Bad Mothering, Awesome Grace

Dave and the kids last summer at camp with a big snake


Yesterday was a terrible mothering day. I locked myself in the bedroom at one point and told the kids I wasn’t coming out. I was too tired of struggling with frustration, of feeling annoyed by their being 7, 7, and 5, even 10!, and of being borderline mean about every silly comment and a nag about every misplaced toy. I knew if I faced them again, I would just be more of the same.

So I locked my grumpy self in the bedroom and lay on the bed and thought, “I just can’t do it, God. I can’t. Give me three minutes out there with them, and I will bite their heads off again, and I cannot face that. It’s only three in the afternoon. There are six hours till I can put them to bed. There is no way I can make it.” The younger three kept knocking on the door. “Can we come in? We need…”

“No. Go away.” and then, to take away any sting, “love you.” Love is easier from behind a closed door. Up close it has to be full of patience with raw egg smashed on the floor (we dyed eggs for Easter), snotty sleeves (PJ will NOT use a Kleenex), dramatic tears (Jake’s response whenever he and PJ fight, which is often this day), and the “So what’s next?” (for dinner, for entertainment, whatever expectation I am supposed to provide). I was out of that patience.
I eventually emerged from the bedroom, though without any special revelation from God. All I’d done was lay bare my inability.

And I guess that was enough. Somehow, by the time we’d finished soccer and gotten cheap pizza and decided to eat it at an outdoor table in front of a bookstore, I was having fun. Like, really, their inane comments made me laugh and led to real conversation. Here’s one.

“Mom, why do all black people look the same?” Seriously—in this family! I think it was Jake who said it.

“They don’t. You only think that when you meet a black person you don’t know. When you get to know them, they become individual. Like, you wouldn’t ever confuse Cecil and Godfrey, would you?”

“Who’s Cecil?” That was Maddie. She sees Cecil every single week at church but Maddie is TERRIBLE with names. I sometimes wonder how long it would take her to forget mine. A month? “Mom, who’s that?”

I tried a different tack. “Okay, if you put PJ in a crowd of African children, you’d be able to pick him out.”

Pause. “Not really,” Jake said. “He would look like everyone else.”

“He’s your brother!”

“Well, if another little kid had round eyes and a big mouth, they’d look just like him.”

“Yeah, but they’re PJ’s round eyes. Don’t you think you’d know him? Seriously, I’ve met Africans who say that white people all look alike to them. It’s just when you don’t know them.”

By this time Em was shaking her head at me in that “Give it up” way, and the lady at the next table was cracking up. And I was having fun—when I’d considered running away earlier in the day.

I don’t know how You did it, God, but that’s some real transformation.

By the way, today’s another long day—just me and the kids. I’m going to need some more of that.

Preferably before I lock myself in the bedroom.