This past Monday was like no other Monday I had ever experienced. I woke up to what I thought was a new start for the week. The night before was a well rested evening and the morning time ran relatively smoothly. I thought to myself ‘I’ve got this, lets dominate Monday’. All I have to say, is how sadly mistaken I truly was. My husband had left for work early in the afternoon. Our toddler daughter and I were the only two remaining at home. My greatest hope for our daughter would have meant her playing with toys nicely while I focus making calls and getting work done in my in-home office. I wanted a solid jump start to my week knowing strategically that Mondays can often set the tone for my week’s work. Keep in mind, I give it my best to keep the proper sequence and order of our family dynamic. I am always submitting to the Lord first and foremost, wife second, mother third, and work fourth. The morning time had already been spent with my daughter reading her toddler bible and devotion with her coupled with some artistic play time just the two of us.
Up until this point, I thought our daughter’s needs both physical and emotional had been met satisfactorily. Until I started hearing ‘scrape, scrape, scrape’ through the wall. I put the phone down to check on our daughter. Come to find out, she had been taking her wooden ‘Melissa & Doug’ play food and was attempting to make design marks on our walls in a home that we rent! I did all I could to redirect the situation, refresh the juice in her sippy cup, gave her a bit of snack, and back to the office I went to continue my work. I make a few calls and then go on to hear her pulling her diaper off! Not even 30 seconds had lapsed and she already had her poopy diaper smeared on the carpet, on our sliding glass door curtains, and even in the crevices of the baby gate. The only thing going through my mind was how was I going to get all the tiny holes clean? Thank goodness for whoever invented the Qtip; I have found this a very effective and useful tool when cleaning small nooks and crannies of the home!
By the time I had fed our daughter lunch, I was over an hour behind on my calls. Not even moments had passed when I hear her go, ‘uh oh’. Now, I have to tell you, anyone that knows our daughter, knows that she ‘tattles’ on herself when she is in trouble. I was saying a small prayer at this point that it was not a second version of the poop mess she had created before. Sure enough, my worst suspicions were only confirmed, round 2 of dirty diaper had been smeared in a few more places in the carpet. The difference being, when I walked into the kitchen to grab the cleaning supplies, I noticed the drawer that we keep our rags in had been opened. After further investigation, I found a rag covered in poop that she had used in attempt to clean up the poop. Normally I might be a bit upset by this, but here I was pleasantly shocked that she knew to get in the drawer, grab the rag, and clean up the poop herself! The conclusion I drew from this was all the many times that she had watched me cleaning and instinctively knew that she should use the rag when cleaning a mess up!
Once the mess was cleaned up for a second time I returned to the office wondering if I would accomplish what I needed to in the office before the end of the work day. I won’t lie, at this point I am slightly agitated that I have not accomplished what I set out to do for the day. I begin making a few more calls when I smell a pungent odor coming into the office area from the living room. I knew it could only mean one thing, ‘poop’. I step out of my office to find a third mess of poop, but this time it is all over the walls! Apparently, our daughter decided to smear her poop on her musical keyboard, grabbed her dress up wand, only to dip it in the poop, and from there proceeded to make designs all over our cream walls! With this in mind, the walls are not painted with an egg shell or washable type of paint. Whoever had painted our home before moving in had used more of a primer type based paint. Though I was glad that I had remained calm when faced with the mess, the inside of me was in a bit of a panic and found this poop designs repulsive! My immediate thought was concentrated upon whether or not I was going to be able to get the poop off the walls or not! I had been successful in the other poop messes of the day, how was this one going to be any different in terms of resolution? To work I went, scrubbing away at our living room walls.
I am in agreement with the notion that kids will be kids, especially toddlers who are testing the boundaries of their parents to see just how far they can draw the line without being disciplined. Now I can look back and breathe a sigh of relief that I was able to clean all 3 messes up, but in the moment, after the third time, I felt that I had won the ‘worst mother of the year’ award for the day. I replayed the series of events that had happened throughout the day and wanted to understand what exactly had driven our daughter to create such a mess. I wondered if this same sequence would be repeated throughout the week and if I would be able to get my work done and still have that quality time with her. It was enough that toys were strewn throughout the house and clothes taken off hangers and displaced on the bedroom floor. I would take those behaviors over poop mess any day. I am aware that as our daughter, she will test my authority as mother. I found the poop mess, however, extremely distracting to the order ‘I’ had in mind. Always looking for a way to improve at my parenting skills, I consulted a few friends who gave me some excellent ideas about how to work with our daughter on potty training so that it was a more pleasurable experience that positively would reinforce her using her potty. I also had previously taken note of her interest in books and art and made a post on Facebook inquiring artistic activities other mothers had done in past experiences to encourage their children developmentally in these two areas.
After processing verbally with a trusted outside source, I discussed with my husband the importance of consequences and privileges and positive reinforcement of behaviors that we hoped our daughter would elicit in response to our requests of her. I asked for prayer and wisdom for us as parents and how to groom our daughter for success. It is evident she may have a true artistic gift and as parents it was important to us that we not squelch her little personality shining through, but to help her find a way to channel her talents and interests in a healthy, manageable way that we could both be actively involved as parents. A friend of ours had an extra easel that would be perfect for her art lessons and through suggestions of friends, we came up with some neat ideas of homemade playdough to homemade finger paints with ingredients from our very own kitchen cupboard. I now felt hopeful as a mother that just maybe I had not after all failed her like I had previously thought.
