Lately, I had been great with my kids.
I hadn't felt the need to go out to the garage to sit on the step and breathe while holding my head in my hands for days, and I certainly hadn't resorted to clapping my hands really loudly and saying things like, "Guys! Guys! Guys! Be NICE to each other! COME ON!" for weeks. (OK, weeks could be stretching it, but I was feeling the love and I was on a roll).
I had been exhibiting some award-winning behaviors, frankly. When Isaac and I put together his Lego Tie Fighter, I very patiently watched him do most of it. When Elijah kept banging around in his room far into the night, I used a very normal voice and gently tucked him back in, and when he wanted to say the Lord's Prayer, I smiled and didn't even think of saying, "Ohhhhhh, it's waaaaaaay too late for that." When Ben screamed at me because Daddy was putting him to bed and not Mommy, I agreed with him that Mommy is really great at reading stories, and singing those songs that I don't know. Gentle voice, no clapping of the hands.
I had been winning.
But at breakfast yesterday morning, that all changed.
Perhaps it was their sweet way of speaking to one another:
You're a dukie!
I'm NOT a dukie!
Yes you are.
I'M NOT A DUKIE! (YES YOU ARE) I'M NOT! I'M NOT! I'M NOT! (YES YOU ARE YES YOU ARE YES YOU ARE)
Or perhaps it was the over-touching. I know you're supposed to love it when your kids touch you all the time, because they're not going to do that when they're 15, but a 4-year-old head butting me over and over again when my back is turned really just makes me feel insane.
Or maybe it was the demanding. Or the picky food habits. Or the getting up too early.
At some point at breakfast yesterday, I clapped my hands, really loudly. Seriously, like what you do when your dog refuses to poop and it's raining and you're wearing socks without shoes. My voice got very loud, and I actually said,
"GUYS! I AM SO SICK OF YOU YELLING AT EACH OTHER AND BEING MEAN TO EACH OTHER! IT'S TIME FOR A NEW STORY! I'M SICK OF THIS STORY! IT'S BORING!"
And when Mary got done with her workout and walked into the kitchen, I snapped at her about how the breakfast smoothie that she made for me was gross because it had too much ginger in it. (I did not clap my hands at her, which I felt good about.)
Getting louder than your kids is just teaching them that yelling is how you solve problems around here. I know this. And clapping your hands really loudly probably should be reserved for the dog. I know this, too. And when your wife makes you breakfast, the correct response is, "Thank you."
I was losing.
So, walk with me to my garage and sit with me on the step as I breathe in and breathe out. And talk to me. Here's what you'd say to me, because you're wise and you haven't just clapped your hands like a power-hungry despot.
Here's the deal: Wins and losses. Take them both, because you are a human being, and you're going to have them both. Some days are not your days. Some days you resort to clapping your hands. Some days, you get so sick of the story that you yell. And some days, you're going to be gentle and sweet and patient. Wins and losses. It's OK.
Maybe that's the wrong language. Maybe we shouldn't think about it as wins and losses, because that sounds too much like a competition, and parenting isn't a competition. But I like it. Wins and losses. I like using my gentle voice when I am upset, and then thinking, Hey! I did it. That was a win. And there is something gratifying about saying, OK, I clapped my hands -- really loudly -- and that was a loss. But that's not who I want to be, so I can change.
Wins and losses.
Now, let's walk back into that kitchen and clean those dishes. And while we're doing that, let's marshall our resources so that we can be the kind of people we want to be, most of the time. For me, mostly, it's remembering:
1. I am not God.
2. New mercies every morning.
3. My kids are great and so am I, we just clap our hands sometimes when we're needy.
4. My wife makes me breakfast smoothies, which is really awesome.
We're in it together, friends. Keep going today. Wins and losses.
This post originally appeared on The Actual Pastor.
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