Sometimes my kids are jerks.
There. I said it.
I’m certainly not the first to say it out loud, but as a mom who is always trying to convince myself of my okay-ness, it’s the first time I’ve ever come out and said it to anybody, really. I’m not sure if it bothers my pride more that I called them jerks, or that sometimes it’s true.
I mean, they’re also wonderful. They’re full of curiosity, determination, light, and humor. They bring joy to my life and will be my legacy when I’m gone…but then there are those times when they’re full of sass and spite and defiance. You know. Jerks.
My oldest (six) gets argumentative…often. The other day, I corrected her for it (again). “Darling, when I give you direction, you keep coming back with disrespect and arguments that imply you know what’s best and Mama doesn’t know what she’s talking about. That has to stop.”
She responded, “No I don’t. You just think that.” Sigh…
The five-year-old was messing with the baby, making her holler. I called out from my place in the kitchen, “Katherine, I’m not sure what you’re doing, but I’m pretty sure your sister doesn’t like it.” Her reply?
“I know. That’s why I’m doing it.”
My sweet toddler was cuddling with his baby sister while she nursed in my lap. He adores her and dotes on her in a way that I’ve never seen in a two-year-old boy. Suddenly, I felt him tense up and the baby shrieked. I looked down and he was biting her pointer finger. He broke skin.
Sometimes they’re jerks and I just want to yell at them. Sometimes I’m the jerk and I do.
If I’m the one being a jerk and I lose it on my littles, it’s easy enough–though I prefer not to need to–I go through the drill all the time when they wrong each other.
I’m sorry for…
It was wrong because…
In the future I will…
Will you forgive me?
But what happens when my kids are the jerks and I hate everything and it’s all annoying and just too much?
I’m learning that my irritation is (counterintuitively) a call to reconnect, and I’m finding a few small, doable ways to do it.
First, I reconnect to God. This is, for me, usually a simple, “Jesus! I need HELP!” Then, I look around quickly and find a few things to thank Him for. Currently, I’m looking at an empty coffee cup. There. I was able to finish a cup of instant coffee. I’m thankful for coffee and the ability to make it quickly and the chance to finish it today. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, just something I’m honestly grateful for.
Next, I reconnect with myself. What physical needs of my own am I neglecting? Am I hungry? Dehydrated? Did I take my medication? Do I need something right now? Do I have to pee? (Am I the only one who gets snippy when I have a full bladder?)
Then, I reconnect with my babies. You know, the ones who were jerks a minute ago. I offer a gentle touch and some eye contact, maybe some gentle words. Since I’ve connected with my God and myself, sometimes this turns into a long, heart-warming moment where I end up on the floor, reading aloud with the four children piled around me like puppies. More frequently, they flit on to the next thing, whatever it is.
Clearly, this doesn’t solve every parenting issue. Little people are complex—they’re made in the image of God, but they’re also born sinners. I’m supposed to help them navigate to adulthood, even though I face this same tension. As complicated as motherhood can be, I haven’t found a situation yet where connection has made anything worse. When we’re just being prickly and irritable, sometimes that connection is all it takes.
Sometimes my kids are jerks, but I have learned by experience that reconnecting helps us all find our way to a little more harmony.. (Until tomorrow, at least…I hope.)
Robin Chapman is a full-time imperfect Jesus lover, wife, and mama to four babies six and down. When she isn’t buried in children or hiding from them, she enjoys reading, photography, and sharing stories on her blog, where she’d love to connect with you! You can also find her on Facebook or Instagram… or perhaps hiding in her bathroom with some coffee.