I Blew It Again
It was one of those moments where your kid complains one more time in such a way that you feel like you literally cannot handle it anymore.
In this case, it started with laundry. She and her sister had to put their laundry away. No big deal— they do it all the time. It’s not a punishment, it’s just the way life goes: You wear clothes, they get dirty, you wash them, then you put them away. Right? Nooooo problem.
Except that it is a problem. Every. Single. Time. With her. Every single time she is asked to do a chore, she complains or gets grumpy with her siblings or starts crying and stomping around the house as though her life is so completely terrible and everything is just soooo unfair.
And this is the reaction we get for vacuuming and for dusting and for sweeping and mopping, and for cleaning the bathroom or even just making her bed. It’s all terrible, it’s all unfair, it’s all unendurable.
And last week had been a particularly complaint-infused week with her.
And so, when I was at the other end of the house and heard her lose her cool and start screaming at her sister about the details of how they would work through the laundry situation together, I wasn’t surprised. When she sent her sister away and insisted on sifting through the laundry pile by herself, I was annoyed but thought “Whatever. Just do what you gotta do, I guess.” When I asked the sent-away-sister for details on what exactly went awry in there and she explained it to me, I did what most moms do: I weeded through the story and tried to make sense of what actually really went down (versus which parts of that version of the story were simply sent-away-sister trying to make herself look good and innocent). And then when Shouting Sister came out of the room, face scrunched up, eyes narrowed, arms crossed over her chest, sitting on the edge of the backside of the couch, still huffing and puffing, I asked for her side of the story. She told me her version and then I was able to get a clearer picture of how their altercation really went down.
As usual, they both were to blame on some level: the one for being unwilling to compromise with an already volatile, explosively emotional subject, the other for being overly dramatic about it all from the get-go.
So I chided the uncompromising, “aren’t I so good and innocent” one for being too calloused and uncompromising and then I informed the Screaming One that her behavior was, from start to finish, completely unreasonable.
So far, so good. I was remaining calm and didn’t even feel particularly bothered by the whole scenario. Yay me!, right?
And then she kicked the back of my couch as hard as she could in utter exasperation at the “obvious unfairness” of it all.
And that’s when I blew it. That’s when I screamed at the top of my lungs, hurling all my frustration (laced with expletives) at her.
“Do NOT kick my furniture!!!” I shouted as loud as I could, pointing at her with my forefinger and looking her straight in the eye. “You know what?!?! I am SO SICK of EVERYONE in the house having to tiptoe around you and try to keep YOU calm just because you are so RIDICULOUS in how you respond to BASIC chores around here! It is NOT FAIR. You OVERREACT to EVERYTHING you are asked to do and it’s totally RIDICULOUS! It needs to STOP! All these chores are not PUNISHMENTS. They aren’t anything BAD happening to you— it’s just LIFE!! Okay?! It’s called BEING A REAL LIFE PERSON!!!!” And blah bah blah… My over-emotional, completely hypocritical rampage continued for a bit. I’m honestly not even sure where the curse words fit into all that, I just know I definitely used them to color my entire monologue as a way to demonstrate to her how very upset I was.
Not good. Not good at all.
Clearly, I didn’t handle it well. Yes, she needed to be spoken to about her habitually inappropriate, overly- reactionary responses to the various chores she is asked to do— but not like that. Not with such volume. Not peppered with so many swear words. Not in front of her sister. And not in such an immature, reactionary way. And certainly not with such shame woven in there.
Even as I was in the midst of the unleashing my temper tantrum, I knew I wasn’t handling it well. I felt terrible. Sick with regret.
I left the room to go cool off in the bathroom and get my head screwed on straight again. A few minutes after I hid out in the bathroom, my other daughter came in and courageously scolded me, through tears, for the way I had mistreated her sister. Of course I already knew it and readily agreed. I apologized to her and assured her I would apologize to her sister as well. I was still fuming, still taking deep breaths to try to settle myself down, but I knew enough to absolutely recognize that I was in the wrong in how I handled that whole scenario.
Once my blood pressure was back to normal and I felt capable of controlling myself again, I emerged from my cave. I came out to find the Screaming One still washing the dishes (which I had tasked her with as a bit of a “so there!” kind of thing), and cautiously approached her. She silently stepped away from me, unwilling to look at me. It was clear she wanted nothing to do with me or my words or hugs. Respectful of her boundaries, yet still determined to apologize as soon as possible, I kept my distance but told her I was sorry for yelling at her like that and admitted that it was wrong of me to swear at her like I did. I confessed that my overreacted in my behavior and willingly pointed out how ironic that was (because “overreacting” was one of the primary things I was reaming her for). I did my best to make sure she knew I was sincere.
As one might expect, she wasn’t ready to forgive me right then. She merely gave a quick, silent, stone-faced nod and kept scrubbing at the sinkful of dirty dishes.
Several minutes later, however, after Daddy was home and the whole household was back to our more normal selves, I started acting silly and playful again, trying to get a laugh out of everyone. At first she ignored me and pretended not to notice, but after a minute or two of my antics, she actually looked at me again and gave me the gift of a smile and a chuckle.
And I knew we were going to be okay again.
*P.S. This story was told with both my daughters’ permission, in hopes that all you other mommas will not feel so alone and ashamed in your own struggles and failures. We’ve all been there! We’re all works in process in continuous need of God’s grace and strength each day. Let’s turn to Him, and to our loved ones, in humility and repentance– and then let’s get up again and move forward in freedom and grace!
[This is Day 12 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. This year my focus is on the role of STORY in our lives. Click here to get to the landing page with links to each post for this series.]
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What about you?
Can you relate? How do you attempt to repair rifts between yourself and your loved ones? In what area do you find yourself constantly in need of God’s grace and guidance?
Please share your story in the comment section below.