11 May 2011

For when you’re tempted to just lose it with your kids

The bacon sizzles hot and fat in the pan. The microwave sings alongside and dust motes dance in the sun along my window frames. Me and the house exhale loudly. The morning tornado of boys has been safely delivered to preschool, the baby is sleeping and other than Kenny Chesney on the radio I’m alone and it is good and quiet and warm here in the morning of my own choosing.

I think about silence and how much I like it these days.


How a dream weekend would involve me and Pete, a ginormous mattress, and hours of uninterrupted sleep. Yep, just sleep. The muscles in my neck are hunched and knotted and it’s coming back to me how much a tiny baby can weigh after hours of holding and rocking and feeding until she rivals a young elephant calf for seeming body mass.

I’ve thought and walked and made art boxes for the boys this past month. I’ve forgotten my phone in the car overnight and forgotten that I’d forgotten it. I’ve participated in mother-son karate and planned long trips to big, muddy parks with small creeks for boys to feel big and bold and as wild and free on the outside as they imagine themselves on the inside.

I’ve soaked up long conversations with friends who love words, kids, and the woods as much as we do.

And I keep coming back to the now in my life that is motherhood. This central season of wild, tempremental weather that woos and frustrates me sometimes in the very same moment. Unpredictable as a high veld storm.  Passionate as Rome. Rarely ever quiet.

What is it we seek in our homes? Justice or quiet? Maturity or mere tranquility?…Parenting is a process of regular disturbances for a high and noble end. … We are to train and instruct our children. Training is sometimes painful, occasionally noisy, usually bothersome, and always purposeful.” ~Devotions for Sacred Parenting, Gary Thomas.

When I dropped Micah off this morning it was painful, noisy and bothersome. His red, angry face mirrored his mad heart. Jackson had brought something of Micah’s in for show and tell. Micah wanted it back. Micah wanted the morning snack the early arriving kids were just finishing up. He didn’t want milk. He did want me. He also didn’t want me.

And I just wanted to snap and yell and demand obedience apart from reason.

Regular disturbances for a high and noble end.

I go down on my knees and try to imagine myself behind those sky blue eyes streaming frustration and a desperate need for shared control over the small moments that matter to a three-year-old. I let Jack show the toy to his teacher and then tell him we’re giving it back to Micah. Instead of hissing what I’m thinking, “If you don’t stop crying this second, I’m leaving and taking this stupid toy home with me” I try to see the world from inside his head.


A mom-free landscape stretches ahead. And it can come as an adventure in independence or a lonely journey pockmarked by last, angry words.

I rub his back. I wet a paper towel and wipe it gently over his hot eyes. His breathing slows. And when a teacher offers up extra graham crackers and yogurt, I quickly claim some for Micah. He sits. He eats. Slowly. Cautiously watching me. I wink at him. He eats some more. Exhales. Drinks milk.

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1.

Why have I never read my kids into that verse? Why is it ok for me to yell and not for them? What kind of day would I have if Peter lost his temper with me right as I was leaving for work?

Micah clears his plate, moves over to the carpet and circle time. And then he gives me the thumbs up. Our universal cymbal for, “I’m ok, mom, you can go now.” A grin whispers at the corner of his mouth. I smile so big back at him I can almost hear my heart exhale.

So I come home to bacon and eggs and 45 minutes of writing and thinking and eating before Zoe needs my arms again. Kenny is still singing in the background, I’m feeling deliciously full, and it’s not just the breakfast.

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{ Leave a Comment }
  1. 1

    So many times I respond to my son the way I would discipline my son for responding to me. Crazy that I think that’s okay. Well, I don’t think it’s okay, but I do it anyway. There are those moments when I hear the Lord sweetly and gently remind me to stop before I react. I started to say “There are those moments when the Lord reminds me…” but He reminds me all the time. It’s whether or not I choose to listen to Him that determines my response. I wish I could say I listen more….

  2. 2

    Oh Lisa-Jo. This was so perfect. We were *just* discussing this verse this morning in the car as my 5 year old tore into his brother over something silly, and we talked about how harsh words stir up anger, and my 7 year old said that “anger swells up and burst out of someone when you talk mean to them”. And I have to remind myself constantly when my skin crawls and I’m tempted to yell and bite… This was a perfect description of all of it, and YES, how God fills and soothes when we bristle and loose our patience.

    Loved this. Thank you for sharing your big Mama heart with us. You are an encourager!

  3. 3

    My life is the same as yours in many ways (from reading this), only I never feel deliciously full. I wish I could. I love my child, but I hate the whole motherhood thing. Weird, huh?

    • 4
      Stephanie says:

      I know exactly how you feel cause I felt it for many years (and felt so disappointed with myself and guilty about feeling it.) But keep praying and giving it to God, cause He knows and understands and He loves you and your children. Over time God has changed my heart and I’m so thankful. I wish it could have been sooner rather than later, but He’s faithful to do it.
      I hope I haven’t “intruded” to comment. God bless you!

