My kids were crazy yesterday. They are always a little crazy but yesterday they were bananas. I don't know if it is post-birthday party let down or pre-Christmas morning madness but they just could not get along. They would play nicely for a while then explode. I think there was more whining, crying, slapping, and toy throwing in a single eight hour period than in their entire past lives combined. They seriously earned their ways onto the naughty list.
Mid-afternoon, exhausted from coming up with new and interesting consequences (they had already had a couple time outs a piece and lost their outing to Half Price Books to hear The Polar Express and see Santa), I told them that quite frankly they had worn their mother out. The next time anyone hit anyone else they were both getting a spanking. Since those don't happen in our house with any kind of frequency, I explained that this meant I was going to hit each of them on their bottoms. Baby Boy looked at me and giggled. "That's a good story, Mom," he said. Somehow I managed not to laugh.
I prayed I would not have to follow through with my threat. I don't spank and I was a little disappointed in myself for resorting to it even as a threat, since I would have to follow through if they earned a consequence. Luckily, there was no more violence. There was some more whining and general bad behavior shortly thereafter and I determined that perhaps everyone needed to spend some quiet time in their beds. Baby Boy promptly fell asleep. Baby Girl calmed down and announced, "Mommy, I happy!" after twenty minutes or so of quiet time. The rest of our day was without incident and, thankfully, without spankings.
Today my children are the precious, if precocious, little munchkins I know and love rather than the mini monsters of yesterday. I'm a grateful mommy, not only since I have hope of a happier and less tiring day, but because of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thanks to Him, yesterday was an unremarkable day, not even distinguished by a rare spanking, much less by the full-on melt-down fit that I at one point was tempted to throw. I did not say or do anything to my children that required so much as an apology. It is nothing short of a miracle, since, like any parent, there were times when I really, really, really wanted to blow my top and/or run screaming down the street.
I'm an awful person, really. I have an explosive, ugly, rage-filled temper. I'm terribly impatient. I'm selfish, the kind of selfish that would abandon all responsibility to pursue my own pleasure above all else and not look back. It's true. The reason I bring it all up is that my children have no idea about any of that. They know I can get mad (or "cross" as Baby Boy puts it), but they don't know I'm capable of a berserker kind of rage. The idea of me inflicting harm on them, even something as mild as swat on the bottom, seems far-fetched and downright silly. If they had a concept of patience, I think that they would attest that I am full of it. And I love them way more than myself and I think that they know it.
None of it is in my power. I shudder to think what kind of parent I would be without God's help. I'm not proud of myself for my reactions yesterday; I'm grateful to God. Grateful for the ability to take a step back, take a deep breath, and ask the Holy Spirit for a next move. Because that is what I do, everyday and so many times on days like yesterday that I can't even count. I'm not a perfect parent. I say things I shouldn't say, model behaviors I shouldn't model, just like everybody else. But I'm perfect-er than I ever thought I could be, because I am guided by One without flaw, with all wisdom, with keen sight and perfect judgment. No matter how many parenting books I've read (and I've read a lot) none of that knowledge is equivalent to having a manifestation of God living within me, just waiting to tell me what to do, how to respond, what words to say.
I'm going to mess up sometimes; there will be days when it is Mommy who is decidedly naughty. When that happens I'm going to apologize. Then I'm going to show myself grace, because I want to teach grace. I want to model it. I want them to learn what it looks like and how it feels on good days and on bad ones. Because God gives us grace, whether we deserve it or not. He doesn't keep a naughty or nice list; His gifts are without condition. He wants us to behave because we love Him, not because we fear Him. We're all going to have days where we are terrible and we need some quiet time to get right. Then we'll have those days when we are good and make the right choices. God's love is the same both days. I want to get a revelation of that and pass it on to my children. So this is my prayer this morning: I want my children to know that my love for them is changeless, on the challenging days and on the easy ones, whether they be naughty or nice, so that they might learn by example the character and nature of God's amazing grace.