“You prayed that God would help you be a good mom and you’re not being a good mom right now!!!”
My daughter’s words. They cut deep and echoed in my head for the rest of the day. She wasn’t wrong and she wasn’t lying. Having Autism makes her the opposite of a liar. She tells it like it is and she doesn’t dance around my emotions. She keeps me grounded. She makes me face reality. And this time…the truth hurt.
It had been one of those days, and it was only 8am. Sleep deprivation, negative self-talk, stir-crazy kids…I could’ve used any number of excuses but the bottom line is that I was treating my blessings as though they were burdens. I went from having a harsh tone to all out yelling like a crazy person at my kids just for doing kid things. Sure, they were fighting non-stop, but no amount of misbehavior out of them gives me a free pass to treat them as if their existence was thrust upon me rather than longed for.
We all lose it. I’m really (REALLY) hard on myself and even I know that. But, if I’m honest, this isn’t an irregular feeling. It’s constant. This feeling of underlying irritation and self-loathing that comes out sideways as ungratefulness. It affects my parenting in ways that seem small at the time, but seep into the everyday until I’ve instilled in my children the belief that I’m not happy with who they are, when the reality is that I’m not happy with who I am.
If I believe all that I say I believe, then why do I live in constant battle with my past, carrying around hurts that were nailed to the cross long ago? Christ didn’t die so that I could stay broken. He died so that what’s broken could become beautiful. So that what’s trying could become testimony. So that I would have freedom from the sins that weigh me down. Yet, there I was, again…venting frustrations on my children because I wasn’t willing to choose the freedom to lean into His strength over faking it.
I despise fake. Anyone who knows me knows I can’t stand fake. I long for truth. I need real…and here I am pretending I’m strong enough to do this on my own. So, I’m going to get real and confess it: I’m a hypocrite! I expect others to be honest with me and, all the while, I’m standing tall, pretending that I’ve got this. Convincing myself that it’s all on my shoulders- the comforting, the disciplining, the guiding, the caring for, the cleaning up after, the playing with, the teaching, and the molding of four little lives. I tell myself it’s all on me. That I don’t need God’s help or anyone else’s. Instead of admitting that I’m a hot mess, I try and convince the world that I’m in control. When I know that’s a lie. I’m lying to myself if I think that I have any real control. God is in control of it all, and is the One who gave it all to me, not so that I could shove Him to the side and fake my way through it…but so that I could fall to my knees daily and admit that I’m weak. That I’m in need of His grace. That it’s only by His grace that I’m ever going to do this parenting thing well. And that, when I don’t do it well (which will happen every day), His grace will redeem it.
When my daughter told me I wasn’t being a good mom, it hurt. The old me would’ve been defensive. The parent that I was, before the blessing of disability shook the conceit out of me, would’ve thrown a pity party and blamed it on the kids. I would’ve blamed my choice to behave badly on my circumstances. But the me that God’s been working on knows that a choice is exactly what that mom fail was. I chose to react to the demands of parenthood with anger and selfishness. And, now that I’m being real, I can admit to the world that I’ll probably choose it again a few times. Because I’m an imperfect parent…I’m an imperfect person. Which is why I am so, so thankful that I serve a perfect God. Because when I make bad choices I can choose to admit that to my children, and I can choose to ask them for forgiveness, and I can point them to The One who saves me from myself. I want them to know that, just because I’m mom, doesn’t mean I know it all. Doesn’t make me beyond failure. I want them to know that, because I’m a Christian, my failure doesn’t have to consume me. My failure doesn’t have to follow me around, tormenting me. I can leave it at the cross, find healing there, and move on to making better choices. Like the choice to stop and pray for strength to get through a tough day with my children, rather than to try and take control only to loose it.
God has taught me through parenting, over and over again, that my strength is worth nothing apart from His grace. I need to depend on His strength. I need to make sure that others know that, if I’m doing anything right, it’s because He’s given me the power and the wisdom to do it. I can try and fake it all I want, but the reality is that the only way I’ll ever raise my children to be good people, is to allow myself to be weak. To show them that His grace is sufficient for me and His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
“For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)