A Moment of Grace in the Here, There and Nowhere of Motherhood

I just can't wait for her to stop chattering and go to sleep. But then she does, and I hate to leave her room. Her head on my shoulder, peaceful breaths landing on my ear. "You're gonna miss this. You're gonna want this back."

I just can’t wait for her to stop chattering and go to sleep. But then she does, and I hate to leave her room. Her head on my shoulder, peaceful breaths landing on my ear. “You’re gonna miss this. You’re gonna want this back.”

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.

4 Responses to A Moment of Grace in the Here, There and Nowhere of Motherhood

  1. Jodi Pyle says:

    Thanks for sharing your grace-filled insight. I’m closer to your neighbor’s situation than yours and yet sometimes feel awkward hugging my teenagers. This will help me to embrace them with my whole self. I do hold tightly to my college girl when I see her all to briefly. Reminders to accept and give love are always needed.

  2. Andrea Parsons says:

    Thank you for sharing. I struggle a lot with the same situations and my oldest. I can feel myself coming unhinged at times and yet still can’t manage to stop myself. I end up hating myself for it and vowing to do better next time. I have often reminded myself that other people would give anything to be in my position as well. You aren’t alone. I appreciate knowing I am not as well. :) God has given you such a gift in your ability to express yourself through words and I am so glad I have the opportunity to read them.

  3. Arnebya says:

    Thank you for this. I feel like those times I randomly show up to church and feel like the message was tailor made for me. “He is talking about ME”. I know this yelling, this desire to stop the yelling, the need to be better, to know that these days are fleeting, they’re growing up so quickly, and to want to hold on to it while simultaneously wishing they’d just get to the point of doing things alone already. It’s a push and pull I know quite well.

  4. Ah, this touched my heart. I have a very intense kiddo and I struggle with this a lot, more than I care to admit. But I try, I try hard, and I just went to Bible study tonight too :) Hello from another Kansas blogger.

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