In the moment, it would have been really easy for me to have focused on what I had not done right. I could have chosen to focus on where I went wrong as a mother. The tape recorder played through my head, ‘what if I had been there would she have done this?’ I knew I had to stop this type of thinking. Just because our daughter had smeared poop throughout the house countless times that day, did not mean that I wasn’t a good mom. To be honest, it took a few friends, also mommies, speaking life into me and encouraging me to journey forward. I wasn’t doing everything wrong and I needed to allow myself more ‘grace’. When I say this, I mean that I needed to celebrate the small victories I as a mother, had made with our daughter. I am happy to share, I no longer choose work as an escape when things don’t go as planned with her. Our daughter recently began attending Kindermusik classes and I have been able to attend each class, all but one. I have truly enjoyed seeing her blossom and it gives me great joy to see the contentment and happiness she confides with having both of us in attendance. Recently, her and I started a morning bible and devotion time in which she now requests to me in her own toddler language for me to read to her each day. She insists that I read hers to her before doing my own adult devotion! I remember when she didn’t make it through more than 2 pages of us reading to her! I see her progress when it comes to structured play and she wants to practice what she learned in class at home. She is a sponge that is soaking her environment in and often looks to me as a playmate with her being an only child for now. I give it my best to give her at least 2-3 hours of my day just her and I so that she knows how much I value not just her physical needs, but her spiritual and emotional needs. I can only hope that I convey a special love and bond with her. I remember when all of this was almost not existent even 6 months ago aside for some emotional needs met and all physical needs met. Our time together was no longer just a routine, but are locked in quite the relationship together mother and daughter. I no longer take for granted what she has to teach me not to mention her kisses on my cheek make my heart melt.
I firmly believe that every mother wants to do right by their child. I believe that every child really looks up to their mother to guide them. Children certainly do not come with instruction booklets; each so different than the next, but that is what makes each child so individualistic and unique. Every mother at some point wonders if they made the right decisions in the best interest of their child, I know I certainly have! Though I am not completely where I would like to be with her, I am now more cognitively aware of how I have progressed over a short time and how much the relationship dynamic has developed. I now look forward to spending time with her. Even though each day is trial and error, I allow myself that grace to slip up and fall. I give myself permission to make mistakes and not have it perfect or right all the time. I know she has to sense the tremendous peace that comes in letting the control gages go! Quality time I am finding is what she truly wants from me and when I provide that, she is much more apt to listen and engage with me. She also more willing to follow directions when I honor her with my time and share in fun toddler friendly activities with her. A brief example of this: tonight I decided to read books with her while she sat on the potty and both times I did this, she went right in that potty and it made me so proud! Today was the first day she had accomplished going in the potty! You would have thought it was a major holiday event with the joy and light shining upon my face. Rather than redirecting her and telling her ‘no’, I could not stop praising her enough! All I wanted to do was encourage her and love on her! Her face lit up with glee and you could tell she too, was overcome with joy in a task well done. We celebrated with coloring in coloring books. Though, she is in need of redirection in keeping the crayon on the paper, she did a wonderful job listening. In fact, we went on to share in snack time before her bedtime routine and she did all that I asked of her. I even let the house go, something I really had struggled with in the past. I had been guilty often of cleaning my home before spending time with her; my priorities were very skewed. Tonight was different and I was amazed at how she paid attention to the details, something she wasn’t necessarily doing before! What an incredible victory, all because I allowed myself grace and the permission to relax and just be mama to our child; what a comforting feeling.
If you are struggling with priorities as a mama or feel that you need more grace with your child to allow you to be you and them to be them, I am here to encourage you and build up hope in you. I hope that my testimony and victory here will inspire you to be the best mother you can be; not a perfect mama, but a fulfilled and truly happy mama. Sometimes it is about your child and just spending that time with them. Your child is looking to build that connection and relationship with you. Your child even if they act out from time to time, still really loves you and whether they show it or not, they truly value you being around them. You, mama are the one that is looked up to, you are the role model, and a wonderful role model at that. Don’t be quick to focus on the negative, your shortcomings, and all the things you should have done differently that moment, day, or week. Celebrate each day and give thanks for the things you did right as a parent. The more you focus on your parental positives, the more it will reflect in your child and before you know it, you will have the best possible connection, one that is both honoring and respectful. Let go of your insecurities, remain steadfast and patient knowing that mamahood is trial and error. You are going to have moments where you have to take a step back even. Just know that there is another mama here uplifting you in thoughts and that sometimes taking steps backwards is really steps forwards. Being a mama is a physical and mental state and what perspective you choose to look at. You are not perfect, you are human and it is good that your child sees this. Our children need to know that we make mistakes, but that never takes away from or will ever change the unconditional love and bond we have for our child. Keep working at the progress you want to see happen and with a bit of work, the price you paid to tweak and learn from your parenthood experiences, will only sharpen your skills and bring out the best in both you and your child. You got this, stick out the course and don’t be afraid to reach out here if you have questions, need encouragement, or a word of prayer! I believe in you, you are one strong mama! You will never be given more than you can handle. The trials and tribulations, the laughs and the giggles you are experiencing are all a part of the journey together, mama and child! Many heartfelt blessings to you mama, the reader!