Without meaning to, without even realizing what I’m about to do, I start screaming so loud I scare even myself. As the words, “Stop, just stop, you need to stop,” are coming out of my mouth, they are also playing, on repeat, quietly in my head, Stop, just stop, you need to stop. But I can’t stop. I ignore the admonishing words in my head and continuing screaming. Her face before me is in utter terror, tears are running down her cheeks. I hear her little brother start to cry in the other room, appropriately scared of his raging mother.
The day started just like any other, there was no foreshadowing of this meltdown, no warning signal, no red flags–it was not a dark and stormy night. I think this is why we were all so frightened.
Where did this come from?
I woke long before the kids did. I got to read and write and wordle in peace. My coffee was hot and I had an idea for an essay (not this one). We had a fun day planned–a play date at the park, my small group getting together later that night–the weather was set to be amazing. Breakfast was a breeze and the kids were even playing happily afterwards while I folded laundry and made my bed.
Where did this come from?
I felt myself begin to be annoyed when she joined me at my tiny bathroom sink, plopping her own makeup bag down beside mine. I was listening to my favorite podcast and her constant chatter, her questions and nonsense sentences, was causing me to pause it every other second. I remained calm though, engaging her just enough, while also paying attention to what was being said in my ears.
Things started falling apart when Wiley stuck his hand in his own poop while I was changing his diaper. Yuck. But I breathed deeply, washed both of our hands, and went to get dressed. I pulled on my favorite jeans and noticed, again, that they were feeling too tight.
I stopped breastfeeding two months ago and my metabolism and hormones are still adjusting. I’ve also been working out and gaining muscle. So my pants don’t fit like they used to or how I want them to. They’re uncomfortable, I’m uncomfortable, I have “nothing to wear.” I don’t want to go buy the same pair of pants in a bigger size, so I keep pulling them on and I keep berating myself each time I do. Promising to eat better, sleep longer, drink more water; promising myself that I’ll stop considering running and actually do it.
That day pulling on uncomfortable, too tight pants was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I tripped over a toy Isla had left out and calmly called her into my room to clean up before moving on to something else (something expected of her everyday) and I’m met with questioning and whining and but mom I’m not done yet, (if you’re wondering when this kind of language starts, it’s three).
And that’s when, without meaning to, without even realizing what I’m about to do, I start screaming so loud I scare even myself. As the words, “Stop, just stop, you need to stop,” are coming out of my mouth, they are also playing, on repeat, quietly in my head, Stop, just stop, you need to stop. But I can’t stop. I ignore the admonishing words in my head and continuing screaming. Her face before me is in utter terror, tears are running down her cheeks. I hear her little brother start to cry in the other room, appropriately scared of his raging mother.
As soon as I am able to calm down, I pull her into a hug. Sinking to my knees I tell her how sorry I am for losing my temper. I work so hard to just apologize, no I’m sorry, but’s. I explain to her how I am feeling–frustrated, angry, rushed and behind–but that no matter how I am feeling it is never okay for me to yell like that. Nothing she did or does warrants that kind of behavior from me, ever.
It is hard to get those words out. It is hard to admit to my child that I was wrong, so, so wrong. It is hard to not justify my behavior by pointing out her behavior too. It is hard to say only I’m sorry, just I’m sorry, no I’m sorry, but’s.
I recently had this realization that if I want to be known as someone who apologizes (and I do), I have to actually apologize. Seems obvious, but it’s so much easier to have ideals for yourself without actually holding yourself to them. It’s easy to look at yourself through rose colored glasses, believing the best and justifying the worst.
A few weeks ago I woke up after a fun night out and felt a twinge of shame over something I said to a friend. He had been explaining his new diet and without thinking I was critical of it and him. They were jokes, made in jest, and he didn’t seem hurt by them, but I have been on the receiving end of someone’s jokes after I’ve made a positive change–prioritizing exercise, eating cleaner, or not drinking as much. And I want to be a person who champions others when they make healthy decisions, not someone who makes jokes at their expense.
I want to be someone who is known for apologizing when they mess up, which means I actually have to apologize when I mess up.
I think before this happened I really just wanted to be someone who never had to apologize because she never messed up–which, if I’m being honest, is still my desire–but waking up with that shame hanging over my head, I knew I could either face it head on or shove it away and forever feel guilty. Forever wonder if I hurt his feelings.
So I texted him and apologized for being a jerk. I asked for his forgiveness and he happily offered it.
Long before having Isla, I had ideals for the kind of mother I would be. Kind–of course– gracious, forgiving, patient, long suffering, a clear representation of Jesus and the mercy of God in my kids’ lives. Talk about pressure! I didn’t want to be angry or harsh, I didn’t want my children to ever feel like an inconvenience or a burden. I wanted to be the kind of mother my children, especially my daughter, felt comfortable telling anything to. I never wanted to be a mother that yells.
But here I am. All of those–the good and the bad.
I am patient a lot of the time, and I am inpatient a lot of the time. I am mostly kind, but sometimes I am harsh. I am a mother who listens, who tries her damndest to lead with love.
And I am a mother who yells.
What I am realizing is that even more than never yelling, I want to be a mother who apologizes. Who takes true accountability for her actions. A mother who knows she is not perfect and does not come across that way to her children.
Which means, just like with my friend, I have to actually apologize, I have to actually take true accountability for my actions. I have to actually show my children how imperfect I am by owning it, by never covering it up.
I actually yelled three times at my kids that day. Each time I felt more and more ashamed, saddened by my own self most of all. Finally after the third time I strapped my kids into the car, shut the doors, and called my husband. In tears I told him what I had done, how I had scared us all, how I felt unmanageable, uncontrollable, how stupid and silly and small I felt for being such a bad mother. In admitting to another the darkest parts of me on that day, the day turned around. He met me with grace and understanding, a place of true love even though I was yelling at his children too, possibly scarring them for life.
And then I went and bought bigger pants.
I don’t know what the moral of this story is or why I’m even telling it, except to say if you are a mother not able to match up to the ideals you set for yourself before becoming one, you are not alone. From one angry-but-trying-not-to-be mama to another, you are not alone. And there is great healing in knowing that. There is great healing in apologizing, just apologizing, no I’m sorry, but’s. There is great healing in admitting to yourself and others that you are not perfect. There is great healing in being seen by your children, your husband, a friend.
And there is great healing in buying the bigger pants.