Last week, I locked myself in my bathroom and cried on the floor while my near three-year-old son banged on the door crying for me to “Open the door!” He had been in a tantrum for nearly an hour and a half now – one that started down at the beach in public where I had to just pick him up, leave everything behind, and carry him all the way back to the house while he kicked and screamed and nearly broke my nose about three times. It was his worst tantrum yet, and I was at a loss trying to calm him while down on the beach for nearly forty-five minutes before I had to pull the “just grab him and go” card.
It didn’t end when we got home. He followed me around the house pleading to go back to the beach and screaming, trying to unlock a door I now purposely locked just so he couldn’t get out. He raged and pulled and raged and pulled. I tried and failed and tried and failed to calm him. I was losing my mind and I was sure he was losing his.
On impulse, I went into the bathroom, locked the door and just sat on the floor. I began to cry, pleading with God to calm this kid down and to please give me the patience and energy to get through this. He banged the door and cried over and over and over again.
I banged the floor and cried over and over and over again.
Finally, in desperation mode, I opened the door to let him in and the kid just collapsed onto my lap and for nearly twenty-five minutes we sat in that position in complete silence, aside from his oddly cute silent cry breaths little ones have.
There we were enjoying a day off together down by the lake, swimming, playing in the sand enjoying the day before the rain came.
Then my son asked for Popcorn.
I only had Pirate’s Booty.
I had Pirate’s Booty instead of Popcorn.
Two hours later I was sitting on my bathroom floor crying feeling completely helpless, useless and worthless as a Mom.
Yes, it can turn on a dime just like that.
What started as a simple snack mishap led to this Mom questioning her Momming. Questioning her worth. Questioning her ability to even be a Mom at all. It led to this Mom reliving the past two hours over in my head and wondering what I could have done differently to not let this escalate. What I could have said, done, tried — surely I did this wrong. I always do it wrong. Voices rang in my head of just how wrong I was and I need to be better and I should try this or I should have done that.
And it all started with a snack mishap.
This is why parenting is so hard. Because we are people. And what started as a simple snack mishap that, believe me, my son has long forgotten, ended with the very real issue of me, a Mom, us, humans, looking at ourselves in the mirror and concluding, “I’m not cut out for this.”
And it’s SO hard, you guys.
A favorite author of mine, Jen Hatmaker, once wrote: “Parenting reveals our greatest weaknesses — emotions and reactions we were once only casually acquainted with (such as anger, impatience and guilt) suddenly become our closest friends when we become parents.”
I’ve never heard truer words.
I know I’ve always had a temper. A lot of people (who don’t know me intimately) see me as calm, cool and collected. And for the most part, I am… But I also have a hot temper and can snap like a twig; usually when it involves testing my patience or when my anxiety level is high (Hello, Parenting!)
It sucks that the most precious little person in my life who quite literally makes my heart melt, churn and hang out on my sleeve, is also the same precious little person that can bring out every single flaw I have.
Talk about a roller coaster ride of emotions.
The same child whose little heart beat helps me to get out of bed each morning and try harder is the same child who leads me to cry on the bathroom floor convinced that I can’t possibly go on.
It’s extremely confusing. It’s extremely exhausting. It’s extremely emotional.
And right here I want to say it’s extremely worth it.
But let me admit something. In those moments? The bathroom floor moments? It does not feel worth it. It simply feels hard. And you know what? We have to let that be okay.
We have to let ourselves feel the hard. If we don’t, we’ll feel something far worse.
I’ll choose hard over guilt every single day.
“The hard is what makes it great.”
(We can be good friends if you know that movie quote — without looking it up.)
The hard is what makes it worth it.
But within that hard, you need to have one more thing in order to get yourself off that bathroom floor (besides just needing to pee).
You need to have grace.
My goodness if I didn’t, I’d still be on that bathroom floor.
Because I had Pirate’s Booty instead of Popcorn…
Here’s what guilt would tell me: You are so bad at this Mom thing. You should have known he would want white cheddar popcorn after you guys just chowed that down together the last time you were on the beach. He has a good memory. He knows you outright told him that was your favorite snack so of course he’s now gonna wanna eat Mommy’s favorite snack because now it’s his favorite snack and he likes routine and you should have the same exact snack so you guys could do the same exact thing again, why would you tell him it’s your favorite, that’s all he’s gonna want now, and now look at that girl right there – she just popped open a bag of white cheddar popcorn (true story, like really thanks) and now he sees it and he’s flipping out and look what you started now – you should have had the popcorn. Now you can’t control your child. People are staring. Your son is running around the volleyball courts while you chase after him and you just look so stupid. You wanna have more kids? You can’t even control your first one over a little snack. YOU BLEW IT.
Here’s what grace would tell me: You spent the time to pack lunch and snacks to bring to the beach for your child so he can have extra time to play instead of having to go back home for lunch (and you didn’t even pack your own.) You were being a Mom.
I was being a Mom. Which is funny because I was on the bathroom floor telling myself I’m not a Mom. Not even a little bit.
See the irony here?
We throw ourselves under the same bus we’re driving… we are being Moms! We are loving, taking care of, trying our hardest to be our best selves for these little humans and when we fail our first reaction is to throw away our Mom cards instead of simply understanding we are just bigger humans trying to raise little humans and we’re not always going to get it right, we generally don’t know what we’re doing, and even if we think we’re doing it right, our child will find a way to let us know we’re not.
And I’ll be honest with you, more often than I care to admit I let myself feel this guilt instead of the hard, and I allow myself to think I’m unworthy of being a Mom at all, but if I’m not mistaken, I would bet most Moms/Parents go through this each and every day, as well.
I just hope you are not going through it alone. That’s why I’m here. To tell you you’re not. You’re not alone, Mom.
To the other Moms who have locked themselves in their bathrooms, closets, cars, showers, (wherever) and cried thinking, “I can’t do this,” I say right back, “Neither can I.”
But grace says, “That’s why I’m here.”
Grace says you were just being a Mom, and he was just being a Toddler, and we are humans who have bad days.
The beauty of God’s grace for us is that it’s free, and it allows us to be free to love our children in the same way, full of grace.
So why not give that to ourselves?
After all, it’s free.
After all, you were just being a Mom.
But here’s a little advice: the rookie mistake would be to just bring popcorn next time.
You bring both.
If you don’t, I guarantee they will want the Pirate’s Booty.
And you’ll only have Popcorn…