I remember rubbing my belly when I was pregnant, imagining the mom I would be. I wouldn’t yell, or show any impatience. I would always get down on my daughter’s level to find out what is wrong with her. I would always listen to what she has to say, kiss her owies, and hug her when she had tears. I had this vision of being an amazing mom, one who would always be this shining light for her kids.
Sometime between being pregnant with my first and having 5 kids, all within 5 years, I definitely lost sight of that perfect-mom-persona. I had patience, or maybe I had conditioned myself to tune out a lot of whining. I was aware that sometimes my responses to my kids were not well thought out, and more of an annoyed reply with little to no emotion behind them. But it wasn’t until one day when my daughter used my own remarks against me that I actually realized the message I was sending my kids.
We started that Tuesday like any other: chaotic breakfast, cartoons, and getting changed for the day. I had been dragging my feet all morning on getting the kids out the door for my morning boot camp class at the gym. When I realized we were running late, I went into frenzy mode of making them get ready quicker than they were capable of and getting frustrated when they weren’t doing it fast enough. When one of my twins weren’t able to find their shoes, I muttered a “well, this is why you need to take better care of your stuff!”
I then realized my workout shoes were missing. I searched and searched all over the closet, becoming more aware of how much time this was taking and how late we were really going to be. I asked the kids to help me, offering a treat in the end. “Whoever finds mommy’s shoes first gets a prize!”. It caused four of them to jump up and explore the house for them. But my oldest sat back, looked me in the eyes and said “looks like you need to take better care of your stuff, huh mom?”.
My world came to a crashing halt. Did she just use my own phrase against me? It stopped me in my tracks so hard that the only thing I could do is laugh. She was right, after all. But the way in which she said it was so cold and unsympathetic. In this moment I realized that my typical way of handling missing shoes was not the best. Maybe I needed to reevaluate my response to this particular situation. Maybe instead of scolding them, I could actually help them look for them, or suggest they wear a different pair.
After our trip to the gym, we were walking up to our front door when I tripped over the front step and scraped my knee. I winced out loud at my new injury, holding it and examining it to see how much damage I did. I said, “Geeze that really, really hurt!”
For the second time that day my oldest daughter turned to me and used my words against me. She said “But are you bleeding? Do you need to go to the hospital? Okay then, get up and stop whining”. In an instant, my heart broke. I knew those words. I spoke them every day. She was quite literally saying what I say to each of them all of the time.
How insensitive had I become? Those words she said to me stung like a thousand bees and I’m a 27-year-old adult! How are those words affecting a bunch of toddlers? For the second time that day my world stopped on a dime. Wow. I knew the words I was saying, but I didn’t know WHAT I was saying. I didn’t know the weight those words held until they were used on me in the right context. I mean, she nailed it with her timing and delivery. It was exactly what I needed to hear, without ever knowing it.
It’s like we lose our filters in the trenches of motherhood. We get impatient, frustrated, and sick of hearing the same things over and over again, so we say what we’re thinking. We forget that we need to distinguish between the thoughts in our head and the words that are appropriate to be spoken aloud to our children. These are tiny humans who have big huge needs. They’re not a fellow friend who can handle these types of “dust it off and move on” statements.
A scrape on the knee to them is an enormous deal in their minds, yet I was downplaying it because they get scrapes all day long. I was being so mean to them and I never realized it. There’s only so many scraped knees I wanted to hear about. But what message am I sending them? By failing to recognize their feelings, I am teaching them that I don’t care about the little things. I’m teaching them that because their problems aren’t a big deal to me, they’re not a big deal at all. What does that look like when they're teenagers? Mom doesn’t want to hear about their “little” problems, then either? So, will they even tell me about their big problems when those arise? Why would they, when I was downplaying all of their feelings already.
It was the total wakeup call I needed. I want my children to be able to come to me with their problems. Do I wish every scrape and cut were a little less dramatic? Yes, but now I know to take a deep breath, roll my eyes internally, and give their owies the attention they need and deserve. Thank you, Presley, for opening mama’s eyes and heart to being a more attentive and devoted light in your and your siblings’ world.