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What I Learned from Yelling at My Kids

“I need some space!” I hear my own words echoed in my three-year-old’s mouth as her big sister scoots beside her on the couch for a cuddle. The scene is all too familiar, except usually it’s my own body being crowded by the two sweaty bodies of my little girls—as well as a pint size dog—all vying for a piece of my lap, and of course, my undivided attention.

“My herd,” I call them affectionately, or irritably, depending on how patient or impatient I feel, depending on how much more energy I have to give to my children that are constantly hungry for more of it. Not to mention, that little dog, who at the end of the day jumps and scratches at my legs to remind me that she needs love and attention too.

My kids look to me for affirmation, for love, for assurance, and care. I am their center, their anchor, and compass —and boy is it a lot of pressure. Sometimes I feel so damn tired, overwhelmed, and insufficient for this job.

Have you been in this place too? Maybe you are there now. In the place where people depend on you, where the team relies on you, the company needs more of you, where it feels like you’re the one that keeps the world spinning and you’ve got to keep it all together.

In the parking lot at Target, I was caught in a moment where I wasn’t cutting it. I was trying to unload the younger one, who was screaming, the older one taunting, and I had lost the patience to handle it. Instead I yelled, “Stop it! Stop yelling! Stop teasing! Everybody just stop!” The patient and loving “put together” mother—you know, my “alter ego”—sat like an angel on my shoulder peering on at my disheveled pony, tee marked with armpit sweat, and pinched red face and shook her head. Then, to make matters worse, a woman with a suit that looked like she had actually ironed it, and silky black hair that had to have been blow dried, approached and asked if she could, “help me.”

“No thank you,” I responded, vision becoming blurry with tears and face now hot with sudden shame.

“Okay,” she said. “But I have three kids. I’ve been where you are now.”

I wondered if she caught sight of my pregnant belly. Could she smell the hormonal rage and desperation wafting from me like the summer heat?

We’re okay,” I said stubbornly, and turned back to my kids that were surprised into silence.

Later, as we drove, I asked my older daughter, Bree, if she felt embarrassed that the woman came over. “No. Why be embarrassed? That kind of stuff happens to everyone, Mom. We’re only human.”

We’re only human.” her words were the balm I needed on the tender vulnerability that had felt exposed by the encounter. “I AM ONLY HUMAN,” I whispered back to myself.

It is easy to think that we keep the world spinning. That we need to hold everything and everyone together, but, we are only human. We can acknowledge that there will be moments when we crack, when we don’t keep up the perfect veneer, and when we show our humanity.

Maybe it’s in revealing our humanity that we offer others the privilege of entering in.

As capable adults, parents, bosses…we don’t ever want to break down. But, maybe instead of breaking down, it is breaking open. It’s revealing our vulnerabilities and inviting another to support us in our weak places.

That night I listened to the book, “Radical,” by David Platt on Audible as I cuddled my littlest one to sleep. In “Radical,” Platt describes a Buddhist man and a Hindu man discussing the commonalities of their religion.

We’re both trying to reach the same God through different means,” one says.

Platt responds, “The way you’re describing it, it’s as if God is at the top of a mountain and you are both using different routes to get to him.”

They both nodded their heads in agreement.

“But the God I believe in came down from that mountain and entered into our humanity to get to us.” (paraphrased)

This description scoots close to my heart and makes it beat faster. Do you feel it too?

Yes, after a long day of being only human, it feels like grace to be reminded of the way God enters into our world, into our messy lives, so he can be close to you and me. And here we are going about life as though we’re the ones that have to keep it all together.

When we turn to God for what we need, he gives us himself. In fear his Spirit provides peace, in pain, comfort. In our doubt, he supplies faith and trust. In our loneliness and desperation he sends someone to offer help.

Will we ask? Will we accept it? We’re only human, after all.

Thank you God, that in all your power, you became human so you could be close to us.


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