I don’t yell at my kids nearly as much as I used to.
I thought about that yesterday after an epic volcanic meltdown. I blasted out a child at full volume for refusing to let a sibling into the house, even after said sibling repeatedly rang the doorbell and woke me up from my nap.
I needed that nap desperately, not in a haha-just-give-me-wine-and-sleep way. I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep for a week, and by yesterday I was physically exhausted and mentally sluggish. I’d spent the morning and early afternoon running kids to their classes, checking up on school assignments, and getting supper underway. I fell into bed hoping for some sleep to make it through till evening. To be awakened by kids being stupid to each other was simply beyond my capacity to handle rationally.
I curbed myself halfway through and admitted I was overreacting. But I still yelled some more. Later, after I’d calmed down, I fully apologized. I was used to the apology stage: I apologized much more often to my children when they were younger.
And that’s when I realized that it had been a while since I’d let loose like that.
The reasons why I’ve calmed down since those early days? Well, God’s grace has done a great deal toward smoothing the rough edges of my fear and anxiety. Also, age does bring wisdom. I see how some of my kids are afraid to approach me with a problem because they don’t know how I’m going to react, and that’s a hefty motivation to keep my temper in check and keep a grip on patience.
But the major reasons why I no longer have almost-daily meltdowns, why I’m able to laugh more, and why I can meet my children with patience instead of frustration?
- I usually get a full night’s sleep.
- My children are no longer babies or toddlers who constantly need me.
That’s the biggest difference in my life. I remember the early years at Bible studies or with other moms; it was a very common lament that “God has really shown me how sinful I am now that I have kids.” I see now that we could have just as accurately said, “I now see that I don’t function well with sleep deprivation and underlings who aren’t self-sufficient. God is not calling me to be a spy.”
I learned a lot during those years: (imperfect) self-control, understanding who my child is, and the need to apologize for my behavior even if I was right in principle. I learned to be the adult, the one who has to rise above the moment and find a way to peace. Now that my own children are easing into their older years, I can see glimpses of a more equal relationship, where they can tell their side, hear mine, and we can come to a resolution. I’m glad I’ve been aiming toward this stage all along.
I just wish I hadn’t torn myself up inside during those younger years.
There are plenty of writers and teachers who are happy to lecture moms on how they should be better. I accepted the opinion that I was I hopelessly sinful person for getting tired of meeting needs, listening to monotonous conversations, and settling utterly stupid fights — all on about two days’ less sleep than I honestly needed.
I prayed for forgiveness and grace, when what I really needed was sleep and a vacation without kids.
The young-kid years are hard. You’re not going to get through them unscathed. But when you start to think about how fundamentally flawed you are, as a person and a mother, just remind yourself:
You’re tired. You’re stretched thin. You don’t get enough sleep. Your children don’t ever give you a break.
Life will ease up in a few years. Meanwhile, learn to apologize, don’t be too hard on yourself, and get sleep whenever you can.