The rain is pelting on the rooftop and striking against the windows, the wind is whipping itself into a frenzy and I think the gods are angry that today was such a beautiful day. Here in the Midwest we don’t get to enjoy beautiful spring days without consequence. Warm air in Michigan in April will be met with something colder, and our beautiful day will erupt in a night of stormy protest.
I erupted today too. Lost it. Yelling at the 3-year old, the anger in my voice so scary to my older daughter that she fled to her bed in tears.
I didn’t get a break today. I need some down time every day to regroup and to recharge, so that I can go back to being a person who doesn’t care if you crawl all over them and ask for juice 15 times in a single day, even though the answer is always “no.”
As I am listening to the storm rage outside I think about my own rage storming up the stairs to force everyone into their beds. I lost it.
I didn’t hit anybody, I have never hit any of my children, well, except for the time William bit me hard, I hit him. It was an instinctual, reflexive thing, that immediate,uncontrollable physical strength, knocking a young child backward, away from me, and it was really scary.
I can make excuses, a two-hour car ride with a 3-year-old who never stops talking, my husband away on a business trip, a puppy who has reached a stage of absolute destruction, the three kids playing with only each other for the entire day and the fighting and tears that seem to go with all of that. But really, I’m the grown-up here, and I’m the one who is in control, and it’s my fault.
I don’t want to sit here and think about all the gifts in my life and everything I have to be grateful for. I don’t want to pray because I lost my temper, and I don’t want to beat myself up for being fallible, for being human. But I do want to figure out how to make tomorrow a better day, even if it’s cold and rainy outside and even if the answer to more juice is still “no.”
While I was brushing my teeth, I realized I hadn’t looked in a mirror all day. I saw the blood on my face where the puppy bit me. It wasn’t his fault, puppies nip, and my face was too close and somehow a nip turned into a bite. It really hurt, but I didn’t realize I was bleeding. I got into the shower and let the water wash the day off of me.
Then I did something I have never done before. I went into the bedroom where all three of my children were sleeping, and I kneeled down beside the bed of my youngest child. I thought about how my feet were kind of cold and my back was sore and my knees weren’t, and I started to pray.
I didn’t quite know what to say except that I know these children are my responsibility, as is the puppy downstairs, but they do not belong to me, they belong to the universe, to life, to something bigger than I can even comprehend, to God. I asked for strength, and then in a voice that God and my children could all hear, I said, “I’m sorry.”
My grandmother always said that when it comes to raising children you do your best and hope they forgive you for it. I know my parents did their best. I wonder sometimes if I am doing mine.
I think storms here next to the lake are often more intense than they are just a few miles inland. But afterward, the air is soft and smells of wet sand, a vast body of water, children’s hugs, forgiveness and memory.
Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.