Before I had children, I would often say I wished I could pop out a five-year-old. It wasn't lost on me the enormous work of rearing babies and small children. It is exhausting. Thankfully, it is also full of mercy and grace.
I think it may be the winter but this week my kids are being crazy. Crazy y'all! I don't really blame them, I want to put on my flip-flops and run around outside in the warm sunshine too. Colorado winters are not for the weak, which is why I should start packing.
So yesterday, I cried twice. First, in the car on the way to Bible study. Two key principles for raising my kids are teaching empathy and generosity. It doesn't really matter to me if we don't always eat healthy, their rooms are a disorganized mess, or they are filthy at the end of each day. All those things are surface issues that will become easier as they mature.
Cultivating a heart for others and an understanding that we are all called to serve one another, those skills will take a lifetime to build. And they are rare qualities. So when my kids are jerks, I take it personally.
From the time they got out of bed it was whining. "I don't want that cereal," "I don't want to wear that dress," "I will not go potty." Oh my word. I have failed at putting even an ounce of gratitude in these kids. Or at least that is how I felt in the moment.
The straw that broke the camels back? Finally we are in the car and I decide to be nice and play their favorite song, "Let it Go" from the Frozen movie. They like it loud so I turned the volume up. I was ready to improve our mood. And then from the backseat I hear a whiney, tear-strained voice, "turn it up!"
This was a moment to demonstrate mercy or maybe grace to my children. Instead, I turn off the radio and start to yell at them. Because you know a five and three year old totally understand lectures. I tell them they are ungrateful and that I am mad. I start to cry because I am frustrated and failing. I turn the radio to NPR and ignore their cries from the backseat. I hate being the worst mother.
The day continues to spiral downhill from here. I drop my son at school and my daughter and I head to a scheduled playdate with a friend. Visiting with my friend is improving my spirits and the kids are playing nicely together giving me a break.
Then it is time to go, but I miscalculated the time it would take to get from my friend's house to Jack's school. I am rushing out the door when Grace looks at me and says, "I need to go potty." Are. You. Kidding. Me!!!
Now is the moment you pick to decide to finally be interested in going potty. I tell her no and I make her poop in her pants. Thankfully, we are still wearing diapers while we work on potty training. She cries. I rush to school and am four minutes late. All the other parents are gone. Jack is the last kid.
I apologize to his teacher and ask how much money I owe her for being tardy and she says, "Everyone gets one get out of jail free card. Don't worry about it." Ah, mercy and grace. Then I bend down and hug Jack and tell him how very sorry I am for being late. We walk out of school and I again get down on his level and say, "Mommy was irresponsible. I am sorry I wasn't there on time." And my sweet boy looks at me and says, "It's okay mom. Everybody messes up sometimes." Mercy and grace.
We get home and I unload the kids and smell Gracie's diaper odor wafting out. I take her upstairs to change her and tell her, "I am sorry baby. I should have let you go potty." And she says, "It's okay. I'll go potty now." Mercy and grace. And then I cry for the second time.
My children do understand the beginnings of empathy. They may not understand it completely but they taught me a valuable lesson about showing mercy and offering grace.