May 19, 2011

The juggler

I don't know what sends me over the edge more:

The tantrumming child that kicks me in the face in the Target checkout line or the one who- while his sister is freaking out- says, "Mommy? Mommy? I'm being a very good boy, riiiight?"

She wanted to open up a yogurt drink in the store and I said no. We have a strict policy (hey maybe it's even a law?) that we don't open or consume anything until we've paid for it.  I played the Mom-under-control-in-public role pretty well, I think, and maybe people watched and thought, she knows what she's doing. I used my firmest soothing voice, I made those eyes, and even smiled calmly at the cashier. None of it worked anyway, but it was more about the effort. I was just trying to get my stuff and get out of there without bloodshed and mind loss. And truthfully inside I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't even know this child and which wire is it? Blue or red?! Disarm!

And it wasn't just the yogurt, it was everything else from a pink ball to pink cookies to pink gum at the register. It was how LOUD she said everything, even when she wasn't begging. It was Gray's constant questions. And how even when I let him pick out a special food he still was ungrateful because he didn't get the next thing and the next thing and the next thing that he wanted.

For about the thousandth time I pushed that cart to the car and BREATHED DEEP and pledged to never ever bring them to the store again.


Last night was a picture of utter chaos; I'm sure anyone walking into my home around six-thirty PM would have gone "What the...?" but! although it looked like I had no idea what I was doing, it was all skillfully under control. I washed the dinner dishes while simultaneously monitoring Ivy at the dining table with paints, assisted my oldest son with spelling while he typed a story online downstairs, and directed the other two to tun off the TV already and read to each other.

Part of me swelled with happiness as this machine hummed on and part of me burned with longing...I wish I was painting right now, I want to be writing a story online, I want to read my book. And I'll get to, eventually. But by then I'll be too tired anyway.

We got home from Target and after I was all deep-breathed-out on a very quiet car ride home, she said sorry, mama and she truly meant it.

Maybe it's these moments that teach them what a real apology is? Not just saying sorry because we tell them to but because from their soul, oh, do they mean it. Is this how it works?

Maybe it's these moments that teach me about humility, and grace, and what mercy really is? How natural for my heart to extend it to a stranger, but the ones I love......... is this how it works?

I still gave her the yogurt. And before I could even unload one grocery bag she spilled it all over the counter and onto the floor.

I'm sorry, mama. And she meant it.

I'm sorry, too.

I cleaned it up and announced we were playing the "let's start this day over, brand new!" game.

And we did.


  1. Oh, I can so relate to those days. I feel like everyday I'm learning patience and I'm like, "Give me patience, God....but, I didn't ask to learn patience!"

    You are such an inspiring mom, Steph!

  2. Oh yes, what you said. And what Morgan said, too.

    Now if you want a little chuckle about kids and learning, check out

    Or, you know, read a book. Or sleep. :)

  3. Oh those truly felt apologies. Gretchen has this thing she does where when she knows I'm upset, she strokes my arm or head and says "it's ok mama" and boy howdy, she's right.

  4. sigh... yes... I totally get it! :)


  5. Oh, have I been there, too. And not often very successful at just breathing and holding my patience. But, those true apologies when I know they "get it" or those moments when they show compassion unsolicited in any way or when they're sleeping, those moments make up for it. Almost completely.

  6. Hugs to you, hugs to Ivy, hugs to Grey! Just a big group hug here!

    For me today is grocery shopping and errand day ... as I sit here with my notepad in front of me reading your post ... I almost want to cringe ... 6 kids, 2 weeks worth of groceries, other errands ... hhhmmm can I juggle this all? Maybe I should go take some deep breathes right now.

    I love the way you describe your days, very real!

  7. Oh Steph... this all sounds SO familiar. Those are all my triggers too, the begging for the next thing... the whining... the "am I being good?"
    But yes... teaching moments of grace... good stuff. Today is a new day :)

  8. Oh lady, YES.
    I wrote recently about how every day is BOTH. With our striving and their craziness and their beauty. Always both. It's exhausting in the best possible way.

    Now give me my yogurt!!!

  9. Oh this is SO TRUE. And that section there where you describe what the kids are doing and then flip it and say how much you would like to be doing those things... that right there is something. Total resonance.

    By the way, you are one heck of a writer, Steph. I was right there with you in line, then in the kitchen. I could feel that yogurt spill and those I'm sorry, Mamas too.


