The Day My Kids Saw Me Cry

It was the letter, definitely the letter – but it was also everything that led up to the letter.

It was that our kitchen sink smelled like actual garbage when I got home, that the new puppy tee teed on the rug – again, that I am late or behind on about three hundred and fifty tasks most of which I didn’t even touch. And that was just today. It was the fact that I am wrestling down some lies that I’ve been believing for a good long while now…and the Liar doesn’t appreciate those shenanigans and isn’t going down without a fight.

You are a bad mother. 

That’s one of his faves. It always resurfaces somewhere, somehow. Almost daily I’m beating that sucker down with prayers and Scripture and terrible TV shows.

Today, I got a note from the school informing me that my child had been tardy six times and I may, therefore, be turned over to the authorities for a consistent inability to get my kid to school on time.

Let me stop here and say that this is not a forum for critiquing the public school system or my kids’ school in particular. We love our school. That’s not what this is about. Anyway…

Six tardies (tardies can also be early check-outs). I can tell you what each of them were exactly:

  1. Marilee’s 5 year old well visit that I forgot to get an excuse for. Can you not even remember to get a piece of paper, woman? You are a forgetful mother. 
  2. Marilee called and said she was feeling sick. This never happens. She is the least dramatic of my three children in the area of physical malady – I checked her out. I probably should’ve sent in an excuse but I’m always confused about what they accept as an excuse and what they don’t. Why can’t you just follow the rules? You are a rebellious mother. 
  3. Josh was out of town for two weeks, and I was 3 minutes late two days of those two weeks. You can’t even get your kids to school on time. You are a lazy mother. 
  4. See 3.
  5. We were in a car accident (which was my fault) about 2 blocks from the school. My sister saw us, transferred the kids to the car, and got them to school – 3 minutes late. Tardy. You have too much in your head. You are so distracted you can’t even keep your kids safe. Your sister had to rescue you because she is a better mother than you are. You are an irresponsible mother. 
  6. I checked my kids out at 2:00 pm. Marilee (the one who brought home the letter) missed nap. The end. Adelle missed recess and a Social Living worksheet that she filled out at home. The looks on their faces when I checked them out, though – so fun. This one I feel less guilty about, honestly. Whatever – they’re my kids. They make great grades. They are well-behaved, and all of our “tardies” combined add up to less than 2 hours of missed instructional time. So, I’m standing my ground on this one! (Also, when I checked them out, I didn’t realize that so many tardies had accumulated.)

I was retelling all of this to Josh, and I just lost it. I mean, ugly cried lost it. And the truth is I haven’t lost it very many times over the past year. Now that my hormones are stable and functioning properly, I really don’t cry…ever. But this had been building and the words just tumbled out of my mouth and onto the cold, tile floor, “I am a terrible mother.”

It didn’t take long for my kids to hone in on the strange noise coming from the kitchen. The looks on their faces were sheer horror, mild entertainment, and absolute astonishment that…duh, duh, duh…Mommy is a human. After staring awkwardly for a few minutes and asking the not obvious at all question, “Are you crying,” and getting the affirmative answer to that question, they all hugged me. Jude said, “But you’re still my best Mommy, right?” Marilee forgot about it after 5 seconds. And Adelle asked me questions about this strange crying Mommy anomaly for the rest of the evening. I just told her I was having a hard day and needed to cry about it – which was the truth.

Now, let me stop here and say that I know that the voice that speaks so harshly to me is not the one of Truth. I understand this fully. Also, please note that the Liar doesn’t take us to the worst description of ourselves, necessarily, “I am a terrible mother.” No, he just slowly and consistently plants less severe versions of the lie in our hearts. Eventually, we take it to the extreme without much pushing. We, most of us I mean. There are some women who think very highly of themselves and their general mothering skills. They never appear insecure and offer their mothering advice freely, as though it is a gift to the rest of us.

If you are one of those people, I don’t really know how to be friends with you.

Kidding.

Mostly.

In all honesty, though – each and every one of us battles a deep insecurity. Even the super-moms. I promise. It’s true. I’ve interacted with women enough to know that even though our insecurities may look vastly different, they are still glaringly present if you just lean in a bit.

And what I wanted to do was let them all watch TV until they fell asleep. I wanted to run away, to forget that I did, in fact, in some ways – mess up. Forget that there will be constant and steady reminders for the rest of my life that I have failed, will fail, will keep on failing into infinity and beyond.

Instead, I helped Marilee and Adelle with their homework – like I always do and remembered that good mamas help their kids with their homework.

I sat in the front yard with them while they fought dragons. I reminded Marilee and Jude not to fly down the driveway because cars come flying down our road fast enough to wipe one of them out no probs. I remembered that good mamas do things like that.

I grabbed Adelle’s little face when she said she wasn’t helping enough because Josh is gone for the night and made her hear me say, “You are eight. It’s not your job to be Daddy. You are a great helper, and I have got things taken care of.” I remembered good mamas know when their kids are feeling unsafe or insecure.

We picked up Johnny’s pizza and ate outside together. I helped them work out fights. I changed the sheets on a bed that smelled very much like tee tee that has been there for who knows how long. I read Little House on the Prairie while they colored pictures on my bedroom floor. I bathed the dogs and let them get out of bed to watch me. I made sure they brushed their teeth and went to the bathroom. I didn’t sigh when they asked for water. I let Jude fall asleep in my bed because he handles the whole all alone thing pretty well most of the time, but also, he notices that he’s the one without a bedmate. Good mamas see all of those things. Good mamas do those kinds of things.

What I’m trying to say to you is that sometimes we need to check our reality. I read a chapter in Girl, Wash Your Face about this very thing today. It’s okay to be aware of the ways you messed up today – or over the entire school year. (160ish days….and I’m “negligent” because they were 5 minutes late for SIX of those. It’s whatever.) But we need to also be aware of the ways God has empowered us to be incredible mothers. My list won’t look the same as yours and yours won’t look the same as mine. That’s okay – but we have a list. You have a list. Don’t let the Liar convince you otherwise.

And don’t be afraid to have a bad day in front of your kids. The fact that they saw me meltdown but not run away (literally, mentally, or emotionally) might just have a far greater impact than if they never knew anything was wrong to begin with.

Tomorrow, I’ll call the school and beg God to help me be gracious and not cranky. I’ll ask them what I can do to be sure this doesn’t go any further. I’ll get them the doctor’s excuse and bring them my ticket to prove that we were, in fact, in a wreck. 

But I am so not apologizing for the snow cones!

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