Friday, July 23, 2010


Yesterday my husband told me, "I think you're a really good mother to our kids.  I think they are angels, and I couldn't ask them to be better behaved.  I really appreciate all you do to try to stay calm, and teach them how to be calm."

I have a confession.  I messed up the other day.  I had had a really long day.  You other moms know how it is.  There we were, driving down the interstate, and Ken was screaming, because Peter had his hands on Ken's seat, and in spite of my repeated instructions, refused to let go.  I pulled over, intending to work it out, and as I repeated for the thousand and thirty first time, "Peter, put your haNDS In YOUR LAP NOWWW!!"  I felt myself lose all composure, anger just shot out the top of my head as Peter, who was gripping Kendon's seat even harder, stared petrified.  "NOW!  NOW! NOWWWWW!!!!!"  I grabbed Peter's white-knuckle hands and forced them into his lap.

Kendon started imitating me immediately with his own screams.  Kaylee said, "Mommy screamed like a little kid."  Peter wailed.  I obviously lost some respect from all my kids in my moment of weakness.

So how does a family come back from that?  I will tell you what I would have done in the past.  I would have beaten myself up inside, and lost all hope of our family improving.  I would have internally projected years down the road, imagining that I would never be able to overcome this yelling habit.  I would be defensive outwardly, while inwardly churning in knots.  I would have sought out validation by telling the story to others, often in front of the kids, making my kids out to be the bad guys.  (You know you've done it.)  

Instead, this is how it went.  I was mad.  Really mad.  I told the kids 
    "I'm sorry.  I just snapped and lost my power.  I'm sorry Peter.  It's my job to set a good example for you, not show you how to throw a tantrum."  

Still, I was mad, and it took a little while to calm down.  What was it inside that had been building up to that outburst?  I had been wasting energy worrying about things I couldn't control.  I was not taking care of my own emotional needs, so that I was needy.  I NEEDED my kids to behave so I could be at peace.  I NEEDED my kids to be happy so I could be happy.  I NEEDED them to behave a certain way, because I was not okay inside.  So that's where my work began. 

I set about trying to humble myself.  I apologized to my Heavenly Father.  I told Him that I needed help, and couldn't do this without Him.  I apologized for forgetting to read scriptures that morning, because things like this don't usually happen when I do.  I asked the Lord to help me feel anguish for my sin, and help me to repent.

I took some deep Yoga breaths, I counted to 10, prayed, cried, and sang my heart out to country music.  Meanwhile, my kids were talking in the back, trying to figure out how to be the adults, since Mom apparently couldn't handle that responsibility at the moment.  My daughter was becoming very bossy, attempting to take over my role, understandably.  I could have lost heart.  I could have given up and said, "Calm is for perfect families, and we're just not that kind of family."  But I didn't think that for even a moment. 

Honesty is always the best policy, and is easy with kids after a little practice.  I told them I was embarrassed that I lost my temper, and I wanted to be a better example for them.  I told them I loved them and I was trying to stop feeling angry, and asked for their patience while I tried to calm myself down.  The more honest and heartfelt I was, the more I could see myself rise in their estimation.  I felt a warm glow begin to surround me.  I felt peace begin to return.

The rest of the day I was confident, and had complete faith in my Savior, that He was helping us.  There were no more incidents that day.  Each time I was tempted after that, I leaned on the Lord, and He helped me pass each test.  

The next morning was Sunday morning.  Peter didn't want to go to church.  
    "It's too long."  He said.  
This is when it took all my tools to honestly control my anxiety.  I intentionally didn't project or predict future inactivity.  Instead I smiled.  I sat down next to him, and put my feet up.  I said, 
    "You know, sometimes I feel that way too.  Did you know that?  Sometimes I don't feel like going to church.  Do you want to know why I go?"  
    No reply. 
   "Can you think about it for a minute?  Why do you think I would go to church, even when I don't feel like it?"  Peter answered,
    "You go to church to feel Jesus in your heart.  But I don't want to go to church.  It's too long."  
I stopped and thought for a minute.  What was he really feeling inside?  
    "Remember how you felt yesterday when I screamed at you?"  He looked down at the ground.
    "How did you feel inside when I did that?"  He said nothing, but I could see the shadow of the memory pass over his face as he stared more intently at the floor.  My heart swelled, and I trusted in my Savior.
    "Did you feel angry, hurt, and sad?"  He nodded.
    "I felt that way too, Peter.  Did you know, that when we go to church, we can feel the Holy Ghost, and through the Holy Ghost, Jesus can reach all the way down inside of you, and take all that hurt, all that anger, all those sad feelings and pull them out--and put in happiness, love, and peace instead?  Do you want Him to do that for you today?"  Peter nodded.
    "Heavenly Father loves us so much.  Do you think he would ever get mad and yell at you like Mommy did yesterday?"  Peter thought about it, and said, 
   "No, Heavenly Father doesn't get angry and yell."
   "I really need Him today to teach me again not to yell.  I need Him to help me remember how to be a happy mom. Would you like Jesus to teach me that today?"

I looked up to see Kevin smiling down at us from the door.  I smiled back at him, feeling only love and warmth.  Peter hugged me and said, 
    "I love you, Mommy."  
    "I love you too, Peter."
    "Mommy, we better get my church clothes on!  Can I wear my tie today?"
Ideally, the above conversation would have been long before time to leave, and we would have had plenty of time to get to church early.  But it happened to be just as we should have been walking out the door.  We got to church 30 minutes late, but when we got there, we were humble, ready to learn, and relaxed, as opposed to hurried, anxious, and irritated.  

After church, Peter asked me, 
    "Mommy, are you a better mommy now?  Did Jesus take the bad feelings out?"  I answered, 
    "Yes!  He sure did.  I feel so much love in my heart, I can't even remember the angry feelings!"  And it was true.
    "How about you?  Did Jesus take the bad feelings out for you too?"  
    "MmHmm.  I'm happy Mommy.  I love you so much.  You're a very good Mommy."
    "Thank you Peter, that made my whole day even better!  I love you with all my heart, and I'm so sorry I was a mean to you yesterday."  It reads like an after-school special, but it is true.

Sometimes it's the messy moments, when we think that someone else should probably be doing this job; when we doubt whether or not we really have it in us, and everyone is staring at our weakness; those are the true catalysts for change.  It is the screw-ups and the failures that make us stop and make course corrections.  It's the messy moments that sometimes can be the most important moments of our lives.

1 comment:

  1. Ginny, I know I never comment on your blog, but I just wanted you to know that I have been reading, and thoroughly enjoying feeling the peace and fulfillment I can tell you are finding in motherhood these days. I am so glad that you have found something which is making your family's home life so joyful. Good for you. And good for them - they are all so blessed to have you!