I was yelled at last week. Not just a singular shout. No, I was on the receiving end of a draining, largely inarticulate, and extended chew-out session that criticized my fairness, questioned my judgment, and insulted my culinary skills. (Apparently, I don't make good peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.)
It was launched by my three-year-old. The reason? I had the audacity (the lunacy!) to announce that we were going home for lunch when I picked her up from pre-school. She wanted McDonalds.
After nine years on the job, I'm deep enough into motherhood to avoid blowing this episode out of proportion and descending into the futile thinking that I've irrevocably failed as a mother, or that my children will never grow up to be productive, sensible, and thoughtful members of society who won't kick the back of a driver's seat and scream when they're tired and disgruntled. I've endured tantrums before, and I'll witness more in the future.
But that's not to say that the experience didn't take something out of me. We moms are hardwired to want our households to run smoothly. I want my children to grasp and appreciate my logic when I'm making wise decisions about their nutrition and sleep and behaviors to help them, not ruin their lives forever.
But here's the rub: a three-year-old is not hardwired to grasp and appreciate logic. A three-year-old is hardwired to believe that her mother is ruining her life forever by not taking her to McDonalds.
Whether they're toddlers or teenagers, we're going to ruffle our children's feathers. We're going to make decisions that they'll hate -- no, you can't have a smartphone; no, you can't go to that party; no, you can't eat however many cookies you'd like -- because we love them. We love our kids enough to take the brunt of their frustration and displeasure because we know it's more important to give our children what they need, not what they want, even when they can't see the distinction between the two.
It's not easy, but nobody ever said motherhood would be easy. Glorious and exhausting and rewarding and challenging -- yes, those descriptions are all apt. But easy? Not so much.
After taking care of sick children for the bulk of last week, I finally succumbed to a nasty illness yesterday and remained bedridden, unable to stand without crumpling to the ground with dizziness and nausea. This morning, Mother's Day, my daughters poked their heads into my room to deliver the special gifts they had painstakingly crafted: a pipe cleaner necklace with felt cut-out beads, a painted canvas, and a picture frame made out of popsicle sticks.
I see the love behind these gifts, despite the rough edges and crude craftsmanship. I see how they poured out their time and energy to bless me. Their gifts are precious to me.
One day, our children will look back over their childhoods and they'll discern the deep love behind our gifts, too -- those gifts of consistent love as we parent out of principle, not merely out of convenience.
Enjoy humor, hope, and encouragement for moms: Then I Became a Mother. Available in Kindle and paperback editions.