On Saturday night we went to a friends’ wedding, and then, because we’re parents of young children, we left early for time alone. Just the two of us.
We walked hand-in-hand down Midtown’s streets, each holding a hot, chocolatey drink from Ginger Elizabeth. His with caffeine, mine without. We stopped when we reached the steps of a big beautiful church where the homeless often congregate for warmth and no one shoos them away. I was looking for a quiet place to pour out my heart, and this would have to do.
The bulk of my confession had spilled out earlier that morning as I lay in bed nursing a fussy baby. I told him that all the noise in our house was just so very hard on my ears. The crying. The whining. The way our two year old repeats herself twenty to thirty times even when I’ve given her an adequate and clear response the first time.
I told him that on bad days, their noise makes me feel like a crazy person. And on VERY bad days, their noise just makes me angry.
He said, “I know. I see it on your face and I hear it in your voice.”
“But Lesley,” he continued. “You are not an angry person.”
And he, my husband of eight years, is right. I’m not an angry person. But when I’m pushed to my max–and I had been several times the past six months–anger spills out of my mouth and crushes their tiny spirits.
In my attempts to control, control, control all I do is break, break, break.
I hate that I let myself get angry, and I hate that I have the ability to hurt. But in addition to the anger, or perhaps because of the anger, I also feel something unfamiliar.
How could he love me after witnessing such yelling and screaming?
How could he still think I’m a good mom after listening to me tell our baby that I’m tired of him?
How could he still want to walk these quiet streets, and hold my always cold hands, and make me scrambled eggs for breakfast the next morning when I’m so undeserving?
My hot chocolate is almost done when I acknowledge that for the first time in my life I feel unlovable.
“I don’t even know why you’d want to be with me,” I say.
He gives me an incredulous laugh and wraps me in his arms, reminding me how strong we are together.
And he says it again…the words I need to hear so badly:
“You are not an angry person, so when you act angry I know you’re not getting something you need. What do you need right now?”
At first I am tempted to list all the things that would seemingly make life easier: a maid, a babysitter, a personal chef and a masseuse, for starters. But really, while some extra help would certainly alleviate any mom’s stress level, it does not address the heart of the matter. His question has.
The only thing that will fix me, and the only thing that will fix how I react to my children, is found in graceful words spoken on a quiet city street:
I am loved in spite of my imperfections…
…and my messy moments do not define who I am.