  4. 5
    Michelle says:

    Thank you so much for this post. Your thoughts stick with me long after I read them, and instead of making me feel less than worthy, they empower me. In short, your thoughts make *me* think and reflect; therefore, I am a better mother because you share.

    Thank you!

  5. 6

    I’m so glad you’re here – to know what it’s like. I lost it last night… focusing so much on “I need to get this house clean” and pushing my sweet boy aside until we were both in tears throwing a tantrum. I’m too emotional, I don’t know how to do this discipline thing. But you’re so right – I need to see things through his eyes, to see what’s important to him and why. I never thought I’d be a yelling mama, and I don’t want to be… It’s time to slow down and take the time to use gentle words. Lord, give me the words.

  6. 7

    This was so good… with my kids older I find myself sometimes longing and aching for different. for before… but then moments happen where I feel dangling between losing it on them, or collapsing on me…

  7. 8

    Thank you. This is definitely something I needed to read. Thanks for sharing.

  8. 9
    Sarah R. says:

    oh how i needed this today! it was a crazy, busy morning and when we got home i was longing for my alone time during nap time. and instead of lovingly moving the boys to nap time i demanded, and snapped, and flat out lost my temper. sigh… so thankful for grace for all these moments.

  9. 10

    “A mom-free landscape stretches ahead. And it can come as an adventure in independence or a lonely journey pockmarked by last, angry words.”

    My last words to my stepson weren’t angry. Just frustrated. Broken. Sad at a child being given an adult’s task–being put in the middle. It was Valentine’s Day.

    He may never remember the words, the ones I repeated. He may not even know how much I just wanted the call to end because hearing his voice was too much for me.
    Knowing that there was no way either of us could fix the confusion. I just wanted to not be having that conversation any more.

    Today. Today I would pray for more patience to extend the conversation. To let him make the attempt to fix the confusion and to have tried to smooth things over when it didn’t work, or congratulate him if he could make it work.

    86 days with no words. An entire world of mom-free landscapes. Amazing what perspective does for the view.

  10. 11

    I so much love this post, Lisa-Jo! So. Much.

    Because recently it’s been really hard, and I’ve wondered things I wish I hadn’t, and I’ve wanted to speak in tones that aren’t loving. I’ve talked with my groom about how we need to ignore the bad (behavior) and praise the good. And then, when the boy was sick we seemed to forget about the attitude and the drama and the not-needing-us-but-needing-us push and pull of a six year old boy. It is hard. But it’s so important. For, the job of parenting isn’t just for them, it’s also for us…and it’s a revealing of His glory every moment.

  11. 12

    I am working at keeping the harsh words locked in the pit of my stomach and not having them come out of my mouth with my kids. I know. I get this.

  12. 13

    Thank you for the sweet reminder. I know too often I think, well no wonder they react to you that way! You do it to them. Ugh. Such an ebb and flow of emotions and feelings everyday. I need to work harder to add that verse to the lives of my children.

    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

  13. 14
    Amy Carter says:

    Thanks for sharing your heart, you made my day! :)

  14. 15

    Oh thank you for this post, for this dose of Mama Love, for this moment of reading that resonates, “you are not alone” to me…thank you for the verse which we are going to memorize together.

    Today has been a day where, in the wise words of my cowboy husband my homeschooled, gifted, ever questing and questioning son has ‘wore me slick’. We’ve had our debates, our questions and our answers at least in fourteen different versions. All coming back to the bottom line: why don’t little boys get to be bosses?


    Bright blessings for you, always and in all ways…

  15. 16

    I know this is so not the point of this post, but the fact that you listen to Kenny Chesney makes me love you all the more {which I didn’t think was possible}!

    And this post? Another home run. You lay out your passionate Mama heart in a way that makes this floundering-but-trying Mama shake her head up and down while saying,

    “Yes, that’s it. Exactly.”

  16. 17

    I have a Micah too. It sounds like yours is full of love and life, much like mine.

    Such wise words, to keep the quiet and not give in to the feeling-right(eous)-at-the-moment anger, which is always followed by regret.

    I am remembering to keep my quiet more with my second child, and I believe the entire house is benefiting from my learning. And while I wish I could go back and relive the earlier years with my daughter, I can only pray that she can catch mama’s learning and change.

    Thank you for your writing.

  17. 18

    Amen and Amen. Oh my and Amen.

  18. 19

    Oh, I sooooo needed this, Lisa Jo!! Thank you so much for sharing this…you have the gift to encourage!

  19. 20

    Sooooo loverly.

    Thanks, girl.

  20. 21

    wow–that was really, really good. we expect so much of them sometimes, don’t we? even more than we do ourselves, it seems! what a timely reminder of how my own responses can influence and shape who they are, who they are becoming. . . . thank you.
    and that picture of all three of them–beautiful :-) i love the alertness in your little girl’s eyes. so sweet.

  21. 22

    Girl, your wisdom speaks volumes to me today. I am so guilty of this, especially of sending my kids to school fresh off an argument or reprimand. Thanks for reminding me to think about being in their kid-sized impressionable shoes.

