Friday, April 17, 2009
I heard a talk at a church event once. I think it was a previous years' Conference, but I'm not sure. I just know that the story shared by the speaker really impressed me. He told of an event from his childhood. He did something wrong, broke something or something like that, and was nervous about how his mother would respond. He said she could have totally yelled at him. She could have been very angry about what he had done. But she wasn't. She told him that she knew it was a mistake and that he hadn't meant to do it. She didn't make him feel worse about it. He said that this was exactly what he had needed at the time and he was incredibly glad his mother had responded that way. Listening to the story that first time, I felt just awful. I've been that mother, but I didn't keep my cool. I blew up at my son. Lots of times. And in my case it wasn't always even something precious that was broken. It was just that I was a Mommy who didn't always respond in a forgiving and loving way to something that really wasn't a premeditated act of aggression on my child's part. And maybe one of those times when I didn't respond lovingly was a time when he really needed me to do so. I felt bad about this for a long time. It came to mind often--probably most often after another case of getting angry over an accident that I shouldn't have gotten mad about. Then, one night I had a breakthrough. It was during a "bad mother" phase soon after Becca was born when I was tired all the time and prone to short-temperedness. I would go to bed each night and think back on all the less-than-patient ways I had responded to William or Anna and all the good things I had neglected to do with them and feel bad about it. I was really depressed about my mothering skills and very frustrated with myself. Suddenly, I realized something about the story. The boy feared that his mother would yell at him and scold him for what he had done. He feared that she would respond that way because, and this is what really struck me, she had responded that way in the past! This thought struck me like a ray of hope. If his mother had responded that way in the past but had managed not to do so this one time when it really mattered, maybe, just maybe, I could do it to! Maybe I hadn't already missed the time when it mattered most with William or Anna. Maybe I could keep trying and trying to be more loving and forgiving when they did things I didn't like. And, just maybe, the time when they need my understanding the most, I'll actually hear the whispering of the Spirit telling me to be nice and do it! Maybe being a good mother is a process--something I can develop in little baby steps of improvement--not simply something I either have or I don't.