A few weeks ago, I had to manage my four young children on my own during a children’s program at church. I planned ahead, giving my children, ages 2 through 8, a detailed briefing on appropriate behavior. I strapped my toddler into his stroller and bribed my oldest (who has autism) with Skittles if he sat quietly. I planted the other two with some friends a few rows ahead.
Despite my best-laid plans, just five minutes into the program, things began to dramatically fall apart. My toddler screamed to be released from his stroller. One of my daughters refused to sit with our friends (but wouldn’t sit with me either). And my oldest stood up and proclaimed, "I need to go on stage!"
After a brief attempt to regain control, I ushered my motley crew out of the auditorium, wishing I could just sink through the floor and disappear. This wasn’t the first time I'd lost the battle with my children's unruly behavior. And I felt like the worst mom ever.
I guess the reason I feel so awful in situations like these is because my children’s bad behavior seems like a direct reflection on me as their mom. And while some bad behavior from my kids may be the fruit of bad parenting (no parent is perfect), much of it also stems from temperament, maturity and other factors beyond my control.
As much as I wish that my children would behave like obedient little robots (at least in public), God didn’t design them that way.
As I sat outside the auditorium, letting the kids play, I realized something. I have a strong-willed 2-year-old, I have two delightfully spirited daughters (with leadership skills!), and I have a child with special needs. If that isn't the perfect storm for some embarrassing moments, I don't know what is. Allowing others to see us at our worst, is simply a part of life.
A few days after the unfortunate meltdown, I took my sons to the grocery store for a quick shopping trip. My oldest son helped push the cart dutifully through the aisles, saying a friendly “hello” to everyone we passed. He even introduced his baby brother to a fellow shopper at the dairy case.
At the checkout lane, strangers smiled at my boys (probably assuming they were always so angelic), and I rolled the cart out of the store with my head held high.
In that moment, I was reminded that my children are a work in progress – just as I am. The highs and lows of parenting, including the embarrassing moments, don't define me as a mom.
Life is so short. One day soon I'll look back on these moments and laugh (or marvel that I made it through). Until then, God has entrusted me with four unique blessings, and my job is to steward them well. While they’re still little, I can soak in each moment – good and bad – and allow God to give me joy in them.