I adore my children.
I believe that most who know me, know this is true.
Lately I feel like the president of the Crappy Mom Club.
Impatient. Short fused. Ugly voice. Snapping at my kids. Forgetting gentleness. Telling them we’ll cuddle later. Yelling across the house when I hear bickering. And on and on.
There are a million things I want to blame it on. I’ve considered deleting this post a dozen times already. But this is the real. The raw. The ugly.
Last night Ezra was fighting sleep. Like always. And not listening to me. Like always. And watching a movie. Like always. And I snapped. It wasn’t kind or loving or even remotely thought through.
“Ezra! I am so sick of your attitude!”
He looked at me. Held my gaze. I saw in his eyes the same nasty glare that was in mine at that exact moment.
“I am so sick of you!”
I gasped. He quickly said, “Sorry mom!” And rolled back to his show.
I, however, was not so quick to recover. What is happening to my child? Who was that? The past couple of months I have watched him struggle to listen. Fail to obey simple instructions. I have seen him become angry. I have watched my sweet boy react physically when a friend or his brother upset him. He has started bursting into tears the second something doesn’t go his way instead of communicating with words.
And I have blamed my frustration. My stress. My bad attitude. My terrible parenting. On my kids and the way they drive me wild.
Then I felt the tap tap tap on my shoulder. The tap I hate because it means I have done something wrong. The tap I trust with my whole heart because I know it is my Jesus making me more like him.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
My sweet child. Listen to me. Those boys you love. The ones you hold so dear. They will only become the men they are meant to be if you guide them there. Speak gently. Love fiercely. Teach wisely. And live a life worthy of emulating.
Truth I already knew.
Truth I forget all too often.
Truth so heartbreaking. So convicting. So very clear.
Truth overflowing with hope.
I grasped tight. I clung desperate. I claimed that hope as my own.
In the book, Home-Making, by J.R. Miller (one of the best books ever written, in my opinion) the truth is shared as this.
“Selfishness in parents will spread the same unhappy spirit through all the household life. They must be, not in seeming but in reality, what they want their children to be. The lessons they would teach, they must live.”
Oh my heart. My aching, heavy heart.
How dare I act one way and expect my children to act another.
How dare I speak with courtesy and compassion to a stranger, yet pour my frustration out on my babies.
How dare I forget each word I utter has the power of life and death.
How dare I act like the very person I never want to be.
How dare I think I can raise Godly men without first falling daily at the feet of my Jesus.
How dare I think anything good will pour from me when my cup is dry.
How dare I give anything less than the best of me to my boys.
How gracious is my God to gently remind me. Lovingly guide me. Tirelessly teach me. How to be the mama my boys need.
Every time I think I’m ready to take the training wheels off. Think I can handle this parenting thing on my own. Think that I’ve got this.
Tap. tap. tap.
He reminds me.
Parenting always requires training wheels. We are never perfect. We never have it all figured out. And his guidance, his wisdom, his grace, his love, is how we make it through. How our children become their very best selves. How our mistakes are forgiven and relationships are restored.
I think I’ll keep those training wheels.
I’ll choose not to become overwhelmed by how imperfect I am. How many things I need to work on. How many ways I fail. I will focus on being the best version of me I can be today. Breathing deep and asking myself,
“Is this the way I would want my children to act in this situation?”
Simple enough in theory. Overwhelmingly difficult in execution. Life changing power in this new habit.
Today is day one of this venture into more purposeful parenting. More humble loving. More depth in relationship. And within this large idea of how to be better, there are several practical changes I know we need to make in our household. Changes long thought about but too overwhelming or scary to face. Until now.
Because let’s face it. Our kids are worth being better for. No matter how hard it might seem.
So we start small. One change at a time. Change number one is an enormous thorn in my side. A terrible habit that formed slowly and gradually became a regular part of our daily routine.
Television. Way. Too. Much. Television.
Well, Netflix, YouTube Toy Reviews and Disney Movies to be exact. But too much screen time all the same.
What started as a show or two a day became much more and the worst part of this habit is that for a year or more, Ezra has fallen asleep at night while watching his beloved “calm down shows.” Sometimes it takes hours for him to fall asleep, we’re talking midnight or later, but I so desperately craved quiet time to myself, that at the time it didn’t matter what the cost. So what if he watches shows at night? It can’t be that big of a deal. Can it?
The past several weeks as I began to feel more strongly about kicking this habit of ours, I started reading articles and watching videos about the effects of too much tv and young kids brains. The science behind it has brought me to tears on more than one occasion. How easy it was to stick my kids in front of the tv and not think about how detrimental it really was because I chose not to do the research.
The more I have read. The more I have learned. And the more convinced I am that the majority of Ezra’s behavioral issues lately are a result of way too much screen time. Too much stimulation for his little brain. If this sounds dramatic, I promise you it’s not. Below I have posted a fantastic TED Talk, delivered by a doctor who has done extensive research into the effects of tv on a young brain. It is well worth your time to watch.
How could I watch that and not be changed? How could I see Ezra’s shortening attention span and his disinterest in books and games that are “boring”, and not see the connection?
I made a mistake.
But we’re changing it.
We have already cut tv completely out of our days, except for Hudson’s nap time when Ezra watches a couple shows. It’s been about a week and it has been ROUGH at times, but the boys have begun to engage in much more imaginative play. They are playing together more. They are creating games. They are also bickering more. But at least I know that means their minds are engaged.
Tonight is the night I have been preparing Ezra for. Tonight we are not going to watch any shows at bedtime. Him or me. I am committed to not watching shows of my own when my boys are awake, so they know this is a change for the whole family. (I’ll still watch a Star Trek episode or two after they doze off… obviously.) I need prayers for strength and resolve to not give in, but I think we’re ready and I know a couple of rough nights will be totally worth it on the other end. The next goal will be to cut out Ezra’s shows during Hudson’s nap time. My ultimate goal is not to have them never ever watch a show again. My goal is for shows to be an occasional treat. For movie nights to be something looked forward to and not expected. For interest in books and play to be chosen over the desire, or the tantrum, demanding mindless entertainment. For me to engage my kids in my daily tasks instead of having Disney Junior babysit while I clean the house.
Even reading those goals I get a little overwhelmed. My palms are sweaty. I’m a tad nauseous. But I mean it. I’m sticking to it. And if you want to follow our journey, or even better, want to join in (we’re stronger in numbers) visit or share on the tag #purposefullyunplugged on Instagram.
Thank you Jesus for grace.