  10. I'm just beginning the journey of being a mom, and I am so encouraged and inspired by your stories, specifically this one.

  11. here via Elizabeth's fb share...

    this is absolutely it. always. and it doesn't change as they get older, it gets different. and it's always about the grace and finding the beauty and loving even though.


  12. Sometimes, when everything is running smoothly, I hold my breath and just stare. Or I run to write it all down, for it will surely disappear as quickly as it appeared.

  13. I love you!! Thanks you for being honest and reminding me that I'm not alone in the checkout-line-drama department.

  14. It's all so true! All day long I dream of the great things I'll do once they're in bed: read, write, blog....clean. But then I'm too tired to do any of it. it all starts again the next day. But of course none of it is essential. Every day is a new day, a do-over. I'm trying to remind myself of that often!

  15. wow, we have those days, too. so much so that on the rare occasion I go to Target alone, I don't know what to do with myself!
    You are a great mom!

  16. good thing we weren't at the same target, because people would have been going really crazy with two girls acting the same. ;)

    thanks for sharing this story. because we are all there. and we all need grace and mercy. to give and receive.

  17. I had this exact same day yesterday. Except Troy and Zoe acted like banshees at the craft store while I was trying to purchase items for the teacher basket I am in charge of. They knocked over a huge fake tree in the store. Sigh.

    Before we left, Troy spilled a yogurt drink on my carpet and inside my flats.

    You can't win them all, Steph. I definitely don't. :)


  18. This sounds SO familiar. Oh so familiar my love.

  19. You might try just letting the child have the tantrum but.... don't buy into it. You might say, "just go ahead and scream and kick. I'll just wait over here and you can let me know when you are done." I also remember hearing this story of a man who was shopping with a child in the grocery and the child was having a tantrum in the cart. All the way through the store the man was saying things like "it's ok Norman. We'll be done soon Norman. Just a little while longer Norman." The clerk commented on how well the man had encouraged Norman. The man said, "What you don't know is that I'm Norman." Maybe you can go through the store encouraging Steph.

  20. I can so relate! My son is a few months younger than Ivy and we're going through the same stage. He keeps trying to break me down until I give in to whatever he's asking for. When he knows I'm upset, he says in the sweetest voice possible, "Are you happy Mommy?"

    This is what hit home with me. "Maybe it's these moments that teach me about humility, and grace, and what mercy really is? How natural for my heart to extend it to a stranger, but the ones I love......... is this how it works? "

  21. Oh, Steph. I have had one of these days for the past WEEK. The worst is when my 2 year old is being completely horrible and I finally snap, then she cries and cries, saying, "I'm sorry mommy. I love you sooooo much."

    "Maybe it's these moments that teach them what a real apology is? Not just saying sorry because we tell them to but because from their soul, oh, do they mean it. Is this how it works?

    Maybe it's these moments that teach me about humility, and grace, and what mercy really is? How natural for my heart to extend it to a stranger, but the ones I love......... is this how it works?"

    Oh my... your words will resonate in me for a long time. Thank you for that.

  22. Yes and yes. My two-year-old is in the same phase/stage/funk/whatever it is. Puts me in a funk too sometimes. But when he says "sorry, Mama," it's obvious that he means it, like Ivy. The craziness seems to make the sweet times even sweeter.

  23. Oh yes to re-starting the day.

    Sometimes it's the only thing you can do.

  24. Oh we re-start many days. This resonate so deeply with me, love it.

  25. i think they pump something into the air at target to makes kids throw tantrums.
    one of my greatest treats is when i get to leave my three year old at home and go to target by myself. i find myself staring deeply into mascara displays and fondling housewares with quiet reverence.

  26. I read this post the other day and wanted to make sure I came back and told how much I loved it.

    The humming machine...oh how nice it is when it feels like it is humming. Like we know what we are doing...even if for just a moment.

    Yes, I do believe this is how it works. How we go and do and fly by the seat of our pants and somehow figure it all out...even if we never feel like we did.


  27. One of the reasons I adore you Steph. You write about our "every day" as mother's so eloquently and honestly.

    It's like I was riding along with you because I've had the SAME day.

  28. You, too? Oh, girl. Me, too.

    I do the "start the day over" thing all. the. time.

  29. I understand this very well.

    My 4-year-old often says, "I'm so sorry" and she really, truly means it. She teaches me daily - about apologies, forgiveness, love, and letting go.


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