For some reason this day four-year-old Joseph was cross. And I was cross back at him. I was asking him to do something which I thought quite reasonable. I can’t remember exactly . . . it may have been to put his toys away. But did he want to do it? No!
At this stage, there were three of five children, with the two youngest yet to arrive. I was pretty happy with how I managed things with the two older girls, but my response to Joseph was another kettle of fish.
To explain my dilemma . . . I grew up in a household with only sisters. This means I had quite big gaps in my knowledge of all things “boy” – and I knew it. All the information I had about boys in family life was gleaned from my girlfriends and the relationships they had with their brothers. I had noticed big brothers could be very loving and protective of their little sisters. But I also knew little brothers could be incredibly annoying.
And I had one such annoying little brother on my hands.
So…back to Joseph this day. I asked him nicely to “tidy up the toys” (or whatever it was). Then, I asked him firmly. Then, I gave him the normal ultimatum, and still nothing. He was already in tears, and I was close. I did my usual thing, and asked him to go to his bedroom so we could both calm down. Generally he was happy to do this, because Joseph loved being in his room.
But still he would not cooperate.
So I picked him up from behind, under his arms, to scoot him along to his room for his five-minute time-out.
Which meant his feet flailed wildly in protest all the way through the loungeroom.
Which meant he accidentally kicked one of the heavy, glass doors on the video cabinet.
Which meant it shattered with a huge CRASH into little pieces all over the carpet!
I am not sure who got the biggest fright, me or him. But he did go to his room and stay there willingly at least. After a little while I went in and we talked about it. I said sorry, and he said sorry as well. Then we went back to tidy away his toys together, and he helped me carefully vacuum up the glass.
I was mortified.
While I did talk it through with Stephen later, I never told any of my friends exactly how that glass door broke – we kept the cabinet for years and it always looked a little lop-sided with one door intact, and the other side open to the world.
It was just too hard to admit I was THAT mother, with THAT boy. And these dramas kept happening. I felt like such a failure!
Why do we do that? Why do we try and keep appearances, and pretend we have it all together? While all along, underneath we constantly question if we can do this motherhood thing.
We wonder if we are making the right decisions as we bring our children up.
And we are even a little ashamed at some things that happen behind closed doors.
But this is what I have learnt: If you sweep the shame under the carpet and ignore it, it does not go away.
In reality, it is only by facing those horrible moments, that we get past them. It is only by admitting our failures that we can take a step back and see objectively. It is only by reflecting on what happened to us as we were growing up that we can understand ourselves better.
So next time you feel like a complete failure, let me encourage you not to ignore what happened. Think about it. Reflect on it. Write it down, or tell someone you can trust. Tell God about it. Pray for wisdom and understanding.
By getting to the bottom of it, you may find that next time you are in that situation you have the freedom to operate differently.
And that has to be better for everyone.
For the record, Joe is now an endearing 20-something, who happens to love working with extremely difficult young people. Who would have thought?
What’s your take on this? Do you like to keep up appearances like me?