  22. 23

    Perfect…I think I might need to read that every day. Parenting is definitely a huge lesson in the wise use of words. Proverbs slays me every time I read it. And having read Sacred Marriage and loved it, I think I might need to go buy Sacred Parenting too if the whole book is as good as that quote.

    • 24
      Michelle (in Switzerland) says:

      yes, I too might need to read this every day…will be printing it now, sharing it with my husband, putting it up somewhere where I’ll see it and be reminded. Thank you, L-J!

  23. 26

    I so love…tornado of boys…wow!

  24. 27

    your words encapsulate the hidden caves of my soul–thank you!

  25. 28

    Oh, Lisa Jo – you’ve crawled right down into what every mama feels and thinks here. I think that a similar incident and epiphany is what propelled me towards the practice of gentle discipline. I smacked my toddler for hitting and the cognitive dissonance of that moment (I hit her to teach her that hitting is wrong? Say what?) showed me that my reaction in those moments of stress and anger is even more important than my reaction during the other times. Thank you for this beautifully written and oh, so timely word.

  26. 29

    As a mom who has survived two boys with very bad toddlerhoods to watch them grow into adult aged men, I both applaud you and give you a loving maternal suggestion…

    While it is good and decent and loving to exercise your will into learning how to give a measured and loving response to moments when our children are struggling with circumstance that has left them melting down

    I urge you

    Please dont be so hard on yourselves that you end up considering yourselves for responding in a human way when all the other members of your family are acting like broken goofy selfish humans.

    As moms we seem to expect perfection out of ourselves and if we are successful then our kids will miss out on a VERY important lesson in life – namely that there ARE times when we can say things or act in ways that get us in serious trouble. PERIOD. As harsh reaction from a parent might be a perfectly reasonable reaction for certain behaviors and learn that they must.

    If your child knows nothing but calm and reason and love coming from you regardless of their actions and nothing in their behavioral repertoire can throw you off you game, then they will simply NOT be prepared to go out into a world that does NOT exist for their convenience. Learning to deal with a sometimes-grumpy mom will help them learn how to deal with a sometimes grumpy professor wife, or boss or child of their own.

    If we act like we have to be perfect, we will possibly communicate to our family that they should expect us to be perfect too and that is not fair to anyone…humans are flawed, us included and it is just as much our families job to deal with us as it is for us to deal with them.

    and in teaching our kids to deal with the real, we may save them from a pummeling that they could otherwise get someday

    • 30
      thegypsymama says:

      Yes, very true. And I think more often than not – that is the side of their mama that my boys see. So it’s always refreshing when I manage to keep it together, take a deep breath, and see the world through their eyes on a Monday morning when it could very easily have gone the other way.

      Thank you for the encouragement to just keep it human :)

  27. 31

    My heart is exhaling bigtime and my eyes are leaking….I am so moved and remember the days of frustration with my four daughters….now all married and I am now a grandmother of eleven beautiful grandchildren. Your words of wisdom and love are so healing. Your children and the world at large are so blessed them.

  28. 32

    Love your pictures. What a beautiful baby girl!!!! I have a boy and two girls – 17, 15, and 13. I remember having 3 kids under 4, and it frustrated me to no end to talk all day long and have no one understand what I was saying. It was all a blur. Regarding moms making mistakes, we make a ton of mistakes because we’re all just flying by the seat of our pants. As soon as we’ve got one stage of their lives mastered, along comes another one! I feel that if I make wrong decisions now regarding their behavior (when to give them a little slack, what activities I’ll allow, who they’re allowed to hang around) it could have dire consequences for the rest of their lives. Heavy stuff! God gives you strength for every stage as you need it! Great blog!

  29. 33

    Lisa Jo:

    You truly have such wisdom. You openly speak the words that are on so many of our Mama hearts. Thank you for sharing your passion, encouragement and words; they are such a blessing!!

  30. 34

    Lisa Jo,

    I just read your post on Mamapedia about love, and wanted to hear more, so I clicked on your link. I’m so glad I did. I find it so hard some times dealing with my multiple sclerosis while trying to keep it together for my husband and our daughter. This post reminded me that I need to turn more to God’s words for my strength, so I can teach my daughter to do the same. I’m definitely going to read the books on your suggestion list, and follow your blogs. You have come into my life at the right time, and I thank you for that. God bless.


  1. […] was blog surfing through my extensive RSS list this morning, and happened to read this post from Gypsy Mama. It got me thinking. And now I want to share my thoughts with […]

  2. […] For When You’re Tempted To Just Lose It With Your Kids @ The Gypsy Mama :: “What is it we seek in our homes? Justice or quiet? Maturity or mere tranquility?…Parenting is a process of regular disturbances for a high and noble end. … We are to train and instruct our children. Training is sometimes painful, occasionally noisy, usually bothersome, and always purposeful.” ~Devotions for Sacred Parenting, Gary Thomas.” […]

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