You will look back on days like today and laugh. Repeat: you will one day be able to see the humor (or at least the irony) in the hysterical three-year old tantrum over none other than spilled milk or over the too-good-to-be-true quiet (the kind where you find the toddler happily playing in a puddle that is not water and not mud). It may not help now, but relax and know that these days happen. They happen to every mother.
Please also know that though doing the hard work of being firm with these little ones and disciplining them makes you feel thoroughly rotten sometimes—like wicked-step-mother-to-Cinderella rotten—in reality, drawing boundaries for them and standing by those boundaries is the very thing that makes you a good mother. So don’t give up; don’t give in; and don’t doubt that in due season the hard work of tough love will pay off.
Now, let’s talk about that little voice of doubt. You know, the one that pipes up and says, “Did I do the right thing there, or was that a prime example of a parenting fail?” Guess what? You may never know. There’s no play-by-play rule book to follow for this parenting gig. Don’t worry because you doubt yourself. Worry if you ever stop doubting yourself because then you may be too proud or bull-headed to consider you may be the one in the wrong. Don’t be afraid to ask forgiveness when you mess up. And don’t worry that you don’t know all the answers. No mother ever has. We’re all figuring it out as we go.
So now, take a deep breath. Count to ten or a hundred (or whatever it takes). And when bed-time (blessed bed-time) comes, take a break: a bath, a book, a breather, a nap, a good laugh—you know what makes you feel like you again. Remember that the hard days are often the days where you and your little ones are learning the most. Stretching precedes growth.
When you’ve been able to give yourself a break, give yourself grace. Be gracious to your frazzled, worn-out mommy-self. You’ve been pulled in a hundred ways and if you did nothing else today, you loved them. You loved them from their kissable cheeks down to their dirty little toes. You loved them through soiled diapers and eyebrows smeared in yogurt. You loved them through the fussing, the whining, and the crankiness as well as in all their better moments. You showed your love in firmness and in tenderness. You were love to them and that is one of the best pictures of God you will ever give them.
So give yourself grace, mama. A hard day? Yes, but a good one. A well-fought, well-loved day. You were mama to them today, and that is what they needed most.