That morning I knew without a doubt that I was the worst mom in the world. I did something I never thought I was capable of doing. The day I did that awful, horrible deed, I had six children, eight and under, including twin toddlers, whom I was trying unsuccessfully to potty train. I was also expecting my seventh child. Officially homeschooling two young girls seemed easy when compared to teaching and training four toddlers. Clearly, I was outnumbered by these little munchkins. Order dramatically decreases the more tots you have.
Besides trying to potty train my twins, I was also working on naptime for the twosome. Having seven young kids in one house meant these two busy jibber-jabberers had to share a room. And I desperately needed them to stay put in their beds for just an hour or two each day, which would give me a little time to work with my two school-age girls without constant interruptions and distractions.
While most toddlers across America were taking naps, my supercharged twins’ energy could have lit every bulb in the house if only we could have harnessed it. Since they clearly weren’t going to sleep, I hoped Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet, too, as I affectionately called my larger and smaller twins, would at least stay in their bunny ballerina toddler beds and play quietly with their terrycloth babies. These itty bitty dolls, which I had embroidered with each of their names, were constantly with my girls wherever they went, much like a security blanket.
Neither these dolls nor any amount of books or quiet toys seemed to keep them preoccupied. Day after day they got out of bed, dragged out all their toys, danced around the room, and regularly sneaked out to venture through the house. Our school room was upstairs on the second floor, so if they were really quiet, they could canvass the entire first floor without my knowing. After several weeks of their shenanigans, I had reached my limit. That was when I committed the awful, terrible deed.
One afternoon, after hearing giggles and bumping around from their bedroom below, I was so frustrated with Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet, too, that I marched right down to their room, burst open the door, grabbed their beloved itty bittys and yelled, “That’s it! You’re never going to see these again!” I then took their terry cloth dolls in the bathroom, pulled my hair-trimming scissors out of the drawer, and cut off the dollies’ arms and legs and threw the heap of body parts in the trash!
One brief, satisfying moment later, however, I was suddenly overcome with guilt and anguish. “Oh, Lord, what have I done? How could I get so angry? They’re just toddlers. Yes, they know better. Yes, they’re disobeying me, but I have no right to let that kind of anger fill my heart. Please forgive me, Lord!”
Returning to their room and hearing their tiny wails, I scooped them up in my arms and cried with them. “I’m sorry. Mommy’s so sorry,” I whispered, as I wiped their tears away. Yes, we prayed together, and yes, they forgave me, but it took me several years before I was able to get out from under that hundred pound blanket of guilt.
Sadly, there were other times I became convinced once again that I was the worst mom for my kids. I would do something rash, like the time I got exasperated with my oldest. She is a faithful, loving girl who was a gentle, peacemaker in our home, but who moved through chores at a snail’s pace. Frustrated at finding the laundry room empty with the clean laundry piled up and unfolded again, I discovered on top of the dryer my daughter’s little spiral storybook journal. She had filled this small notebook with dozens of make-believe family sketches, complete with names, descriptions, and drawings of every member. It was from this reference book she wove her delightfully imaginary tales.
I inferred my daughter hadn’t done her chores because she got distracted by her own storytelling again, and I blamed her lack of faithfulness on that little book. Letting my frustration get the better of me, I decided to solve the problem by just getting rid of the journal. Out of sight, out of mind I thought.
I was so very wrong. When she found out I had thrown it away, she became very quiet. I saw the hurt and pain on her face and it broke my heart. In my pride, I tried to dismiss the book’s significance to her, but the Holy Spirit deeply convicted me. I confessed how wrong of me it was to throw away her book. I should have just gone and talked to her quietly about how her being so easily distracted had tempted me to become impatient. Could I not certainly come alongside her, help her to focus, and show more forbearance in the process? It was hard to believe she could forgive me, but she did.
Your story might not look anything like mine, but I’ve talked to enough homeschooling moms to know that many of us struggle with feeling like our children would be better off with a different mom. We usually don’t have any problem seeing our imperfections as mothers. I remember these two incidents like they happened yesterday.
When our shortcomings and sins flash before our minds like old reruns, however, that’s when it can be the hardest for us to remember the good that we have done for our children. For example, the late nights we listened to teens pour out their hearts, the hours spent helping that number-challenged child with her math, the sleep we’ve lost praying for wisdom for ourselves, and the well-being and safety of our kids.
The enemy of our souls would like our minds to be so filled with our weaknesses and failures that we become paralyzed or discouraged. The truth we need to embrace if we are going to fight the lie that our kids would be better off with that-perfect-homeschooling-mom-whose-name-just-popped-into-your-head, is that God made us. He made us just the way we are, long before we ever had children, knowing in His wisdom they would need us, foibles and all.
Why are you the mom your kids need?
Is it because you’ve read Curious George to your toddler so many times you have it memorized, or because you cried with your daughter when her heart was broken the first time, or because you celebrated when your son taught himself to play drums by dancing around the basement and singing at the top of his lungs “All Because of Jesus I’m Alive?”
Yes, and it’s because you laugh louder than anyone else at your children’s jokes, pray more fervently than anyone when your kids need God’s direction, and share your favorite chocolates, movie lines, and stories with the ones who look and act just a little bit like you. It’s the way you give your heart away, and it’s the way you celebrate God in the everyday of life. That’s what your kids need, and only you can show them.
You are also the mom your kids need when you must lean hard on God’s strength and grace in the midst of your hardship, weakness, and sin. It’s seeing you struggle with pride, or exhaustion, or fear, watching you run to the Lord for forgiveness and help, listening to you share God’s Word with them, and observing Christ’s peace fill you with calm and courage. Your children don’t just need your successes, they need your failures too. They need to learn, by your example, how to fail well, and how to be real with themselves and not try to hide behind a veil of perfection. They need to throw themselves anew on God’s mercy and grace—just like you do.
All but one of my children are adults now. They are living fruitful, faith-filled lives, with some of them starting families of their own. They aren’t perfect. They don’t have it all together. They even struggle with some of the same frustrations and irritations I’ve struggled with. But they know where to go for help and for forgiveness when they blow it, like they’ve seen me do many times.
Even with the memory of dismembered dollies, a trashed storybook journal, and so many other ways I’ve let them down, we enjoy sweet fellowship whenever we’re together. As they grow through new seasons in their lives, what remains constant is they love me, and they know I love them. I never cease to marvel at this reality. How precious is this gift, to be their mother.
This article was originally published in the Winter 2016 issue of Homeschooling Today Magazine. Subscribe today for more great articles like this in every issue!
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