The morning was nearly perfect.
I was up before 6 o’clock to sip coffee, pray and spend time reading my Bible in blissful silence. At 6:30, the kids thundered down the stairs and tumbled into the room. My littlest one leapt into my lap and curled against me, sucking his thumb. I stared down at the top of his little crew cut and sighed contentedly.
My nine-year-old batted her gorgeous baby blue eyes at me and sweetly asked if I would make them pancakes. I teased that I could never resist such an amazing kid’s request and promised fresh pancakes after they were dressed for school.
I glanced down and realized my son had lived in his favorite school uniform t-shirt for 48 hours straight. To avert any resistance, I smiled brightly and announced that we were going to magically wash and dry his shirt before school because our washing machine has a super power speed cycle. He giggled as he wiggled out of his shirt and scampered off to search for a pair of uniform pants.
The only clean pants we could track down had a giant rip in the knee, surpassing the acceptable level of scraggly for school uniform standards. I waved my hand and cheerfully informed him that I could stitch that right up before school.
Realizing I’d promised pancakes, clean clothes and a sewing job, I jumped off the couch and got to work. I whipped up pancake batter from scratch, threw the offending t-shirt in the washing machine and directed my husband to flip flap jacks as I ran off to sew and patch the pants.
Thirty minutes later, I was feeling like superwoman. The kids were fed, school bags packed, and the kindergartener was sporting a clean shirt and patched pants. He’d even peeked in his lunch box and offered up the highest praise, “Mommy you must’ve read my mind! This is exactly what I was hoping for in my lunch.”
Elated, I changed into a clean pair of yoga pants, washed my face and threw on some earrings – because the success of the morning called for some sparkle. I directed the kids to grab their coats and mentally patted myself on the back for a job well done.
But moments later, a small thread of tension threatened our flawless morning.
My son sidled up to me, chin quivering, and whispered that he would be cold in just a t-shirt. I dashed upstairs to grab three long sleeve options to layer under or over his favorite shirt. None of these were acceptable.
Everything unraveled quickly from there.
I attempted to negotiate a compromise on the shirt – to no avail – and I grew wary of the battle. He fumed while I unceremoniously yanked a sweatshirt over his head and ordered him to get his coat on. When he couldn’t find his winter jacket, a nuclear meltdown of tears ensued.
Exasperated, I dug through the mudroom, tossing coat after coat over my shoulder grumbling that we have far to many jackets and for the love of all things holy why can’t anyone put anything away? Meanwhile, my older daughter impatiently hopped from one foot to the next, whining that we were going to miss playtime in the gym before school.
I morphed from super mommy into the Incredible Hulk as I searched for that coat. I was annoyed that my perfect morning had been spoiled over something so silly. Exasperated and now late, I barked at my oldest two children to start helping. I barked at my daughter to stop her complaining. And I barked at my wailing boy that he would could deal with a different jacket and to get in the van. NOW!
I sped to school, trying to beat the clock. My finger nails dug into the steering wheel as I endured the tsunami of a wailing kindergartener and a bubbly chatterbox of a fourth grader for the entire drive. I walked my child to his class, acting like it was the most normal thing in the world to have a sobbing child clutching my leg, begging me to pick him up early.
I peeled him from my leg, kissed him and dumped him in his classroom. Defeated, I walked woodenly back down the hall, offering a weak smile to the secretary as I snuck out the door.
Sitting in my van alone, I fought back tears and battled guilt for losing my temper with everyone. I couldn’t believe how fast I spiraled from supermom to failure mom.
As I calmed down, I realized that my morning was simply a microcosm of motherhood. It is a wild ride where moments of beauty and peace and richness are intertwined with chaos and hard and tension.
I’ve been at this long enough to know that for every seamless morning there is a mind numbingly chaotic night. For every tantrum there are are times of boundless joy. And for every failure there are infinite successes.
If I am not careful, I could drown in guilt over my shortcomings while forgetting what I did well. But if I don’t reflect on how I could have handled the tension differently, I would miss the opportunity to connect with my children, ask for forgiveness and talk through how we all might do better next time.
God doesn’t want us stuck in our pride or our guilt. He is in the business of sanctifying our hearts and minds. And parenting is one of the greatest tools he uses in this process.
So we breathe these moments in, savoring the good and moving forward from the bad in a continual process of renewal. Always learning. Always growing. And always knowing that tomorrow is a new day.