Mommies aren’t perfect.
The first time I spanked my daughter she was 18 months old. I was sitting on a chair next to a friend as our two children played at our feet on the deep blue Oriental rug. Out of the corner of my eye I saw my sweet little girl reach out and hit her friend in the face. “No ma’am. Do that again and you’ll get a spanking.” Just yesterday I had consulted with two mothers in our play-group on the merits of spanking and the appropriate time to start. It was looking like that time may be today. It was just a little swat on her bottom, barely harder than a tap, but I did it in front of our guests and it provoked tears and her little hands covered her mouth in shame and guilt while my heart sank. She was embarrassed. I had broken her trust.
I realized in that moment that I had made a mistake. This was the first time I have ever really regretted my actions as a parent; I still cringe when I think about it. Her tiny hands covering her mouth in shock…where did she learn to feel shame at such a young age?
I caused her pain. Ouch. The sting of this realization set deep in my soul as I comforted my sobbing child who recovered only moments afterwards while the poison remained, coursing through my veins.
Mommies aren’t perfect.
It was in this emotionally charged moment that I thought of my mother. I remember when I realized that she wasn’t perfect. I was home from college for a weekend and was helping her with some spring-cleaning projects, begrudgingly at best. I had gone out to the carport and was raking leaves and scrubbing the brick wall. My attitude had been less than enthusiastic and my eyes had rolled a few times, but I was helping. My mom wanted someone who was all-in, though. “Just go back to College Station if you don’t want to be here.” She went back inside and I was left with hot tears in the humid Houston air. My poor attitude had started this, but I was hurt by her words. I did want to be here. My actions had been careless and misrepresented my desires. She came back out to my puffy face and red eyes, and I confessed that I wanted to be here and that I loved her. She held me and apologized for her words. My adolescent years were marked by my apologies and her tender forgiveness, but this time she had humbly seen where she was wrong, and she apologized to me. I forgave her and tucked this moment away as an anomaly.
Recently, my mom and I were chatting as we were riding in the car. Driving provides one of the best “rooms” for honest and safe conversations – side-by-side rather than face-to-face, promoting a sense of heading in the same direction together rather than a feeling of being at odds with one another. Some of my best conversations have been held in the driver’s or the passenger’s seat. On this day, I was driving the car, but my mother was driving the conversation. “When y’all [my brother and I] were little I put so much pressure on myself to make sure you got something out of every day. At night I would lie in bed wondering how I made a difference in your lives that day, wondering if I had done enough. I didn’t need that.” This confession had turned the page of our relationship – now, mother-to-mother instead of mother-to-daughter.
Mommies aren’t perfect, but we try to be.
Oh how we try. But we shouldn’t. That day marked by conflict with my little girl, I vowed to never spank her in front of her friends again. I vowed this, wanting her to never bring her hands to her mouth, agape in horror, tears flowing in humiliation. My vow has an impossible demand, though, knowing that even if I never spank her in public again, I am destined to do something else that causes her pain.
What a flood of emotions as I sit in my favorite blue Buffalo check chair, recounting the events of this difficult day to my husband on the phone during the kids’ nap-time. Toys are scattered on the same Oriental rug as I neglect my duties to attend this last-minute pity party. I’m trying to justify my actions to my husband who is miles away and desperate to make him feel closer as I press the warm phone to my ear with one hand and wipe away a stray tear with the other. I feel helpless. I feel broken. I feel like my mother, trying so hard to be just right. Trying so hard, but failing at this lofty and unattainable goal.
My mom and I laugh a lot because we are so different – she, being careful, calculated and compassionate and me, often reckless, rash and rough. I have always admired how put-together she is compared to my seemingly self-neglect. I’ve always seen her as timid when seated next to my daring nerve, and have accused her in my mind of lacking passion. Her passion, reined in by tact, and my unbridled passion, seated side-by-side. Mother-to-daughter we may only look alike in appearance, but mother-to-mother we are the same.
Mommies aren’t perfect, but we are passionate about our babies.
My mom tells me that she sees me in my daughter. Thinking back farther, I am sure that my grandmother saw my mom in me when I was just a babe. We are all windows into the past that turn into mirrors reflecting the people that impact our lives. Yes. There it is – passion. There’s the reflection in the mirror I’ve always sought after. There’s the window into a soul that I grew up in imitation of and have grown up into. There’s the emotion that I want my daughter to see when I fight back tears because I messed up. I messed up trying to do what I thought was right, what I thought was best. My daughter messed up because she’s like me with an unbridled passion for life. I messed up because I’m like my mother – imperfect, but so passionate about our calling to be mothers.
Thank God that He gives grace to mothers and daughters alike and different, that when He says in Proverbs to “train up a child,” He doesn’t leave us without the tools. One of our greatest tools are our teachers – in my case, an imperfect mother who loved her daughter so much that one day that strong-willed little girl grew up and looked in the mirror and saw her mother. Mother-to-mother, she smiled.
Mommies aren’t perfect, but mother-to-mother it’s okay.