We are all screwing up.
Every single one of us.
Even the moms on Instagram with five kids in fashionably coordinated outfits with a million+ followers who make homemade granola and have succulent wall gardens hanging in their kitchen.
They are screwing up too. I promise.
If I reflect back on all the ways I screwed it up with Eliana it almost makes me want to vomit. I had no clue you guys. No clue what I was doing. None of us do.
My biggest mistake was loving her but not doing things in love. I didn’t discipline in love. I set extremely high and sometimes harsh expectations for her and when she failed or disappointed me all I showed her was frustration. It was extremely unfair of me and exhausting for the both of us. She is a natural people pleaser just like me and I was slowly teaching her that I could never be pleased. I was slowly breaking her spirit.
And then I had Roma. Oh, Roma. God bless that child and her spirit. She changed me.
I know a lot of who I was after having Eliana was normal growth. It wasn’t that having her turned me into some hideous person it was just the process of figuring out life and new boundaries and burdens and blessings.
But today I finally felt a moment of peace and connection between the mother in me that has super high expectations and the mother in me that wants to love and nurture and give them every joy and pleasure in life.
We have a rule in our home: “When do we listen… The. First. Time.” If they don’t listen the first time then there’s a consequence. I don’t count. I don’t threaten. It’s just too exhausting. They don’t listen = consequence.
Needless to say Eliana and I had a situation where she didn’t listen then proceeded to have a poor attitude about chores. So I took away afternoon play with our neighbors who have two girls. Nothing insane in my opinion but…
She lost it. Like completely LOST IT. Her response was so visceral it was as if she had been physically slapped.
Now, I have no problem handling my children’s tears. I have a mean poker face and my mother heart can remain fairly unaffected. But she almost had me doubting myself.
Am I being too harsh?
Is taking away play a bad approach?
Should I just shrug this off?
Am I… Is she… What should I….?!?!
My brain goes into a million tangents all the while I’m reminding myself t
o not let dinner burn, make sure Lu doesn’t crawl into the dishwasher, and go and find Roma before she pees on the floor again. All this as I stand staring at Eliana’s gut wrenching sobs.
So I took a seat on the floor. And decided to mother from the ground up.
I grabbed Eliana and held her in my lap. I let her cry and sob and feel what she needed to feel which was mostly disappointment in her own actions (towards me) that resulted in losing a beloved privilege (playing with friends).
Her tears and frustration did not abate. She was breaking over something I thought to be fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
So I scooped her up and we laid on her bed and we talked it out some with more tears and what not. And this is where I saw a difference between old Melissa and current Melissa.
Old Melissa used to discipline with distance. Separation. It was a result of being angry and frustrated with the behavior and taking it personal instead of realizing I’m here to train and correct it. Now I discipline with love and connection. I can have high but realistic expectations. I can set firm boundaries and have strict rules. As long as I love her through it. Just loving her isn’t enough. I have to love her THROUGH it.
How often are we taught to send our children to their rooms when they disappoint us? Or to have them think about what they’ve done alone? Separating ourselves from our children when they are hurting (no matter if it’s of their own accord or not) is not ok.
This is not what God does to us. He doesn’t abandon us when we screw up. He doesn’t kick us to the curb and tell us to think about what we’ve done. Are there consequences? Always! But he holds us tight. He never lets go and he always always loves us fiercely through our greatest failures and mistakes.
I don’t know what prevented me from doing this when Eliana was little. Part of me felt that loving her so fiercely after making mistakes would make her soft and teach her that mistakes were ok. And there’s the problem with my thinking.
Mistakes ARE OK. Heaven help me. I was so lost in those early years.
Mistakes are even more than ok they are expected and a huge process in refining us to be better humans.
Needless to say I’ve done a much better job with giving all of my children a safe place to make mistakes. I still catch that inner voice of mine creeping up and out wanting to yell at them for being so human. But then I stop and remind myself of all the times that God has held me when I was broken or alone or saturated in my own filth. And then I sit down, look up at my broken child, and open my arms.
Love will teach them far greater things my friends. Far greater things.