Post Author: Name Withheld
Editor’s Note: All the names in this article are changed to protect the anonymity of people in the author’s story.
I yelled at my daughter this morning. Like really yelled. Just saying, “Sarah,” over and over wasn’t getting her dressed any faster. We were late for church. I was frustrated. And then I really yelled. I used my “miss it” voice that is reserved for college basketball games. It is loud. And it is scary.
I got my point across that I wasn’t playing. That’s for sure. But she was just pulling out her blue Frozen shoes to wear, and I lost it. I yelled. And she cowered and cried, and tried to hide herself between the bean bag chair and the wall.
I was sweating, and immediately knew what I had done. I walked out of the room. Thought about going outside for a minute. But no. I took a breath, gathered my thoughts, slowed down, and went back into Sarah’s room. I got on my knees and held her, just wearing black tights, crying, with tears on her belly. I told her I was sorry I yelled. “It was scary wasn’t it?” Yes, she nodded. &*($
I hadn’t cried until now, but I have already confessed to my colleague and the nursery attendant, who knows us well. By the time we entered the church building, Sarah was holding my hand and skipping. I thought, damn it. She’s four! She is light and life and joy, and I lost it…on her.
But of course, it isn’t about a four-year-old not doing as she is told. It is me and my choices and lack of discipline. When I allow her to watch the iPad while she eats breakfast and I go shower, I know that she will not eat her cereal but get engrossed in YouTube Kids. When I tell her to get ready, she won’t hear me. It is my fault for letting her have so much screen time.
When we need to leave in five minutes, and Sarah still has her pajamas on, it isn’t her fault, but mine. I laid in bed too long. I knew that an hour before I lost my shit. When I got her nighttime diaper off (yes, she still wears one because we didn’t do a good job of potty training), I realized she had poop stuck in her crack. AAAHH!! “You need to poop in the potty!” I yell. “I can’t,” she says. “Yes, you can! You are a smart four-year-old!” So, I take her from bathroom to bathroom, carrying her now naked body under her armpits, which begins to hurt. I know it does. I wipe her butt over and over, growing more agitated.
And who am I mad at? Me, for not toilet training. I am frustrated that once again on a Sunday morning, my clergy husband, Brett, leaves only having to get himself ready. Yes, I can go in later, but I let the dog out, fix breakfast, get two people dressed, and one of them doesn’t want to wear what I picked out. When I tell her to go to her room to pick out what she wants to wear, she runs around as if we are playing tag. I tell her, “We are late! We need to go! This is not a game!” Brett has told me before that the voice I use is hard to discern whether I am mad or kidding. Well, by the time we get to her closet, and we have chosen a pink dress and a Frozen shirt to go with it, I am sweaty and nerves are shot. Not wanting to put her shirt on because she is choosing the blue shoes to go with her top is the last straw. And I yelled.
Damn. I returned from a spiritual retreat less than 48 hours ago, and I am needing to put myself in time out. And today is going to be one of the longest Sundays I have had in while. We have children’s choir after church, a meeting later, Pastor’s Class begins, the Writing Workshop for which I haven’t done my homework, and then a Super Bowl party. I haven’t made a dip. Arg.
Why do I lose it? Brett says I take out my aggression on him, and he calls me on it when I get too short with Sarah when she is taking her sweet ass time getting in and out of the car seat. What is wrong with me? I only have one kid!
And she is awesome. She skips into church, twirls in the hallway, receives compliments on her dress and blue shoes. “Are those Frozen shoes? Do you have special powers?” No, she answers, but I want to say “Yes!” She is able to cry in her mommy’s lap after her mommy scared her, and then bring joy to those she meets, within the hour. I am mad at myself, embarrassed, ashamed, and I am carrying that with me. Sarah has “Let it Go,” as the song sings. Or maybe she has internalized it and this will be a core memory. Oh God. I hope not.
I know that this is not the first time I have messed up, nor will it be the last. When someone at church asks if I would like to bottle her energy, I respond in the affirmative. “She’s a free spirit,” he says. “Wonder where she got that from?” he asks jokingly. “I don’t know,” as I sigh in my head.
There are times I can totally be go-with-the-flow, but I was not a free spirit this morning.
Sarah wanted to come in to worship at the beginning to hear the music. The praise team plays three songs to get us going. Sarah and I stood in the back, her holding my hand, until the music moved her body. She twirled and got down on the ground, listening with her whole being. And when the lay worship leader called us to pray, she clasped her hands. Of course she did.
I have a lot to learn. And I must practice the art of patience and free-spiritedness. And grant grace to my girl. She’s four. And fabulous. And my favorite. Forgive me?
Image by: Jake Davis
Used with permission