Just a few minutes ago as I was putting my 3 1/2 year-old down for nap, giving her the normal hugs and kisses and pulling up the sheets, she said something to me that made my heart ache.
“Mommy, don’t be sad anymore, ok?”
And last night’s shameful temper-tantrum that this mama threw came flooding back to my own memory. The harsh words I said when things weren’t going my way. The yelling at my innocent children that occurred when I was trying to fix a personal, internal mess. You see, I sometimes have this selfish, obsessive, “I MUST fix this NOW” mentality when I feel overwhelmed and out of control. Last night it reared it’s ugly head and I am not proud to say that I let my sinful, self-centered attitude rule my behavior. And my children witnessed it. And my sweet little Lily, wide-eyed and loving, hasn’t forgotten.
Why was I sad?
Because I let my feelings of insecurity, doubt, self-pity and isolation overwhelm me. In an attempt to have a “fun evening” eating popcorn and watching clips with the girls of their recent church play performance with them, I completely failed – or I felt that I did. My husband was working late so I had been preparing them for a fun evening together, and they were really looking forward to it. I have been very busy and preoccupied with daily to-do’s and I was feeling that I hadn’t given them much quality time lately. So I wanted to make them feel special by letting them stay up late and watch videos and eat popcorn. As I was trying to set up my digital camera to play on the TV, I could not manage to get the memory card to play on the big screen – I still don’t know what I was doing wrong. I got frustrated with my inability to fix it, and spent an hour and a half reloading the memory card, switching cords, searching for a different way… all the while my children were hyper and excited, and all I did was snap at them and bark at them, eventually sending them upstairs to play because I had completely lost it. It was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and I felt like a failure, unable to do things right “as usual” (what Satan has been wanting me to believe about myself lately). Completely isolated, ashamed, and overwhelmed, I sat on the floor and cried. And little Lily saw it.
Our Emotional State Affects Our Children
I didn’t realize that Lily had witnessed so much. Her perceptiveness amazes me. At 3 1/2, she knew that her Mommy was upset, and she empathized, concerned that something was wrong. Who knows how she perceived my attitude, except I know that it affected her so much that she went to bed worried about me last night, and was still worried about me today. I realize now that it must have been an anxious time for her, not knowing why Mommy was sad, and at that moment, she probably lost some of the security she normally feels when Mommy “has it all together.”
Children learn how to treat others by watching how their family treats each other. Did my actions last night show her how to deal with insecurity and feelings of being overwhelmed? Most definitely not. She saw me snap and bark at her and her sister and baby brother in my anger and insecurity with myself.
Children can internalize feelings of shame, insecurity, anger, and fearfulness when we fail to show them grace, forgiveness, acceptance and love. In our weak moments as humans, we can easily forget that fact. My children experienced feelings of inadequacy and anxiety when I yelled at them.
When You Feel Like Giving Up
It’s in times like this that I want to just give up. I feel like a complete failure. It’s what Satan would have me believe.
What good am I doing by being the primary influence on my children, if I’m not doing it well?
What if my many, many, MANY mistakes and failures harm them for life?
Are they really learning good things from me?
What if other teachers, mentors, or role models could do a better job?
Last night I felt like giving up. I had forgotten my purpose as a mom. I didn’t call on God’s love for me and the grace He offers. I kicked myself, forgetting my value and worth in God’s eyes.
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My downfall wasn’t the mistakes I made in front of my children, or the way I treated them. God knows my sinful human nature, and my behavior didn’t surprise Him one bit. These children are a gift from Him, and He knew me before He placed them into my care.
My mistake was the fact that I did not remember God’s promises to me, and to lean on Him for my strength to overcome. Had my children witnessed me on my knees in that moment, perhaps it wouldn’t have been such a bad example for them to follow or to internalize after all.
Today is a new day. If you’ve made mistakes lately, ask God to forgive you and help you to remember to lean on Him in your weakness. Let your children see your weaknesses, and how you gain strength from God during trials. Cause we all have them! Let them see your faith. Let them see you on your knees in prayer. I will be praying with Lily when she wakes from nap today.