When I was about ten years old, my parents took me to Canada’s Wonderland. By the end of the day, my cheeks hurt from smiling so much. My face feels like that right now — only it’s not from smiling. It’s from all the stress I’ve been holding in my jaw the last few days.
My husband is away this week, and I am tired. Every sentence out of my mouth is a reprimand:
Fix your shoes, please, they’re on the wrong feet.
Don’t put that in your mouth.
Don’t push your sister.
Don’t put stickers on the baby.
I said, don’t put that in your mouth.
I have told you already, fix your shoes, please.
Out of your mouth!
Don’t play with your food.
That stays outside.
Feet! Shoes! Now!
Play that back three thousand times, and you have the soundtrack of my entire conversation over the last few days. Oh yeah, add some math drills. Don’t forget the math drills. I’m a regular barrel of laughs, I am.
I am so bone-tired of correcting, redirecting, and yes, even yelling at my children.
Just before bedtime, we all settle into the boys’ big bed for Leading Little Ones to God. This is supposed to be a quiet moment of prayer. In my expectations, I read to my raptly-listening children, who interrupt only with pertinent and important questions of doctrine. I answer each question with solid Biblical wisdom and maternal love. We pray together. This will become a beautiful memory that my children will look back on someday as a cherished time with Mama.
That is my nightly expectation. The nightly reality is somewhat different. I try to read, interspersing the text with “listen.” It’s like I have a verbal tic: listen! They bounce around the bed, roll into each other, complain that their sibling is rolling into them, and just generally ignore me.
Usually, I get through this routine with varying levels of patience. Not tonight. Tonight is the third day in a week of single parenting. Tonight, my voice got higher and higher pitched as I struggled not to yell. I sounded like Minnie Mouse — until I exploded into a mini-drill sergeant.
Sit there. Backs against the wall. Don’t move. Don’t touch each other, don’t look at each other. Eyes on me. Now listen to your bedtime story, and enjoy it!
Some memory the kids are going to have of Bible Time with Mama. They listened, wide-eyed, while I read to them about how kind and patient God is. Nice one, Mama.
As I write this, three of four are (finally) sleeping quietly. As always, Encyclopedia is last man standing, after the others fall quiet. He just came out to tell me he misses his Daddy.
I miss Daddy. Somehow, everything is better when Daddy is here.
I know you, do, honey. I miss him, too. Everything is better when Daddy is here. Even me.
Of course, I know what blessings my children are, and I thank God for giving them to me. I also know what a blessing my husband is. I don’t like it when he’s away, but I try to be grateful to God for these opportunities of single parenthood, to realize how much I take him for granted, and to grow in my appreciation for him.
And now, it’s time for me to take to bed with my Bible, and get refreshed for the day ahead. It’s going to be just as long, but my goal is to lean on Jesus, and have more fun moments with the kids, and fewer stressful ones.