Hi, remember me? I was the cute, young thing in Tory Burch accessories a while back who saw you at Trader Joe's on that horrible day. I'm sure you'll remember. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon, and you were still in those stained Wal-Mart yoga pants you wore to your morning step class.
You had a shopping cart filled with lunchmeat, snack packs, drinks, and toilet paper. I was buying a cheese and cracker plate and overpriced wine.
You had two young girls who were trying to balance on the edge of the cart while singing (read: yelling) the theme song to some mind-numbing cartoon. I had my MP3 player plugged into a Grammy-winning artist you had likely never even heard of.
You were promising your kids two desserts if they would be quiet for five minutes. The next minute you were growling at them to stop jumping in and out of the cart or they would never get dessert again in their lives. Finally, you banished them to a bench near the exit, exhausted by your errands, your day, your life.
I remember thinking how different my kids would be that magical day I became a mother. Like Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, I would insist that the children come to me, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.
Then the children actually came.
Time to come clean: I had NO idea what I was in for. No. Idea. Despite my degree in children's development, I have begged, bribed, threatened, and coerced my two preschool boys more times than I'd like to admit. While I love reading and want them to grow up to be readers, I have edited more than one bedtime book because my favorite television show was starting in five minutes. I have eaten their Halloween candy, dressed them in clothes pulled from the hamper, and called Santa on my cell phone to report bad behavior.
And I still consider myself a good mother.
I now know that when Jesus invited all the little children unto him it was because he knew that their mothers could not possibly answer one more question, tie one more shoe, sign one more reading log, or have one more conversation through the bathroom door. Two thousand years later, we mothers are still pleading with heaven for divine respite care.
As for my boys, they have each had Academy Award-worthy meltdowns in the middle of a hot, crowded department store. On more than one occasion, they have refused to eat, nap, potty, and say thank you when I needed them to, and have therefore been cranky, tired, wet, and rude at the worst possible times. They have also dropped the f-bomb in front of my mother-in-law. Twice. But I still consider myself a good mother. And I still think I have good kids.
Because here's the thing: you don't get to edit the family experience. You don't always get to practice the right things to do at precisely the right moment and then get to display your success in a series of glossy snapshots. Family happens in real time. And since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), sometimes it's a real mess. But most of the time—usually behind closed doors—it's lovely. Not perfect, mind you, but sweet, fun, tender, funny, uplifting, and light: Goggles at bath time, surprise smooch attacks, candlelit snack time.
I have come to love the language of my family, the goofy jokes only we get, the traditions we're creating, the memories we're making. But even though I know most of the time we're doing okay, I can still get stuck in the muck of a bad day; and so can everyone else.
So to the woman I unfairly judged at the grocery store that day—and to all of the other moms I have mentally rolled my eyes at—please forgive me.
Sorry I didn't offer a warm smile, a kind word, or a gentle thought.
Sorry I chose that precise moment to feel superior.
Sorry I caught you on a bad day.
The next time I see you cast a pleading look to our Lord, I will choose to be Jesus' hands and feet, and invite your children to come unto me if only so you can go to the bathroom in private. It might not yet be the kingdom of God, but at least you can enjoy your throne in peace.
Most Sincerely Yours,
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Helen Coronato is all about homeschooling her two boys, loving her husband, spending time with her girlfriends, and trying to become more like the person Jesus intended her to be. Check out her projects and connect at www.helencoronato.com.