Alternatively titled: a prayer for the mom who just threatened to take away screen time and oh shoot now she really has to do it, etc.
To the God who has filled us each with life and breath, who gives us active bodies and aching souls, thank you for the tears of the weary mom who just had to leave the play date because her child did pull hair one last time.
You know it took her an hour and a half to pack the lunches and get everyone in their right sweater and then change one child’s sweater because it was too itchy and then have a fight about socks and why they're necessary in the Midwest in October.
You know she woke the baby up 20 minutes early so she could swing by and get two vanilla lattes because she's lovely and knows that hot coffee on a crisp fall day is one of Your sweetest earthly blessings. She gave the second latte to her friend, the mom of the child who is now left with at least 30 less hairs on her head and possibly an irreparably stretched out headband (this almost had potential to be the most dramatic part—a quick prayer for moms who have to manage the grief of a lost favorite hair accessory), but now the coffee feels like a pre-emptive peace offering. A quick prayer in itself to say "please still love me when this park date goes awry." She knew it would go awry, and she prayed and prayed it wouldn't, and I know it's not because You aren't good that she's now crying in the minivan at a much too long stop light remembering that half of her $4 coffee is still on a park bench, while her oldest child, who didn't pull hair, tells the hair puller that she’s the worst, and then the baby starts crying, and dear Lord, Giver of all Good Things, how do You allow for children to be so bad?
But this is a prayer of thanks for those tears. I almost forgot.
I’m thankful for these tears because I’ve cried them myself. I’ve held the hot sobs in my chest until the burning in my throat became too much to handle. I’ve choked back the loud gasp that comes when I’ve finally allowed the tears to fall once I’m safe and buckled in the front seat of my van. Crying quietly can be so challenging, especially when the crying wants to be more of a wail. It’s not that I don’t want my children to see me cry, but I just don’t want to answer them when they lean forward as far as their car seats will let them and whisper “what’s wrong, Mommy?” I don’t want to say “You. You’re what’s wrong. I’m crying because you were terrible and your terribleness is a direct reflection of my terribleness, so I’m crying because I’m such a bad mother, and the only way I know for sure that I’m the absolute worst is because you are constant, living proof of my every flaw and failure.”
But these words are a lie, and that’s why I’m thankful.
I’m thankful because alone in my van I’m confronting the lies I tell myself, and Lord, You allow me the space to wrestle with those untruths, and You allow all other mothers to tackle them as well.
Because like the sweet mom with the hair puller and the cranky baby and the smug oldest child, the moment I want to confess all of the terribleness is the moment that I remember these tiny people really aren’t all that bad.
Thank You for the gift of rear-view mirrors that urge us to wipe our tears and glance back to see as the smug oldest begins to tend the baby, helping him find the paci that’s fallen down the left side of the rear-facing infant seat. The middle one, the torturous little hair puller who hasn’t ever had a non-violent playdate once in her life, wipes her nose a little and finally says she’s sorry. It’s too late, but she really means it, and while better late than never is such a cliché, that whispered ill-timed apology into the air is the moment that saves us all.
Thank You for long red lights, freight trains that keep us from crossing, and road construction that stops us in our tracks for just long enough that we have time to cry.
Thank You, Lord, for the sobs that we quiet. The tears that wash away the anger and guide us towards peace. Perhaps this is why You gave humanity the genius to manufacture minivans, so You can steal us away in privacy, confronted with our own filth and frustration, and guide us to grace.
Wait, one more thing: for the friend comforting her daughter, who looks over the tiny bald spot she’s been inspecting to see the still hot, mostly full vanilla latte on the park bench and drives it to the house of the hair puller’s mother, thank you. For friendship that sees us when we are at our worst and treats us as though we are always at our best, thank you. For microwaves that heat up that cold coffee three hours later, and for the first sip of the newly warmed coffee that reminds us how terrible we aren’t, thank you. Thank You.
Written by Anna Jordan.