I have a confession: I’m mean.
Like…I try not to be, and in most situations, that side of me doesn’t come out. If I’m with friends or clients, I’m generally the nicest version of myself. I would bet money on the fact that most of you would say I’m nice.
…but my kids might tell a different story.
Ren comes up with these “taglines” – at least that’s what I think of them as – little phrases he picks up in random places or makes up that he likes to repeat over and over. It’s usually pretty cute. Here are a few we often hear:
“Sometimes you feel two feelings at the same time and that’s okay.” (Thanks Daniel Tiger.)
And when he’s in trouble: “NOBODY talk to me.” (Complete with arms crossed and pouty lips.)
The most recent tagline:
“Mommy, I love you just the way you are…even when you’re mean to me.”
Generally my response is something along these lines: (deep breath) “Ren. I’m not being mean. I am frustrated with you because you are not listening to what I’m asking you to do. If you would just listen, I wouldn’t have to get upset.”
Which is all very true.
But I feel pretty terrible when my tiny little muffin baby nugget is telling me I’m being mean to him. Regardless of the nuances in the definition of the word “mean” in that situation to him and to me.
We are pretty strict parents in general. Adam more-so than I (and he gets more respect from our kids than I do because of that)…but he’s a teacher so I think it’s a little more built-in to him than me. So I often think about how our strictness will affect them as they get older.
I struggle with punishing or giving consequences out of a place of love. Full honesty, it is usually out of a place of frustration. I struggle with trying to explain to my 3-year-old “I don’t want to be yelling at you, I’d rather we have a pleasant and happy morning…but when you refuse to find your shoes when I have asked you 17 times to do so, I have to try a different method and that method is usually YELLING.” He doesn’t
want need the whole backstory, and yet I feel like I need to explain my frustration. Adam says they’re smarter than I give them credit for, they know why they’re in trouble. But I always fear that they don’t and they just think I’m being mean and then all I can think is…I’m ruining these tiny human people for their whole entire existence.
I get upset and angry when my kids do things that make me uncomfortable. Or annoyed. Or frustrated. Even if those things aren’t conscious decisions on their part…aren’t purposeful acts of defiance. Example? Why, sure! I’m glad you asked.
My lovely friend Tara gave me a really cute Valentine’s kitchen towel. I hung it on the stove handle, ASSUMING all the beings who live in my home would naturally know that if a towel is WHITE, the idea is to keep it that way. That evening, my 7-year-old spilled some water on the floor. I asked him to clean it up. Distracted by making dinner, I didn’t see that he grabbed my pretty WHITE Valentines towel to start soaking up water on the floor. I realized what was happening after a few seconds, run over and grab it away and yell, “Seriously? Why would you use a white towel on the floor? Now there is dirt on here and who knows if I’m going to be able to wash that out!” As I’m watching him while I’m yelling at him, he is trying to keep a stoic face and not cry (he’s a cryer), blinking, swallowing in gulps. I go put the towel in the laundry, sharply tell him to get some paper towels, and I go back to cooking. And thinking. Cooking and thinking (which can be dangerous for people like me who are less-than-talented at the former)…I realize: he had no malicious intent. He didn’t think ‘Hahahaha. Mommy’s new white towel. I’m going to RUIN it!’ No, of course not. He is a kind, thoughtful child (generally speaking) and would never purposely ruin something of mine. And I jumped all over him because I expected a child to understand/think about something that may have been beyond his years.
I feel like I’m constantly asking myself two questions that I DO NOT KNOW THE ANSWERS TO: Am I helping to mold my kids into responsible humans? Or am I expecting too much of them?
We are strong believers that you can’t let bad behaviors slide. The phrase “choosing your battles”…I get it…but in our house we believe that if they’re allowed to get away with it once, they will think they can do it again. But on the other side, I know that a 3- or 7-year-old child does not have the mental capabilities of an adult and literally cannot make the correct decision in every situation.
It is so hard to differentiate. Especially when you are so emotionally tied up in life with them every day that you truly FORGET to see the big picture.
Oh, you need a snack for the 1,704th time today? Thanks for waiting until I sat down on the couch and curled up with a blanket.
Oh, you can’t reach your cup on the table? I just started the laundry but let me just drop everything to help you right this second.
You wanted a cup instead of a bowl for your snack? It’s fine, I’m not doing anything important, my work can wait.
You refuse to wear jeans to school today but wait to complain about it until we’re already 5 minutes late to leave and I forgot to start the car so it’s going to be freezing and I can’t find my flipping purse so I’m going to be driving illegally and I’m starving because I was too busy feeding you that I didn’t have time to feed myself? Oh, okay. Let’s go change your pants, you darling precious boy.
Do you see what I mean? None of these things are remotely malicious. They just do not have the brain capacity to foresee certain needs and make them coincide with the timing of how I am most comfortable.
So if you’re keeping track here, as a mother:
1 – I am mean
2 – I feel constant guilt.
But we’re gonna end this thing on a positive note. (Woohoo!)
I am not perfect. Perfection is not expected of me. The only perfect being is Jesus, and He’s the one who gives me the MOST grace as a mother. Which is pretty crazy, if you think about it. His view of me is all that matters and as long as I am seeking Him and to be like Him…that is all I can do. Grace and forgiveness, and being able to start each day new…these are the things I cling to.
Also, I am a pretty darn fun person when I want to be. Heck, just the other morning, Sutton and I dropped Ren off at school and snuck into Kwik Shop. We bought a box of cinnamon Life cereal and a cheese stick. We drove to Sutton’s school, parked, cracked open our snacks, and shared a second breakfast and a ton of laughs that I totally didn’t expect to have that morning while we were waiting for the school doors to open.
I have literally invented 2 games from the recesses of my brain that we play constantly in our house. The rainbow game, and the foam pit game. I can give you details before I patent them if you’re interested. My kids are always asking to play these games. If I really was THAT mean, I wouldn’t have invented their favorite games, right?
And I wouldn’t have dance parties with them in their underwear (them, not me) to the Greatest Showman blasting at deafening decibels.
And I wouldn’t build Magnatiles(TM) with them for the 1,951st time.
Or read their bedtime story in silly voices.
Or build forts or blow bubbles or squeeze them until their eyeballs nearly pop out, while begging them to stay little.
I’m mean. Whatever. But I can be pretty fun too. I just pray that my kids aren’t ruined by my crazy.
Oh, and PS – the Valentines towel is ruined. I found it further stained with grape juice the next day. Sorry, Tara. It was a really cute towel.
Photo cred: Amanda Marie Photography