While changing the spider-man sheets on my 4- and 8-year-old sons’ bunk bed, I found no less then thirty pieces of colored foil, once containing holiday candy, stuffed inside pillowcases like drug money. My two underage smugglers had been hording contraband candy for weeks without raising an ounce of suspicion from me, their optimistic mother; quite frankly, I was dumbfounded by my ignorance.
Throughout the interrogation they lowered their eyes with solemnity, “I’m sorry mom,” they mechanically offered. But I couldn’t help speculating that behind the punishment induced, “shoot, I got caught” tears, were a couple of strong wills arming themselves against my chastising assaults. I lectured until the steady stream of words pouring from my lips ceased to be relevant to the crime at hand. But genuine remorse, I discovered, cannot be forced through hardened hearts, embittered by the emotional tirades of a stretched thin parent.
“Get out of this office!” I lashed at my children just yesterday. “Go to your rooms! I do not want to see you, or hear you, or be near you right now, do you understand?!” I had tried to maintain my composure, to be kind and mature even while their two straight hours of bickering pounded at my head like a hammer. But then I snapped … reaching my limit, the thin layer of resolve separating feelings from ideals split down the middle allowing anger to flow unimpeded.
“I wish it could be like before,” whispered my oldest child, “like earlier when you were happy.”
“Look Elijah,” I fumed. “I have had it with the fighting! It makes me sick, sometimes, how you treat each other.”
“How about,” he suggested, “I sit right here quietly until you can calm down, and when you’re ready, we can go back to being like old times.”
Just when I think I have it all down, I am humiliated by a lack of self-control. My lasting impression, echoing down the hallway with empty threats, verifies not that certain behavior is unacceptable, but rather that mom is crazy. It is naïve to imagine I would never give way to the stress of being pulled in five directions. It is understandable, I daresay, to lose patience when sleep is scarce and demands are high. But to sweep it under the rug, to move on without apologizing for unloading adult issues on my children, does a grave disservice to our relationship. It undermines the values I try to teach them by example.
I am sorry my little ones. Let us try again tomorrow to be respectful of each other and sincere in our efforts to love, to learn and to grow.
Molly Sabourin is a weekly podcaster for Ancient Faith Radio. She is also a regular columnist for The Handmaiden, a quarterly journal for Orthodox Christian Women. Her first book, Close to Home: One Mother's Quest for Patience, Peace, and Perseverance is available now. Molly's writings have previously appeared in MOMSense magazine and on the MOPS blog.