I made a confession at Bible study tonight. I hadn’t been in a long, long, while. Months. After my sister asked me (patiently, again, because she knows I’m forgetful), I finally got around to going tonight. I was late, and left early, but just enough time for God’s word to smack me upside the head.
“The thing I struggle with most is anger. I just get so frustrated with my girls. I yell, and it’s so unattractive. If I had a hidden camera in my home, I’d be ashamed at what I saw.”
The group nodded in understanding. They’d all been there before. And while it felt good to know I’m not alone, I didn’t want to return home with an unchanged heart.
No, this isn’t a post about how I’m suddenly a changed mom, and I’m not gonna yell at my kids, and I’m gonna live in the moment and blah, blah, blah. That would be a lie. This is just a little story about this one time, I let God move through me, and I managed to not screw it all up for once. I remained calm through the bedtime routine (a hallelujah miracle), and He gave me a nice little gift at the end. He’s neat like that.
Awhile back, I heard a speaker talk about how she struggled with the demands of being a working mom. (Although this applies to being any kind of mom, or parent, or caretaker, whatever.) When she was with her daughter, she would think about work, and when she was at work, she would think about her daughter. She called this being “here, there and nowhere.” I could SO relate. That was me, all the time.
I think about this phrase a lot, and it’s helped me be a little more present. Now, being “in the moment” is hard for me. Especially as a writer. I see life as a blank page, and just sitting there observing the events around me, without any thinking of the past, or daydreaming of the future, feels a little like watching the “Blair Witch Project.” There’s a reason there aren’t many films like that. Just solid shooting without explanatory “flash backs” or directional “flash forwards.” You need a little prospective to make “current” events make sense.
Anyhoo…as I was saying. Tonight’s lesson at Bible study was how to live as a “Romans 12” Christian. Was I walking the talk? No. I was yelling. A lot. And I know it has to do with my stress level, and distraction and exhaustion. I have excuses. Good ones, even. But you know what they say about excuses. Even the good ones still stink. As I drove home, I felt a little more calm. A little more ready to face the inevitable stress bomb that is our bedtime routine. It makes me twitchy and shouty and just, well, angry. It takes two hours, from the time teeth are brushed until the time all eyes are closed for the night. It’s ridiculous. And I know it could be better, but if you try to turn this into a “teachable moment” about how easy bedtimes can be, I might just turn that temper of mine on you. And trust me, it ain’t pretty.
After books were read, stories were told, kisses were given, and the toddler was finally asleep, the preschooler and I sat in her bed, and for the first time in a long time, we talked. Normally, I would be pulling my hair out at her chattiness, her sudden burst of energy at light’s out and her general overall inability to go the freak to sleep. But tonight, I reminded myself that not all moms are this lucky. Some lose baby after baby and are never able to engage in battles at bedtime. They would love to trade places with me. Others are sitting on a cold prison mattress, and when they close their eyes, they can see their child’s innocent face, and feel a pang of regret and guilt that someone else is kissing those sweet cheeks tonight, because mommy made a few too many bad decisions. And I think about the woman who sat across from me at Bible study, a friend and neighbor who looked sincerely into my eyes and said, “I would love to have those moments back.” I laughed it off at first, but I knew she meant it. It’s called an empty nest for a reason when your children grow up and leave home, and empty is something not many of us want to feel.
So when my daughter kept on chattering, and kept on popping her head up to tell me “one more thing,” and kept on reminding me that I needed to stay with her until she fell asleep, I turned my impatience and frustration over to God. I kept gently telling her to go to sleep, but I did not shout. Not once. And she felt the change. She relaxed, too. Enough to make a confession of her own. “Um, mom, I need to tell you something. Earlier, when sister was crying and I said she fell off the bed, that wasn’t true. I hit her. I lied.” Here in the dark, in the warm space of a mother who was in the moment with her daughter, a moment of grace was found. She trusted me enough to tell me the truth. Something that would never have happened had I engaged in my “Old Yeller” routine. We talked about the importance of telling the truth, and I told her I was proud of her for confessing, and most importantly, that I forgave her.
“Mom,” she said as she gripped me in a big bear hug, “I just LOVE you. Like, really love you. So much, that I’ll never let you die when you’re old.” And now I completely understand why my dear sweet neighbor, the one with no more children living at home, would love to have these moments back.