They say you should never cry over spilled milk … and then they remind you that spilling breast milk is a totally different ball game.
But have you ever spilled milk.
It was at breakfast the other day, my boys were all gathered around the table waiting rather impatiently for their food. I’ll be honest with you and let you know that this was NOT going to be a world class meal, I was reckoning I would toss together some cereal and milk for the boys and would opt for a cup of coffee for myself.
As I set the table and poured the cereal into the bowls I sighed, the day was just beginning and I was already failing.
Come on, what was I?
Some basic mom who didn’t care about their children’s health, a lazy and overtired woman just doing what was quickest and easiest so that I could steal away a few moments to escape into the bottom of a big @$s mug …
Irregardless of how much I beat myself up as I poured their cereal, I went through the motions.
One bowl full, another bowl full, the third bowl full, and the fourth only partially (I mean, man cub 4 hardly needs a FULL bowl). It felt a little like the story of Goldilocks as I prepared meals that were too unhealthy, too chalked with preservatives and none that we just right.
Now it was time for the milk.
I went to pour the first bowl and as I did, the bag slipped and the milk flowed over the table and onto the floor.
That was the moment.
I looked around at the faces of my boys, took each one in as they hesitated, as they waited for the scolding, as they prepared to apologize or shrink back for something that wasn’t even their fault. I gazed around as the words flowed out of my mouth, “it’s ok, it’s just a little milk. Mommy can clean it up.”
Sounds like a real mom win doesn’t it.
Like not an ounce of frustration was felt, if you disregard the TOTAL mental tension that was running through my mind as I silently cursed my husband who had caused this mess by not banging the milk on the counter to rid the jar of air under the bag AND who had cut a GIANT, elephant hole in the tip of said bag which culminated in a GUSH of milk all over the table, chair and floor.
But, to my boys, I had remained cool as a cucumber. I exuded grace abounding. And as I watched their shoulders settle, their expressions eased, and witnessed as they resumed their childish banter it hit me.
This grace abounding was what I extended to myself.
When, not even a week prior, I had yelled irresponsibly at my three year old son for doing the exact same thing. For spilling the milk at lunch as he reached across the table for a cracker offered to him by his brother.
A week ago, I screamed about a cup that had been carelessly tipped over while half full. And, as the milk flowed over the table and through the crack to the floor, this MOM … who was now “winning” had blown a fuse and spewed anger and wrath over nothing.
I could hear myself, as I sopped up my own mess, asking, “why can’t you boys just sit quietly and eat?” Blasting them, “Look at what you’ve done now!” Chipping away at their innocence and “safety” with my frustration and pride.
I mean, how DARE they inconvenience me in the slightest.
And it hit me.
How much grace was I willing to extend myself. I was patient with myself because I knew it was an accident, I was calm because I remembered it would take mere seconds to clean, I was level headed because spilled milk was no big deal in the grand scheme of things. I was winning in that moment because I had an audience, worried that there would be an explosion.
And yet, I am so quick to lose my temper when the stakes are high. When it is their tiny hearts that I am working with, that I am demolishing with words or wrath. When I shout, insult, and forget who I am speaking to.
My tiny humans.
The fragile men I am entrusted to build life into. These beautiful blank canvases that I am smearing with tar in moments of selfish arrogance, in times where I forget that they are children, that they make mistakes, and that it is JUST MILK for crying out loud.
And it broke me.
The anger that resides just under the surface, waiting to be unleashed on the unsuspecting and undeserving hearts of my children, over the slightest of infractions, breaks me.
And, each time I am reminded of my shortcomings, of the ways in which I continue to fail as a mother (and not because I am feeding my children Raisin Bran in the morning instead of a homemade oat bar, but because of the way that I allow bitterness and pride to dictate my tone and response) I am reminded of God’s unending grace and wisdom abounding.
James 1:19-20 says, “… let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
And I think of how my anger, my raised voice and harsh words, come pouring back at me in the defiance and rebellion of my second man cub, how I see the quick temper in my third bundle of energy, and how I see a proud and slightly arrogant oldest boy taking on characteristics of my impatient parenting. They are all there with me, all taking on these fits of rage as art of their own persona and it has to stop.
The cycle of raised voices, anger, frustration and futile attempts at improvement needed to end.
And so, as I tossed the milk soaked paper towel into the garbage bin, as I turned to see my boys, joy filled and back to “normal” I asked them for forgiveness, I confessed to them my quick temper and I asked if they could help to hold me accountable to growth, to refinement, to prayer and petition over this dangerous short-coming. I watched as each of my boys looked at me, taking this confession in, as their hearts softened and as – one by one – they came over to me for a hug, for comfort, to remind me that I was a good mom.
And then we prayed. We huddled on the floor of the kitchen, squeezing between the fridge and the dishwasher, and my boys prayed for their momma.
Ladies, we can’t be afraid to admit when we are wrong, to apologize and ask for forgiveness. We have incredible opportunities to witness the grace of a child when we allow ourselves to be weak.
I can’t promise that I won’t give into frustration the next time the milk is spilled or the floor is covered with a spattering of discarded legos, clothing shed as costumes were changed, and pencil crayons abandoned after an impromptu sketching session, but I do know that I have eyes watching me, watching how I allow God to refine my motherhood, WATCHING to see if the demons that threaten our grace and our ability to give love will ultimately win.
I have to remember that, each time I come into a situation where my temper flares and my selfish desire to have things RIGHT or CALM, I have an opportunity to allow our Heavenly Father to work in me and through me, to show growth, refinement and a true desire to reflect the unconditional love of our amazing God.
And what an opportunity that is.