Come To Jesus (or: what happened in the wake of a Mommy meltdown)

The kids beside the field at Busch Stadium, before the epic 19-inning game

No one likes having to confess that they lost their cool in front of their kids. It’s a tossup deciding which is worse:  the experience itself, or having to admit it where others will hear about it.

It’s been three weeks since my bad week–the week in which I lost it (twice), and life looks a whole lot different now. So different, in fact, that I daily shake my head as I see the evidence before me that sometimes, your kids need to know how tough they make their parents’ lives.

Because, you see, ever since that morning, with its Shakespearean monologue on lack of cooperation, lack of help, and the fact that Mommy is not a servant…ever since then, Alex has been really tuned in to the moments when I’m having trouble juggling it all. During that hellish witching hour before dinner, he’ll sweep in to give Michael a bite or two of food while I’m in the middle of cooking and can’t spare a hand. He’ll hurl himself down on the floor and entertain his baby brother, diverting the whining and crying before it finishes shredding my nerves. He’s showing his love for me by acts of service, and I’m fit to burst with joy, pride, love–what an amazing kid I have.

But that’s not all. Nicholas and I have had an incredibly antagonistic relationship for months. It’s just that age. As I’ve said before, I’m not a toddler mom, and that extends to the preschool years. The constant battling wears me out. Nicholas is unbelievably stubborn, and he has a knack for making himself appear the victim when he finally, after great emotional pain and angst, is forced to comply with directions like “eat your dinner before you get ice cream” or “go use the toilet.” It’s even tougher because Julianna’s at the same stage, and with Michael in the house too, there’s just no dealing with the obedience/cooperation issue with both of them simultaneously. (How do parents of multiples do that?) So this summer, I made a conscious decision to focus on one of them. I chose Nicholas, because I thought he’d get through it more quickly than Julianna. But wow, it has been exhausting and confrontational, and “not no fun at all!” as Nicholas likes to say.

Making crab quiche for Friday night dinner

The day of my meltdown, I didn’t think Nicholas would “get” what was the matter, and what it had to do with him.

But he did. Because the toddler-preschool rebellion ended that day.

It took a few days before I recognized the change in trajectory. But three weeks post-meltdown, it’s unmistakable. I’ve only had to count him down two or three times (instead of half a dozen a day). We’ve been laughing together, enjoying each other, and he’s been beautifully cooperative. It’s been such a breath of fresh air.

I know part of it has to do with my own improving attitude, too. But the evidence of how much better life is now, despite all the chaos and responsibility still flying around, is something I can’t deny. My kids became better people because they got that glimpse inside me.

It was not a pleasant experience for anyone involved, but I realize anew that what Christian often refers to as “come to Jesus meetings” frequently occasion the deepest growth in wisdom, understanding, and empathy–for children and adults alike. And thank God, God can form something beautiful out of the wreck of our epic failures.