I’m in California, a place that is in a different time zone from where I live. Two mornings ago, and the several before that, my kids woke before dawn. That didn’t bother me the first two mornings I was here because I was going to bed early and waking with them. However, the night before two mornings ago (confusing?), I went to bed pretty late (late being 10:30 pm). I started shifting to the new time zone, but my kids did not. Even though my kids are going to bed later each night, they haven’t acclimated to getting up much later yet.
Three mornings ago, Little E needed to use the bathroom at 5 am and for some reason wanted to complain to me about it. I was annoyed. I told her not to bother me and not to wake her brothers with her loud calling of Mama. She didn’t end up waking her younger brother that morning, and I was able to go back to sleep. However, two mornings ago, 5 am, we had a repeat. This time, she did disturb her younger brother, who never did fall back asleep; consequently, neither did I. Now I was angry.
I tried to convince two year old JP to go back to sleep, but at that point, he was in bed next to me (because he had also woken up too early, and it was my best chance for getting him back to sleep), and I wasn’t really committed to putting him back in his crib and hearing him scream. It wasn’t long before he was gently poking my nose and eyes and making sweet little singing sounds. My anger dispelled like dew under the morning sun’s rays. I couldn’t resist grabbing his whole giggling self in a huge hug and kissing his round cheeks and dimples.
Both children prevented me from finishing my night’s sleep. Why did one provoke anger and the other warmth? This could just be a lesson in how you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, a saying I recite to Little E quite a bit. However, this episode and many others like it have gotten me thinking. Why do I get so angry when my children complain, whine, scream, or disobey?
I think there are four main reasons. I want to delve into each one fully because I don’t think I’m the only one to lose her temper with her kids, so I’m only going to dwell on the first one in this post.
My first main reason for getting angry at my children, unfortunately, is inconvenience. I was mad at Little E, not JP, because she was the one who caused JP to not be able to go back to sleep. I was pinning the blame on Little E, so I couldn’t get mad at JP, especially as he was acting so cute (as a side note, it really is easier to keep your temper with a child who knows how to please–both my boys are pleasers). I don’t think about it this way at the time of anger, but usually I’m angry because she (or another child) has done something to inconvenience or cause trouble for me.
Because it’s all about me, right?
When I have been woken too early, I’m usually not thinking about the possible genuine reason for my daughter waking me–I usually instead jump to the conclusion that she has no valid reason for doing so. The reason is, I want to sleep, and someone is stopping that from happening. When she or another of my children won’t obey me, the anger isn’t a righteous anger about their disobedience. I just want them to do what I want them to do right away so my life will run more smoothly. Because, once again, it’s all about me and what I want.
I know my children need to learn to be considerate of their mother. They need to learn to obey with a cheerful heart. However, while teaching them, I need to have a cheerful heart as well. I can’t let them run all over me in the name of acting selflessly. Let me emphasize this because it can be tempting to some to go this direction. Nevertheless, I need to keep a selfless attitude while I train them.
When I keep that kind of attitude, sometimes I find that the reason I was angry wasn’t a good reason at all. Yes, she spilled her milk for the 50th time in a month (ok, I’m exaggerating, but it sure feels that way sometimes), but she really didn’t do it on purpose. Maybe she was careless and needs to learn to be more careful, but really, “no crying over spilled milk,” right? If I stop and think, I’m angry about the milk because now I have a mess to clean. Yes, she might help me clean it, but I know ultimately, I have to clean it. I sure don’t get as angry about spilled water that the children can easily wipe–I just think, Hey! The floor is getting mopped for once! And my children are doing it for me! It comes down to the fact that I get angry when I am inconvenienced.
But Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). I, as a mother, need to die to myself and my own wishes every day. Really, just by having children, I have chosen to be inconvenienced. If I wanted convenience, I wouldn’t have brought someone in my house who would from the very beginning need so much from me so many hours of the day and night. I knew this would happen, but it was worth it to me. Now that they’re older, let me not forget this fact. May I, and the rest of mothers like me, lay our conveniences down for the sake of following Jesus and loving our children well.
How about you? Have you had this experience? Have you found a good way to combat it? Post below, if so!