistakes as a mom. Many were unintentional – just “mistakes.” There’s a difference between mistakes and sins. Mistakes are exactly that. They happen on accident, because we don’t know any better. I’m willing to bet that millions of us moms are willing to accept responsibility for our mistakes, but how often do we call out our own sins? Or when we do, do we rename those our “mistakes” as well? I don’t think “sins” and “mistakes” are in the same category.
The silly and petty thing that sent me over the edge was my 2 year old. She had been potty trained for about 6 months when one day, she just started peeing her pants again. Constantly. I was watching kids in my home at this point and it was a brand new thing. Looking back now, I know she was going through a potty training regression, which is extremely common when there is any kind of change in the home. For 3 days, she peed her pants at least once per hour. It blew my mind. Potty training is a lot of hard work and I worked HARD at getting her trained. She had been doing so well and all of a sudden, none of my rewards or consequences were working at all.
After peeing her pants for the hundredth time, I put her on the toilet, grabbed the sticker chart I had made for her on the wall, and tore it to pieces in front of her while yelling at her. She looked at me with eyes full of tears, cowered, and cried. It was at that moment when I thought, “I’ve just traumatized my child. What have I done…” I knew better. I’ve taught kids all over and from all walks of life and I KNEW behavior management. I didn’t care, and I lost it.
Part of me wanted to justify my behavior. I’d worked so hard and I knew she was capable. I was going through a lot with quitting my job, being a work at home mom, living in a new area that I didn’t know, and struggling financially. All of those things were explanations for why I was stressed, but they weren’t excuses for bad behavior.
A small voice inside of me urged me to hold her, tell her I was sorry, and tell her I was totally wrong. So that’s what I did. I listened to the small voice and I held my small child on my lap in the bathroom floor. I cried and I told her that Mommy was angry and Mommy was wrong. Mommy would help her and Mommy won’t hurt her ears anymore. I asked my little 2 year old girl to forgive me even though she didn’t have a clue what that word meant. I knew she grasped the concept of forgiveness better than I did when she put her little arms around my neck and told me she loved me. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus does with us? Little ones are often times quick to forgive. I don’t want my kids to lose that.
I think a lot of us were raised to respect our authority and that part of that was accepting that our authority was always “right.” I’ve had many teachers, leaders, and so forth who never said they were sorry and if they did, it was often for a “mistake” rather than being deliberately in the wrong. It’s kind of hard sometimes to admit when we’re wrong to our children. We want them to think highly of us and to think of us as their model for doing what’s right. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that admitting and taking responsibility for when we are wrong, even when it’s embarrassing, is far more admirable than always being right. It also models for our children the importance of accepting responsibility and learning and growing from our own shortcomings.
Admitting when we are wrong to our kids is good for all of us. It teaches them to have mercy and forgiveness, models for them how to take responsibility for their actions, shows them humility, and how to have a growth mindset. For us, we get a big dose of humility and a chance to learn and grow from our mistakes. I’ve had the most growth and reflection in my life when I’ve messed up. When I do something perfectly, I don’t have anything else to perfect.
Remove the veil.
I’m still doing things wrong. They aren’t always “mistakes” either. I nag my kids. I spend too much time on social media and not enough time with them. I don’t always show them grace. A few weekends ago, I wanted my middle child to learn that the way she was talking to adults wasn’t ok. I gave her consequences in an attempt to make her learn her behavior wasn’t acceptable. In all honesty, it wasn’t acceptable. But instead of focusing on motivating her to learn and grow, I focused on the punishment. I could see my lively child beginning to change, but it wasn’t for the better. I heard her crying in her room and I asked her why she was crying. She told me it was because she knew she was a mean person and she didn’t want to be mean anymore, but didn’t know how not to be.
What if I had just left her to her own thoughts and had never gone back to check on my 5 year old? What if all I cared about was that long-running consequence. Would I have helped to destroy her character instead of building it up?
At that moment, I remembered the sticker chart incident. I went and held her and I told her that I was sorry I left her alone. I told her that I was like her when I was her age too and that I still struggle to respond out of love sometimes and instead, react out of anger. I told her that I wanted us to help each other. I told her that her behavior wasn’t ok, but that mine wasn’t either. I told her there was nothing she could ever do that would make me stop loving her.
I want my kids to see a solid parent. I want them to look at me and think I’m strong and that I work hard. That doesn’t mean hiding my struggles. In fact, I think it means the opposite. My husband and I try not to argue in front of our kids, but one of the most pivotal times in our marriage was when he told our daughters that he and I got in an argument and that he said something hurtful to me. He told them why it made me sad, how it made him feel, and how he should have responded. He was real with them. Mommy and Daddy weren’t perfect and we didn’t have a perfect, fairtytale relationship. We didn’t always see eye to eye and we can’t hide our conflict. We have to learn from it and be better. We used this incident to teach our children about conflict, humility, forgiveness, and honesty. My daughters never thought poorly of him either. They respected him more, and so did I.
My kids are still young. That means I have a lot more sins and mistakes ahead of me. I’m going to try to be better, but I’m also going to try to always be real. I’m their mom. I think the reason they see me folding laundry and washing dishes, working at their school, and taking them with me on errands 90% of the time (rather than seeing someone who is pampered and polished) is because they need to see women who work hard and serve. I don’t want them to grow up entitled. I want them to roll up their sleeves and serve the ones they love. I want them to love what they do and work hard. I want them to mess up and grow. I’m removing my veil of “perfect mom” and hoping they will remove their veils too, knowing that growth and learning has some of the best impact when it stems from humility and truth.