I reached a special level of crazy that particular morning. I don’t mean to brag, but that’s where I found myself a quarter till 8:00 on one fine Sunday morning this fall. I was showing I had what it took to become a finalist in the “Epic Mommy Meltdown of the Decade” contest. But from my family’s perspective, I proved I had what it took to become the champion.
But let me back up and start at the beginning.
The day had begun like any other Sunday. My four sons and husband were all up and I just wanted to quickly and peacefully get us out the door for church. “This sounds like a rather simple request,” I thought to myself. I even thought this desire might fall into the category of something that would also be pleasing to God himself in the heavens.
So I cheerfully muttered what I thought were benign words, “Boys, it’s time for everyone to get up and dressed for church.”
But I assure you, the response that followed those words coming out of my mouth from my sweet little angels was anything but heavenly. Instead, it was almost like someone had injected them with something that caused them to fall to the floor and start flailing and crying as soon as the words left my mouth.
I kid you not. The scene that followed was dramatic and disproportional to the request I had made. There was moaning. There was eye rolling. There was distressed head rubbing all while four little bodies rolled across my unfreshly swept floor.
And as I looked around at the dramatics before me, I felt a small stir in my stomach as I considered how many times a similar request about getting dressed for church had provoked a similar scene to the weeping and gnashing of teeth referenced in the bible.
And as I stood there trying to decide how to respond to this madness, I felt the same rumble in my stomach, but this time it was stronger and I recognized it for what it was. It was the irrational mama gon’ crazy feeling that only comes out when a mom has hit her “I can only put up with so much” limit.
And that moment at 7:58 am, I hit my limit. Suddenly without plan or thought, I felt a monster overtake my body. My face turned into that of a dragon and my hands became pointy and sharp. Fire breathed from my mouth as I fiercely yelled with the deepest and scariest voice my 5’3″ frame could muster…
‘WE’RE GOING TO CHUUUUUUUUUUUURCH!!!!!!!!”
Yes, I have to laugh now that the scariest voice I have ever used was used to mutter those words. But it happened. And it must have been notable because the groaning and wailing stopped. Silence overtook the room, but my angry words had just begun.
After a 5-minute lecture about how sick and tired I am of dealing with resistance as they all sat wide-eyed and shocked at my temporary insanity, I looked down at one of my sons who was continuing to roll on the floor and finished my lecture with…
“And seriously, do you feel it is your job to try and make me miserable?!?”
To which that son, for the first time in his short little life, got up and threw a remote across the room. Then as if he felt an added need to prove to me he could live up to any label I wanted to give him, he walked up and hit my leg, something he had also never done.
This final scene caused my husband to tell me to take a moment while he dressed the kids for church. So I did. And I’m embarrassed to admit that following that dramatic scene, we pranced into church and made the best of our morning.
Once we returned, I gathered my ducklings and offered a long and sincere apology for my epic meltdown. They of course accepted it and life continued.
But my words to my son who then threw something across the room stuck with me despite apologizing for them. For the next hours. And days. And weeks.
I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was, but I knew those words were significant for me as a parent. And for him as my child. But why exactly, I was still trying to determine until I remembered something I once read in a book, “Be careful what you speak to your child; your words become their inner voice.”
I realized that in addition to setting a wonderful example to my family about how to have a mommy meltdown, the inner voice I projected onto my son that day was not one I wanted him to hear. But what was even more noticeable was how he instantaneously decided he would live up to the words I put upon him.
He heard, “Are you here to make me miserable?” And without more than a second to consider the implications of those words, he decided that if I told him that was his role, he could live up to it.
As a writer, mom and licensed therapist, I know that words have power. But I’m not sure I had ever been so directly impacted by their result as I had been in that moment. Because I not only saw their effect, but I also saw their power. And that shook me. And made me want to consider if I like the words I’m spewing from my mouth when I’m supposed to be one in whom Christ dwells.
The Bible has a lot to say about our words too, here are just a few of my favorites…
The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh words stirs up anger.
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
When I consider these verses, I can’t help but consider the life our words breathe into our children. Or the life they can take away. As our children’s main authority, we set the tone for whom they see themselves as. And while we certainly have the right to get angry, we never want to confuse our disapproval of their actions with our disapproval of them.
There is a difference between saying, “I feel miserable when you behave like that.”
And saying, “Is your goal in life to make me miserable?”
The first sends a message that their behavior is causing a negative effect on us. The second indicates they — as a person — are causing us misery. It may seem like a simple nuance. Or just a change in semantics and nothing more. But the difference in what we are saying to their inner voice is remarkable.
One speaks life.
One takes it away.
When I consider that every child I have been given and every personality that comes along with those gifts was handpicked for me, I am humbled. Some personalities are easier to parent than others. But no child should ever feel they are less easy to love than another. And our words have the power to assure them they are loved, loved, loved despite anything they say or do.
And because they love us even when we have a mommy meltdown, we want to make sure we give them that same grace.
May we all carefully guard the words that come from our mouths to our children.
May we carefully choose words that breathe your life into them.
And may we always be aware of the inner voice we want to create in their head which always says:
“You are loved because you’re you.”