The minute the words left my mouth, I immediately regretted them. The look on his face was one of shock, frustration and disappointment.
Disappointment in his mother...someone who is supposed to support and love him, no matter what. Even if he was crying over something that seemed downright trivial to me.
It had been a particularly tiring day, draining me of every ounce of energy I had left...and it was only 5:00 in the evening.
The last hour had been spent battling with Grouch and Stinker to finish their dinner so that we could get ready for evening church, but they persisted in yelling at one another over who was to be which superhero in their pretend game of fighting the evilness in the world. .
And the level of noise in the house was quickly wearing me down. It used to never bother me...the noise, that is. However, after having children, I seem to be hyper-sensitive to the endless chaos and commotion that happens within our home, 16 hours a day.
My head ached and pulsated, begging for relief. My blood began to boil, forcefully lurching me to a place I didn't want to go.
I knew this was the point where the situation called for me to retreat. Simply walk away, Michelle.....I told myself. Take a breather. Go outside and run around the backyard. Lock yourself in the bathroom and take a few deep breaths.
"Do not allow yourself to say anything you'll regret. Words hurt," my inner voice reminded me.
And yet, despite my conscience warning me against verbal damage, I did it anyway.
When I told Grouch to give me a minute to cut out the game before WWIII broke out, he burst into angry tears. Just like that. No warning...no quivering of the lip, no teary eyes, nothing.
The waterworks turned on with very little effort and I completely lost my ability to stay in control...and that's when the poisonous words spilled out of my mouth.
I'll be the first one to tell you that I don't spank Mr. Grouchy Pants. We have in the past and learned early that with this one, time-out works so much better. I can hold myself back from swatting him over the most serious of situations. I prefer to have conversations with him.....ones he'll learn from and use in future situations when he faces yet another challenge.
Yet, I forget that words, too, can hurt...just as much as a spanking can. Words can't be taken back. Once they've been spoken (or screamed), they linger in the air...like a foul stench that won't go away.
Sure, I can apologize, which I often do...but the damage has been done. I've crushed their little spirits...perhaps even tainted their view of me as a mother who is supposed to be loving and accepting of their good AND not-so-good qualities.
So what if Grouch cries easily? That's just who he is. I should know that if he wants a red apple and all I have are green apples that his first response may be to cry. It's his form of expressing immediate frustration and I can't hold that against him, no matter how exhausted and defeated I feel.
Because I grew up hearing nothing but negative, hurtful words from my father, I'm even harder on myself than I should be. Without proper role models, I'm constantly floundering in this stage of my life called parenthood...forever worrying that I'm permanently screwing up my children's one shot at a happy childhood.
At the same time, I realize I'm only human and, as much as I want to control every one of my actions, I will fail time and again.
What's a mother to do?
I'm not exactly sure. It's a never-ending learning process, I suppose.
But I do know that every day is a fresh start...a new opportunity to shine as the mother I strive to be. One who opens her mouth and speaks kind, loving and patient words. One who accepts her children's quirks and downfalls for what they are and doesn't worry that others may find it annoying or embarrassing.
In the end, my hope is that my children will understand that I'm doing the best I can. I struggle, I face challenges and I smile through the tears (75% of the time).
Most of all, I want them to be absolutely who God created them to be and feel loved for who they are.
My wish for myself is that I can be stronger when that inner voice is warning me to walk away.
Words hurt. It's something I must always remember.