I owe my mother an apology. I have this random, vivid memory of her sitting at the kitchen counter eating lunch when my sassy tween self walked by and made some snide comment, probably criticizing her sandwich or something petty like that. I don’t remember the exact insult, but I remember her reaction. She scowled, slapped her plate away, and stormed out of the room—strange behavior for a normally tolerant lady.
Maybe she doesn’t remember. But I sure do. It was the first time it occurred to me that my mother had feelings.
And I’m sorry for hurting them. Because I get it now.
My daughters are only 6 and 3, but already they know how to shoot darts at my heart. I know they’re just kids, and moms should be mature enough to absorb childish behavior without taking it personally, but I can’t help it. I’m human. And sometimes my kids hurt my feelings.
“Please eat your grapes.” I faced my three-year-old as she wriggled out of her chair.
“No! I want a marshmallow!”
“You’re not getting a marshmallow right now.” I sighed deep, bracing myself for the fight. “Please eat your grapes.”
“Hmmph!” She crossed her arms tight against her chest and curled her bottom lip. “I’m not going to love you anymore!”
Yes, yes, I know. The moment I oppose one of her little heart’s desires, my daughter pops off some threat to disown me. It’s nothing new.
“Well,” I launched my standard calm reply, “I will never stop loving you. Please eat your grapes.”
“I don’t like my grapes. You’re not my mommy anymore!”
Oh, really? So does that mean I can leave now and go shoe shopping? “I will always be your mommy. God gave us to each other. Now eat your grapes.”
“No. If you’re not going to give me a marshmallow, then I want a new mommy.”
Ouch. Her words might be harmless or even hilarious, if only I hadn’t heard them already twenty times that day. Every once in a while I just want to shout, “Hey, now! Take that back! Those words hurt Mommy’s feelings!”
So I did.
“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing,” (Proverbs 11:18).
One of our family rules is, “No hurting someone on purpose.” We’re not just talking about pinching and kicking and throwing toys at sister’s head. Words can be weapons, too. And in our house, it’s not okay to hurt people with them.
People includes me, the invincible mom.
So I turned my child’s insults into a teachable moment.
“Sweetheart,” I knelt to my daughter’s eye level, “It hurts Mommy’s feelings when you say you don’t love me. Those are not kind words.”
“I want a marshmallow.”
“I know you want a marshmallow. But hurting my feelings isn’t the way to get one. What’s a better choice?”
She scrunched her nose and lifted her eyes from the floor. “Love.”
“Yes. What do you say to Mommy?”
“I’m sorry, Mommy. I’m sorry for hurting your feelings. I still love you.” She uncrossed her arms and latched onto my leg. I wrapped myself around her and squeezed.
“I love you, too. And I forgive you.”
“Can I have a marshmallow now?”
“Only if I get one, too.”
“Yay! You’re my best mommy in the whole world!”
“And eat your grapes.”
“Momma! I have a good idea! You can eat my grapes, and I will eat the marshmallows! That’s sharing!”
Heaven help me. It’s gonna be a long day.
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