Cara is a freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom living on the East Coast with her husband and two sons. After years of working in student ministry, she has come home to raise her boys and begin tackling grad school. She loves hanging out with college students, watching Parenthood and eating chocolate like it's one of the food groups. In addition to iBelieve, Cara is a contributing writer at RELEVANT and Today's Christian Woman. She writes about faith, marriage, motherhood and intentional living at www.carajoyner.com. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.
I posted this letter to my son a few nights ago as a reflection to an especially difficult parenting moment. Since motherhood is a messy adventure that many of us are experiencing together, I wanted to share it with my friends here at iBelieve. I'm so grateful for the grace my children give me and the way they remind me of God's great love.
We were having such a good night. The four of us had been out buying supplies for your birthday party and you were so excited to show off your new pirate hat. Talking with you in the kitchen after dinner - I adored that. I can't tell you how many times tonight I thought about how much I love you and how bittersweet it is to know you are turning three. Watching you conquer milestone after milestone stirs my heart and pulls out unthinkable joy and pride...and each time you take a new step, I'm a little surprised by the accompanying sting of slight sadness, because I know you are growing and one day you'll be on your own. My heart is more than full simply because I have been allowed to be your mother.
This is where my mind was for hours. I loved every minute with you tonight.
Then you were tired. I was tired. You wanted something now and I wanted you to wait a little longer. And to my shock, I felt you bite my leg. In a moment of frustration, I spun around and reacted. Your eyes filled with tears as I heard my own voice. In one quick minute I let all the tenderness from our evening drain our of the room. It was my job to control that moment and I should have done it differently. Hearing myself and watching you cry, all I wanted to do was cry with you.
You remember how much Mommy loves Sara Groves? In one of my favorite songs, she sings...
"Well, it came and caught us off our guard
We were just laughing, feeling alright
Had such a great time just last night
We walked into a minefield undetected
You took a tone and I took offense
Anger replacing all common sense
Oh, run for your life, all tenderness is gone."
She's singing about her marriage, but I think it applies here too buddy. Your Nana, my Mama, is a very wise woman. She has always told me that when it comes to discipline, I should respond - not react. Do you know what the difference is sweet boy? A response is a reply. It means that I take a deep breath and respond to your actions in a way that teaches you what is right. It means that I teach you what is loving by responding in a way that is loving.
A reaction is emotional. It is driven by how frustrated I am. I can think and respond OR I can feel and react.
My words made you cry tonight and I knew I had chosen the latter. Thanks for letting me hold you on the couch and apologize for losing my temper, just like I asked you apologize for biting me. Thanks for understanding that sometimes Mommy and Daddy need to say sorry. Thanks for forgiving me so quickly. Even though we went on with our night, I'm still thinking about it and reflecting on what I'll do differently next time.
That moment wasn't about you. It was about me, which wasn't fair to you. As your mama, my job is to respond, because I'm the adult and you aren't supposed to worry about how irritated or tired I am. Do you know why that is? Because you're my baby. Being a parent is hard. One day it will be your turn and you'll have nights where you wish you did things differently. But as my baby, you are not responsible for how I feel. That's mine to to deal with. When I took this job, I accepted that some moments would be harder than others and that I would handle them. And at the end of it all though, every ounce of it that is hard shrinks in comparison to how incredible it is and how much Daddy and I love you. Our love for you is beyond words. My heart aches just thinking about it...it's an overwhelming and all consuming love. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Thank you for being so gracious with mommy. Next time, I will breathe first and then respond. You are one of my three greatest gifts and I can't wait to celebrate your birthday tomorrow. Sorry if I cry a few times. It's just what moms do.