I took my boys to a huge mall about 40 minutes away on a hot summer day. A chance to get out of the house and kill a few hours with shopping and playing in the play area. We went into every store that would excite a four and seven-year-old. The Disney and Lego Stores. The bookstore. The carousel in the middle of the mall. And, of course, the huge play area with tons of things to climb on and get lots of energy out.
My younger son decided it was the ideal place to crash into the other kids, including knocking over toddlers, toddling about their own business. He also decided that the play area was the best place to learn how to do somersaults and cartwheels. I yelled at that kid so many times every single one of those parents knew his name. Even the other kids learned his name and learned to stay away. One of the other moms told me I needed to learn how to control him, that he was too aggressive. Lots of them were giving me looks. You know the ones I’m talking about. He was beginning to spend more time in time-out next to me than he was playing, but his sensory issues had kicked into high gear and there was no more calming him down anymore. I knew we should leave, but my older son had made some friends, and since that’s such a rare occurrence, I didn’t want to end his precious time with friends.
But, before long my older son was getting teased by some kids because he didn’t know how to answer their questions and they had started referring to him as “the baby.” While he thankfully was oblivious to their nickname for him, it broke my heart and I had to get out of there.
Which meant epic meltdown for my younger son, since he was having the time of his life. And tears for my older son, who was excited to be making ‘friends’. So I carried a thrashing, screaming four-year-old while encouraging my dejected seven-year-old to keep up as we walked/thrashed/cried through the mall to our car. By the time I got to the car, I was a whirlwind of negative emotions. And I was exhausted.
When we got home, I banished them to the couch and told them to watch TV while Mommy spent some time alone.
I sat at my desk, scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, feeling like an epic failure of a mom. Wondering what I could have done differently. Wondering what I should have said to that mother accusing my son of being aggressive and to those kids teasing my son. Wondering if my older son may actually be more aware of the teasing than I realized and maybe I should say something to encourage him. Wondering if I could ever take my kids someplace fun again and it would actually be fun. Wondering if I should be doing more speech therapy and occupational therapy, and if I should homeschool, and all the other bajillion things there were to wonder about when it came to my children and my parenting abilities. I was spiraling, and before I knew it, I had convinced myself I was the worst mother in the world.
And then my seven-year-old walked over to me. Tentatively, and rightly so, but he seemed determined, and so I asked him what he wanted. I’ll never forget the words he said.
“You gold star Mommy.” On the end of my child’s finger was a sticker of a gold star. The grin on his face said so much more than his limited vocabulary ever could.
Tears filled my eyes as I took the sticker, placed it on my shirt and gave that precious child a hug. I didn’t feel like a gold star Mommy, but I was basing that on my own thoughts and feelings and high expectations. My child told me I was a gold star mommy and he meant it.
“Her children arise and call her blessed. Her husband also, and he praises her.”
It’s easy to do. To feel like we’re failing. To feel like we’re not good enough or doing enough. To see all of our flaws and think so negatively about ourselves we can’t see anything good.
But we’re looking through our own eyes, and not the ones that matter. The ones that love us unconditionally.
My children think I’m a gold star mommy. Their warm snuggles and grins tell me so. And God Himself tells me that He delights in me and rejoices over me with singing (Zephaniah 3: 16). I want to believe their thoughts about me, rather than my own.
I placed that gold star sticker on a picture of my children above my desk. It is a gentle reminder that I may not be perfect, but it’s not my job to be. My job is simply to love God, my children, my husband, and others to the best of my ability.
And just for the record, you are a gold star mommy, too. 🙂
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