by Elizabeth McBride
Getting a 5-year-old out the door on time is hard. Remembering to be both supportive and firm is even harder. A few mornings ago, as we were getting close to time to leave for school, my daughter’s sloth-like approach to teeth brushing ensued. Naturally, a force of wills began. She flailed wildly to exert her control.
She flung her new electric toothbrush, and it landed in the covered Kitty litter box on the bathroom floor. The clay particles clung to its surface, and there was just no way to salvage that. I was mad.
And then I overreacted; my frustrations exploded. I yelled and told my daughter that she had to calm down because it was a small space, and I worried she would hurt herself. An electronic toothbrush was a silly thing to be upset about, but my frustration was building since bedtime routine the night before.
I carried my daughter out of the bathroom and sat her down. At this point, tears were running down her face. She said, “I can’t help it. My systems are in the wrong place!”
With that, I hugged her and started to cry—I said, “I’m so sorry, Mommy was wrong to get so upset! Your systems are in the perfect place—it’s just that bathroom is too small!”
That made her laugh. Inside, I felt awful because of my short temper. Had she thought that there was something wrong with her?
This situation reminded me of my childhood. My parents yelled, and I internalized it and told myself that my systems were wrong.
I gave her a big hug, and we said aloud, “My systems are in the perfect place, and I’m perfect the way I am.”
I don’t know if this mantra will have weight—but it’s a good reminder to remember that parenting is complex, and it’s too easy to lose your cool, and your reactions have consequences.
I googled “Prayers for moms who lose their sh*t,” and I discovered this quote from the blog “Scary Mommy.”
“We are entitled to bad days, and our children need to see us as humans. Humans who mess up have to apologize and show weakness and vulnerability. We want our kids to see these things now, in the safety of their loving home, so [they] know it is okay for them to mess up and own it and move forward too.”
For parents and children who are struggling, let us remember that our systems are in the right place, and as beloved children of God, we are forgiven and can start again.
Elizabeth McBride is on staff of Women of the ELCA and everyday learns more about what it means to love and be loved.