In which we have small victories

“Switch Jammies” Night was quite a hit.

Joe was yelling his displeasure in the car. He wanted to play hockey and, mean old mum that I am, I would not allow it because we were late. I buckled him in his car seat while he shrieked and cried. Anne sat in her booster seat, fingers in her ears.

“Mum! Why don’t you YELL AT HIM and make him stop?”

I was close to yelling at him, I admit. I was flustered and tired. I am also 14 months pregnant and my fuse? It be short.

But when she said that, I saw how she had been yelling at him to stop things. How she had taken to slamming doors in his face and refusing to share her toys. How she was using intimidation to rule him, sighing like a martyr when she had to endure his very toddler-ness. Mirrors aren’t always pleasant, are they?  

And even though those things are normal, I don’t really like normal sometimes.

Instead, I paused the day. Who cares if I’m 5 minutes late? (Only me.) This is the nice part of being home in this season; I can always take the time for the moment at hand. It seems that tinies (and teenagers) rarely have their life crisis or “teaching opportunity” when it’s convenient.  A bit of margin to look in the mirror and admit that you’ve been handling things wrong, that it’s time for a course-correction is necessary.

So I talked Joe down off the ledge. He just needed to feel heard. He needed to know I was paying attention to him, that I was connected. Once I did that, he was fine. And he said “Sorry, Mummy, for yelling.”

Small victories. For us both.

I want my mothering to reflect the same love, freedom and wholeness that I receive from God. I want to parent them the way that God has parented me.

I don’t want to govern by fear or intimidation. I don’t want to make decisions because I’m afraid of what people will think or say about me or them. I yearn to be a voice of truth and passion, love and justice, giving them hands and hearts to serve instead of being the harried woman in the front seat, barking orders and threats.

I don’t want to be the worst kind of servant, the kind that heaves sighs from one’s feet like a hormonal teenager asked to empty the dishwasher, so that they always feel like the biggest inconvenience of my day. I want them to know that I delight in them, that there is nowhere I’d rather be than here, living life with them.

I want my life to be an example, a wide and straight path to follow for a generous life.

“I don’t yell at him, Anne, because yelling is wrong.”

There. I said it. And trust me, they hold me to it.

“If it’s wrong for you to yell at Joe, it’s wrong for me to yell at him, isn’t it? If I want you to use your words to love, then my words have to love, too.

There isn’t one right thing for kids and one right thing for adults, you know.

I know it’s wrong for him to yell but it would be just as wrong for me to yell right back, wouldn’t it?

I need to teach him a better way.”

She was thoughtful. (And Joe was listening.)

“Then I guess I shouldn’t yell at Joe, either?”

She turned to him and seriously informed him that she was sorry for yelling at him. And did he want to play Barbies when we got home?

Small victories. For us both.

(And, no, we don’t spank.)

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  • Jenn

    Yah for small victories! I’m realizing too that my daughter is one big mirror…of course she is her unique self but often her behaviours….especially the once I can’t stand….are um…well..mine! I guess she had to learn it somewhere…it’s scary, but also empowering how much influence we can have over our kids. I’d definitely rather her learn to be like Jesus than me….

    Oh and you might like the youtube link Simple mom has today on education…I read your post about home vs public schooling. It was a really good videa.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Thanks for the head’s up. I had missed that video – wow! (And yes, it’s humbling and empowering at the same time! Exactly!)

  • Jon Perrin

    Great article. I look forward to reading your first book!

  • Kristen

    Love this. Only, I wish it “worked” when I tried to talk down my toddler, when I tried to just encourage him back into sanity with love. It usually does not.
    But it’s all so true. And I think what convicted me was the whole bit on sighing. I find that I am often sighing, or inwardly rolling my eyes, and even if it’s not visible to my kids, I am sure the attitude comes out more often than not. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Well, it doesn’t work all of the time! Gotta be honest. It did that day (because he was not so mad about hockey as he was about not having my attention) but every day is different with different challenges, isn’t it!

  • Mandy

    You are a good mum!

    • Sarah Bessey

      With an even better best friend!

  • dayna

    Oh Sarah. Great post. Hit me in the gut. In all the best ways.
    My three year old has become a mirror beyond belief these days- and it hasn’t been pretty. I wish I could say that I have been able to change my behavior with the daily reflections she gives me. I have been trying but I don’t feel like I am measuring up. Every night (or multiple times a day) I find myself apologizing for “speaking harshly.”
    She watches and internalizes everything. And lately I have been doing my sharing of sighing and ugh- yelling. I don’t want my little girls to see me talking to their daddy or either of them in that way anymore.
    Thank you. Thank you for being such an authentic loving voice (His, really) to all of our hearts.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Love and peace for us both, Dayna. We are learning together.

      • Dayna

        So I came back over here from Stephanie’s (MM) link, and found that I still loved this post…no surprise there!
        I also felt my stomach turn as I read my comment about yelling etc, and then… a little peace upon realizing that we are doing better around here than we were a few weeks ago. More intentional patience and calm. Small victories indeed.
        Thanks again for staying real through the rough stuff.

  • jewelsntreasures

    Oh I LOVE this! Thanks for the reminder. God sure has been growing me as a parent lately. :)

  • JulieK

    That is sweet. You are so honest and truthful in your writing. I have noticed since becoming a mother that I pay more attention to what I do and how I “respond” to things (yes, I have a big bad habit of using the “martyr sigh” when I don’t like something!). I think being a mom is the single greatest catalyst toward changing who I am into something, well, hopefully better! :)

  • Jenn

    Thanks for the reminder :) sometimes the toddlerness of my two overwhelms me and I react differently than I wish I had, it’s encouraging to know I’m not alone – because in the middle of it all you often feel alone!

    Oh and 14 months pregnant – I remember those days, so glad they are behind me! I realize this post is a couple of weeks old so unless you’ve already had the precious one you’re that much closer to snuggling a little one instead of trying to figure out how to get your belly where it needs to go :)

    Came over here from Metropolitan Mama!

  • Erin Adams

    I am glad Stephanie linked this on her tour this week! I read it back when you first posted it & thought it was powerful & convicting. But, I was full of baby in my arms & couldn’t comment.
    I don’t want my kids to feel like burdens! But, when I huff & sigh, that is pretty much what I am saying…
    Thanks Sarah!

  • Janelle – The Opinionated Mama

    Sarah! I so need this today! Thank you for your honesty and your beautifully written word. He spoke through you to me today.