The other evening I was scrambling to finish up some work for a Bible study thing I do. And my sons were arguing because this one took that one’s LEGO sword and that one took this one’s new Hex bug. And then another one tattled because this one called him Stupid. One of them was copying everything another one said and playing a noisy computer game. The two in the LEGO/Hex impasse were chasing each other around the kitchen, so the dog was barking, barking, barking at them.
It was just too much. It was noise overload for my ears and my brain. The annoyance churned within me until I exploded. “Stop it!” I screamed. “I am doing important Bible study work, and you are driving me completely insane!!”
Because, obviously, nothing says I’m a Bible study leader like screaming at your kids.
Oh how I wish I could tell you this is an unusual occurrence. But this sort of thing happens more often than I’d prefer to admit. I like to read a little devotion with the children before they get on the bus in the mornings. So I will give them a kind, cheery warning, “Hey, boys. Brush your teeth and put your shoes on. We’re doing devotions in 5 minutes.” But instead of hurrying to get ready, they get lost in their bedrooms doing who-knows-what. Four minutes later, I haven’t heard anyone brushing his teeth and shoes without feet in them are still scattered near the front door. A little less kindly, I shout, “Devotions in one minute! Better hurry up!” Finally, two minutes after I wanted to begin our devotion time, my face is turning red and I’m yelling throughout the house, “Where are you? What are you doing? We’re supposed to be reading the BIBLE now!!!!”
Or at bedtime, I want to hug and love on and pray with them before they fall asleep. But it’s totally all whack-a-mole in my house. This one realizes he forgot to take his night-time medicine; and while he’s down in the kitchen taking it, another boy is suddenly overcome by dire thirst and must get a drink or he will surely die. Another son cannot find his iPod and he cannot possibly sleep without blasting TobyMac’s Favorite Song, so he retraces his steps to find the iPod. And after he traipses all over the house, looking in every spot his body has touched in the past three hours, he finds it under a giant stuffed frog on his bed. On.His.BED! And just when I am ready to tuck them in, I look down and see that a kid is still wearing blue jeans, completely oblivious that I’ve been asking them to get ready for bed. “Oh, it’s bedtime?” I cannot even. I just cannot.
And by this time, I have completely lost my ever-loving mind. When finally, they are all in their beds, I am so frazzled there is no way I can form prayerful words. Because really, after you’ve just screamed, “I do not care what pajamas you wear. Just put something on and get into your bed! And no, you do not need another drink; you will not die of thirst before morning!” — after all that screaming, it is hard to flip a switch and be all worshipful and sincere in praying. So I tell one of them to pray. And every time – every.single.time – a kid will start with, “Thank you, God, that we had a good day and had fun this evening.” And my mouth will drop open and I will wonder how in the wide world I missed the fun we have all been having because I wouldn’t think that a red-faced, wild-haired, arm-waving, screaming momma would be all that much fun. But what do I know?
I really want to wrap this up with some warm, fuzzy feelings and helpful advice – how to stop screaming at your children during deeply meaningful spiritual moments in five easy steps. But I got nothin’. I can only tell you what I’m doing in all my falling-down, getting-back-up tattered glory.
So here’s what I’m doing — each day, I’m trying to remember to take a time-out in my room when I feel the anger and annoyance building up inside me. I am trying my best to take deep breaths and speak quietly whenever I feel like I’m about to erupt. I’m praying for a kind and gentle spirit. I’m trying to put my children above my agenda or to-do list or my own comfort, trying to put my children above the ideal of a peaceful, easy evening. And when I mess up and lose it, I’m falling into grace. And then I apologize and try again.
And I pray with all my heart that God will bridge the gap between all my imperfections and the kind of mother my children deserve. And that’s the best I can do for now. And if you’re struggling with this same thing too, stop beating yourself up. Breathe. Take a time-out. Have a piece of chocolate. Count to ten or fifty or maybe even a hundred. Pray. Fall into grace. Apologize. And try again.