Forty-five minutes. That’s how long it lasted. A food-slinging, screaming, crying, full-blown three-year-old fury of a fit. I thought it would never end. And all over a Lunchable. A Lunchable! He wanted the cookies out of the Lunchable; baby brother wanted all the other contents. Great! Until he changed his mind and wanted the entire Lunchable. And a replacement Lunchable just would not do. No. He wanted that Lunchable. And so it began. At one point I was pretty sure it would last all day. And I was even more sure that I would be a crying heap of a woman by the time my husband walked in the door from work.
Less than an hour earlier it was peaceful. There were smiles and giggles and lots of ideas of what we were going to do that afternoon. Play-doh? Reading our favorite books on repeat? Building a fort with all the couch cushions? Yes to all! What a great day! But in one minute flat it went from calm and cool to crazy chaos. And I was on the verge of a mommy meltdown myself. It’s as if I felt the peace leaving my body. I knew I had to hold it together, but how? I was sleep-deprived, lacking energy, running low on patience and my expectations of the day had been set high.
Both kids now crying. Peace is leaving the building. Anger threatens to take its place. Anger and hot tears. Someone…anyone…help! How do I make this madness stop, I thought. How can such little people have such big control over my emotions? Is this normal? Am I normal? Are my kids normal? Am I on the verge of a nervous breakdown? Yes, I know most of these thoughts might be unrealistic. But in the moment (and you know those moments) it feels suffocating and the doubts creep in fast! Other mothers would be able to regain control, solve the problem of the Lunchables and keep calm all while smiling and with an abundance of patience…right? My irrational thoughts continued. Along with guilt. I wasn’t smiling anymore. Smiles and peace left the building together.
Remove screamer from highchair. Fit moves from highchair to floor. And continues for the rest of the day (at least that’s how it felt). I let the fit run its course. I knew he’d eventually grow tired enough, hungry enough or bored enough with it that he would stop. And he did. He was wiped out. I was too. Now what? After some deep breaths, prayers and a quick check of the clock to see how many hours left until bedtime, I pulled up my boot straps and offered the remaining Lunchable to my son. He accepted, with a smile, and ate it happily as if nothing ever happened. Really? How’d he do that? Was he really over it already or was he playing a heartless trick on me, preparing himself to start hollering again any minute? He kept eating. It was officially over.
Brush hair from face, straighten shirt and take another deep breath. Awhile later I sat down to eat my lunch while the boys played together downstairs. I sat there worn out and a little defeated. How did I so easily lose my peace during that unexpected moment of toddler insanity? Why was I so quick to give it away, placing it into the hands of a child that has not yet learned how to appropriately regulate his own emotions, and who needs his mother to hold tightly to that precious peace so as to teach him how to eventually do the same. More mommy guilt. But a thought I’ve had lately is: If we want peace, in any given situation, we must bring it. And then we must hold on to it, even when the storm clouds start rolling in and you feel them threaten to rain all over your peace parade. Our children are watching us… watching and waiting to see if we’ll be their calm or add to their chaos. If we’ll show them peace and joy or hand it over at the drop of a hat, leaving them with an unsteady foundation during a moment of rising emotions.
So whether it’s your toddler expressing his opinion in a socially unacceptable way in the middle of the grocery store, your husband who makes a thoughtless comment or the kids who refuse your homemade dinner for the sixth day in a row… hold tightly to your peace! Claim it, own it and bring it to each and every in-the-trenches moment motherhood throws your way. It won’t be easy. It’ll take practice. But I truly believe it’s possible. Moving forward my goal is to practice peace… practice it in the little irritations all the way up to the mommy meltdown moments. I want peace to saturate my everyday interactions with my family. And so I’m hopeful…and peaceful.
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12