That morning, as I stared down in disbelief at what I had just done, I knew I was the worst mom ever. My world at that moment consisted of raising six children seven and under, including a set of twins, toddlers who I was trying unsuccessfully to potty train. I was also pregnant with my seventh child. Homeschooling two young girls seemed so easy, compared to training four toddlers. My little munchkins clearly had me outnumbered!
Besides trying to potty train my twins, I was also working on getting my twosome to take a nap, or at least just stay in their beds for an hour or two a day, so I could have some concentrated one-on-one time with my two school-age girls without their interruptions. Was that too much to hope for?
While most toddlers across America were taking naps, my supercharged twins’ energy could have lit every bulb in the house, if only I could have harnessed it! Since they weren’t going to sleep, I hoped “Winnie-the-Pooh” and “Piglet, Too,” as I affectionately called my larger and smaller twin girls, would at least stay in their bunny ballerina toddler beds and play quietly with their terrycloth babies. These itty-bitty dolls, which I had embroidered with each of their names, were constantly with my girls wherever they went, much like a security blanket.
This was not to be. Neither these dolls nor any amount of books or quiet toys seemed to keep them preoccupied. Day after day they got out of bed, dragged out all of their toys, danced around the room, and regularly snuck out to venture through the house. Our school room was upstairs, so if they were really quiet, they could canvass the entire first floor without my knowing. After several weeks of their shenanigans, I had reached my limit.
One afternoon, after hearing giggles and bumping around from their bedroom below, I was so frustrated with Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet, Too, that I marched right down to their room, burst open the door, grabbed their itty-bittys, and yelled, “That’s it! You’re never going to see these again!” I then took their terry cloth dolls in the bathroom, pulled my hair-trimming scissors out of the drawer, and proceeded to cut off the dollies’ arms and legs, and threw the heap of body parts in the trash!
A brief, satisfying moment later, however, I was overcome with guilt and anguish. “Oh, Lord, what have I done? How could I get so angry? Yes, they know better. Yes, they’re disobeying me, but I have no right to let that kind of anger fill my heart. Please forgive me, Lord!”
Returning to their room and hearing their tiny wails, I scooped them up in my arms and cried with them. “I’m sorry. Mommy’s so sorry,” I whispered, as I wiped their tears away. Yes, we prayed together, and yes, they forgave me, but it took me several years before I was able to get out from under a 100-lb blanket of guilt.
Perhaps you’ve never done something as horrible as I did that day, but I’ve talked to enough homeschooling moms to know that most of us struggle with feeling like our children would be better off with a different mom. We usually don’t have any problem seeing our imperfections as mothers; I remember this incident with my twins like it happened yesterday!
When our shortcomings and sins flash before our minds like old reruns, however, that’s when it can be the hardest for us to remember the good that we have done for our children – the late nights listening to a teen pour out their heart, the hours spent helping that number-challenged child with their math, the sleep we’ve lost praying for wisdom for ourselves, and the well-being and safety of our kids. The enemy of our souls would like our minds to be so filled with our weaknesses and failures that we become paralyzed or discouraged.
The truth we need to embrace, if we are going to fight the lie that our kids would be better off with that-perfect-homeschooling-mom-whose-name-just-popped-into-your-head, is that God made us. He made us just the way we are, long before we ever had children, knowing in His wisdom they would need us, foibles and all.
Why are you the mom your kids need?
Is it because you’ve read Curious George to your toddler so many times you have it memorized, or because you cried with your daughter when her heart was broken the first time? Yes, and it’s because you laugh louder than anyone else at your children’s jokes, pray more fervently than anyone else when your kids need God’s direction, and share your favorite chocolates, movie lines, and stories with the ones who look and act just a little bit like you. It’s the way you give your heart away, and it’s the way you celebrate God in the everyday of life. That’s what your kids need, and only you can show them.
You are also the mom your kids need when you must lean hard on God’s strength and grace in the midst of your hardship, weakness, and sin. It’s seeing you struggle with pride, or exhaustion, or fear, and then watching you run to the Lord for forgiveness and help. It’s hearing you share God’s Word with them, and observing Christ’s peace fill you with calm and courage.
Your children don’t just need your successes; they need your failures. They need to learn, by your example, of how to fail well—to be real with themselves, to not try to hide behind a veil of perfection, but to throw themselves anew on God’s mercy and grace each day—just like you do.
All but one of my children are adults now. They are living fruitful, faith-filled lives, with some of them starting families of their own. They aren’t perfect. They don’t have it all together. They even struggle with some of the same frustrations and irritations I’ve struggled with. But they know where to go for help and for forgiveness when they fail, like they’ve seen me do many times. And God is faithful to them, just as He is to me.
And He is to you. Yes, mom, you are just the mom your children need. God had a pretty good plan when He called you to be the one whose place no one can take. Keep on being the wonderful you He made, and celebrate the gift you hold every day – to be your children’s mommy.
Photo Credit: second-fourth photos by Tracy Klicka MacKillop.
Please note: A version of this article appeared in the Winter 2016 edition of Homeschooling Today.