I have a plaque hanging in my laundry room that I bought for a quarter at a garage sale years ago. It reads like this:
I will not have a temper tantrum, nor stomp across the floor
I will not pout, scream or shout, or kick against the door
I will not throw my food around, nor pick upon another
I'll always try to be real good, because I am the Mother.
The first time I read this, I laughed out loud. Over the years it has made me laugh lots of other times when I am hiding from my kids in the laundry room. I have cried over it too. The laundry room is my refuge (bizarely) because it is right off the kitchen (easy access) and becomes almost totally sound proof when I turn the overhead fan on. I used to hide in there when we were making Sophia "cry it out" so I couldn't hear her. I still go there when Livie is having an occasional temper tantrum or an irrational crying jag and I need to get the sound of angry child out of my ears and calm down. I take deep breaths and read my plaque and remind myself that I am the adult in this situation and better act like it.
The comfort of my plaque is the fact that some one else has felt like I often do and actually wrote it down. Kids can make me really angry -- well my kids, anyway. Last week at my MOPS group I was encouraged to hear our speaker, a marriage and family therapist and grandmother of 10, say that you never know how angry you can get until you have children. They frustrate our need for predictability, she said, and though they are very small, they are difficult to control. What makes me angry? Loud noises. Yelling and shrieking and crying that lasts a long time makes me, literally, crazy. And it doesn't matter how much I love my daughters; if there was a car alarm going off in the kitchen that would make me angry, too, probably angry enough to put a rock through its window. Obviously this impulse must be controlled when the source of the sound is a child.
This week I went to a healing prayer night at our church where women could come to be prayed over who needed emotional, physical or relational healing. I was supposed to be one of the prayers, not prayees, and open us in worship. Just before it started, I was flipping through my Bible and stopped on Psalm 31, which David wrote in distress, asking God to come to his rescue. It seemed perfect for the women who had gathered so I read it out loud. When I got to verse 21, though I almost started to giggle:
Praise be to the LORD,
for he showed me the wonders of his love
when I was in a city under siege.
In my alarm I said, "I am cut off from your sight!"
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I called to you for help.
I suddenly had a vision of myself, holed up in my laundry room fortress, my city under siege, with children banging on the door. How alone I feel in those moments! How outnumbered! Who sees me in this moment? Well, God does. And when I stop to listen, I hear him whisper that he still loves me even when I feel like I am failing at being the woman of the house.
I've been home for seven days in a row with a sick child. Livie was docile and loving the first few days, too sick to put up any kind of a fight and grateful for her loving mommy who let her watch DVDs in bed and made her banana sandwiches. But by yesterday, she was cranky and impossible to please. This morning she was downright hysterical. I, exhausted, bummed out at missing my MOPS this morning, lost my temper and yelled like a mental patient in the car on the way to drop Sophia off at school.
Then I looked over on the front seat and saw my plaque, which I had put in the car to read to my MOPS group this morning, to encourage them, if I had somehow been able to attend. "I'll always try to be real good, because I am the Mother." I got out of the car and apologized to my daughters, one who graciously forgave me and one who is too young to understand.
And as soon as I got home, I spent a little time in the back yard with my Father, who doesn't have to try to be real good. He is already. He graciously forgave me too, and directed me to the last verse of Psalm 31: "Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord." Maybe I should hang that in my laundry room too.