I keep this silent tally in my head:
“Oh, good job. You were patient and gentle with him. Good parenting moment.”
“That was bad…really bad. You lost your temper AGAIN. Bad parenting, right there!”
In my mind I see the scales, tipping back and forth, hoping that the good outweighs the bad and I can be deemed a “Good Mom” at the end of the day.
I hate this image. When I think about my faith, I know God doesn’t see those scales. He only sees the grace that covers all my mistakes and messed up moments.
I know that, in my head. But I find myself pleading in my terrible mothering moments, “Where is the grace?! I don’t see it. All I see is my failure and the fact that I can’t get it right…again.”
The other day was bad.
My son was struggling. It was one of those days where my husband and I look at each other and say, “The ADHD is strong today.”
We repeated directions over and over again.
We tried to refocus his attention.
We threatened and applied discipline.
Our voices rose again and again.
“You need to listen! Are you listening?! LISTEN!”
It was only 11:30am.
My nerves were frayed. I was desperately trying to hold on to the good, any moment of good; I wanted to tip the scales in the other direction, determined that I could make up for all the ugly moments of the morning.
We need to do something productive, some one on one time.
I asked him to help me make chili, stacking cans of beans and tomatoes on the counter in front of him.
“I want you to open these cans, just the beans. When you’ve opened the beans, pour them into this colander and drain them. Do not open any other cans.”
I turned my back to stir the onions on the stove and break up the hamburger.
Two minutes later, I glance over to check on him and see him pouring a can of tomatoes into the sink.
And I lost my ever-lovin’ mind.
I blew up at him, shouted at the top of my lungs.
I TOLD YOU BEANS, ONLY BEANS! DID YOU NOT HEAR ME SAY BEANS? I WANTED TO USE THAT TOMATO JUICE! YOU DON’T LISTEN! GO TO YOUR ROOM!
My heart was racing, my blood was boiling, and my stomach was plummeting.
I just screwed up again. Over a stupid can of tomatoes!
I felt like crap.
No, I felt worse than crap. I poured condemnation down on myself.
You are a shit mom.
I wanted to cry but I didn’t feel like I deserved it. My mind beat me over the head, whipping me with angry, hateful words, over and over and over again.
It wasn’t just that moment. It was the whole day. It was the last few days, the last week, all those other moments where I vowed I would keep my temper, be patient in the frustration, be better, be a Good Mom, but failed.
I was shaking as I browned the meat, my hand flipping the spatula automatically.
You are never going to get it right.
You are a terrible, horrible mother.
I was in a whirlwind of hateful self-talk. I saw the scales tip down, down, down.
I bowed my head and my heart wailed, Where is the grace? Help me, show me.
And He showed me, in a hands and feet way, the truth that I knew only in a cerebral, celestial level.
I called my son to me, taking deep steadying breaths as I asked him to sit down.
“I’m sorry I yelled at you. That was wrong of me. Will you forgive me?”
He said yes and my heart lifted at this undeserved gift.
Then, a moment of grace-filled insight.
“Do you ever feel like you can’t get things right, even though you keep trying and trying?”
He nodded, his eyes sad and wounded.
“I feel that way too. We both mess up, a lot. But we still love each other and when we forgive each other, we can keep moving forward.
I love you, and I want to do better as your mom.”
We talked a little longer, the words knitting our broken love-lines back together, the raw ends tender and achy.
Then my son went to play and I finished the chili.
You see? He whispered to my soul. The grace is in the relationship. It’s in the humbleness it takes to say “I screwed up.” It’s in going back to the beginning, again and again, to the source of your Love. It’s in the relationship.
I’m working on destroying the tally sheet, tipping over the scales, and striving to see and accept grace, for myself and my son, the grace that gives the gift of renewed relationships, that speaks this Life and Truth:
I forgive you.
I accept you.
I love you…
…good, bad, and everything in between.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saves a wretch like me.