A few weeks ago, I didn't beat my children, and it ranked as the major accomplishment of my day.
We were having one of those days (and if that doesn't mean anything to you, just stop reading now). Energy levels were at polar ends of the spectrum -- I was exhausted and achy in a five-months-pregnant-with-varicose-veins sort of way, and the kids were bouncing off the walls and any other surface that happened to present itself. It was extremely hot outside and the air conditioner hadn't yet been repaired. A video was playing, and no one was watching. There was fighting, tearing around, screaming, climbing, and debris. The noise level, the feist level, the mess level, and my irritation level were all rising at roughly the same rate. And then there was a crash in the kitchen, and I was faced with a shattered plate (not the first broken dish of the day) and a flooded floor (not the first spill of the day). I snapped in three pieces. And I screamed. At that moment I fully understood and sympathized with women who beat their children. It was all I could do not to seize the nearest child and lay into her.
I did not beat my children. I kicked them all outside (not literally, though my foot itched) and told them that mommy needed ten minutes by herself inside, and that they could play outdoors but they were not to come in. While fetching towels and sweeping up wreckage, I prayed for strength. I was just beginning to feel calmer and slightly at peace when the four-year-old burst in and scattered the extensive dust pile I'd just swept up. And for the second time in less than ten minutes, I screamed. She fled outside and collapsed in sobs, and I really didn't care.
The hardest thing I did that day was to force myself to open the door and pick her up and comfort her even though I felt like she deserved to cry. I stroked her head and cuddled her and apologized for yelling and eventually, as we sat out under the hot sun, I meant what I was saying. Things settled down, though I can't recall what we did the rest of the day -- maybe we got out of the house, or maybe we read a book, or maybe people finally took naps. We readjusted, and life moved on.
Mothers often talk about how frustrated they are with their children. What we don't discuss much are those times when the frustration veers into dangerous territory. To say, "I felt like beating my children the other day" -- and to mean it seriously -- is a terrible thing to acknowledge, especially for homeschoolers who feel like the CPS lurks under every rock. But some days it's the simple truth, no matter how ugly it sounds. And some days "I didn't beat my children" is a statement of accomplishment, even though it's an accomplishment that will never be praised or held up as an example.
You can't expect any gratitude from your kids: they'll remember your one negative action with ten times more clarity than the thousands of times you were patient. You can't expect any sympathy from the culture, because why on earth do you keep having kids when you can't control the ones you have? Your husband understands, but he can't really publish the fact that his wife is so excellent that she doesn't hit the kids even when sorely provoked. But to those mothers who've scraped up the last shards of grace with their fingernails and ground them with gritted teeth: today, I salute you. God grant you always pass the test, even if it's only by the skin of your teeth.
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