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The Day My Daughter Broke Me

Can I level with you for a moment? Being a Mommy can be utterly exhausting. You’ve been there, right? Frayed nerves, lack of sleep, no end to the constant flow of demands. There is really no shame in admitting that you don’t have it all figured out. However, sometimes it feels like we will never get it ‘figured out.’ It seems like sometimes the fierce love and devotion we have for our children is simply not enough. When it is not enough– when you have reached your limit– you can reach your breaking point. This is my story about the day my daughter ‘broke’ me.

We had just returned from vacation and everyone in the family was tired. Of course, I willfully ignored the warning signs and tried to plan too much activity for the weekend (when will I ever learn?). Sweet Pea had just turned 2 years old and was at the height of her toddler ‘drama mama’ phase. Mostly, she was just a fireball of constant energy– loud, active, demanding. You know, a spitfire. However, in addition to the energetic toddler I was accustomed to chasing around, I now had to also contend with a baby who was quickly becoming a little girl– and all the attitude and limit testing that goes with it.

The Day My Daughter Broke Me

Sunday Morning Worship

Ever since Sweet Pea started to walk, Sunday morning worship service had turned into a battle of wills. Sweet Pea ruthlessly defended her ‘right,’ as a high energy toddler, to play. Her Daddy and I were determined to ‘teach’ her appropriate worship behavior so that we could finally leave the isolation of the ‘scream’ room and you know, participate in worship services again. This dynamic combined with the sheer exhaustion and overstimulation made for a potentially explosive showdown, er… I mean meltdown. All we needed was a spark. Well, we got that spark… but it wasn’t Sweet Pea who melted down, it was me.

I had learned months before that it was not ‘advisable’ to try worship services unprepared. Of course I had my church bag packed to the gills with all of Sweet Pea’s favorite tricks and distractions. Over the past year we had meticulously culled the contents of the bag, studying the interests and proclivities of our wild child much in the same way an anthropologist studies a primitive culture. Our ‘system’ was fail proof. Except, on this day it wasn’t.

When the Tricks Failed

I knew we were in trouble when Sweet Pea blew through her bag of fun before the minister had even started his warm up pitch. Activities that in weeks past would entertain for at least 5 to 10 minutes, barely held Sweet Pea’s attention for 30 seconds. With each discarded toy, Sweet Pea’s energy level increased so that by the time I pulled out the ‘big guns’ (aka– the best toys ever for church), my little girl was loud, impatient, and borderline out of control. What alternate universe were we in? Why didn’t my bag of tricks work? A fellow Mom friend (toddler survivor) sensed my desperation and gave me a weak smile. What could she do to help though? After all, her ‘ball of energy’ was trying to stick his hands in her mouth.

And then there was ‘the sermon.’ It wasn’t enough that Sweet Pea was amped up and my Sunday morning lifelines were rendered ineffective. Nah, that would have been too easy. On this particular day, the sermon lasted ONE ENTIRE HOUR! What?! An entire hour? Wait, that isn’t supposed to happen. My bag of tricks is timed for a 30 minute sermon. Nobody ever preaches for an ENTIRE HOUR! That meant that our worship service, which is supposed to end around 1145AM (a perfectly reasonable time for families with young children to then grab lunch before said children turn into hungry cyclones) was still winding down at 1215PM! Now we were venturing into potential nap time territory and the notion that my overtired toddler would miss her nap and be a hungry monster was just too much to bear.

I should mention that by this point I was done. All of the tricks had been used. The snacks had either been eaten or thrown on the floor. But worship was not over– not at 1215pm, nor 1220pm, nor… 1225pm. Not only that, Sweet Pea had not stopped. Why would she? I mean, this was not defeat for her, it was her victory lap. By the time the invitation song was announced all I could do was sit there, eyes glazed over and numb. To celebrate her (thankfully short-lived) victory, Sweet Pea used my body as a jungle gym… hanging off my neck, pulling my hair, climbing on my back. I didn’t even try to stop her. I couldn’t. I was done. My daughter had ‘broke’ me.

The Day My Daughter Broke Me

Can you relate?

Some of you might be nodding your heads because you understand my story on a visceral level. My story is your story. Day after day, week after week, month after month you just pray your ‘bag of tricks’ holds out and that you aren’t thrown too many unexpected curveballs. You look longingly at other Moms who seem to have it all together, whose kids are just.. content, and wonder if there is something wrong with your child. Or, maybe your child is just fine… and the problem is you? In reality, temperament is just temperament and you know deep down that for now, you just have to grin (sometimes through tightly clenched teeth) and bear it. You know deep down that you are giving your best, but many times there is not a direct correlation between parenting effort and desired outcome.

I also know some of you may be chuckling, thinking that I am such a naïve rookie. One child. I cannot manage one child. Ha! Well, I cannot argue your point. I do feel overwhelmed with one child. I know I will adapt if/when we are blessed with more children. I marvel at fellow Moms who can manage multiple children and am in complete awe of Moms who manage multiple children under the age of five.

God’s Blessing to Me

However, right now God has blessed me with one highly spirited little girl. He has tenderly placed her in the crook of my arms and given me the solemn duty to mother her.. and for now, only her. I am fine with that. I am learning to accept my shortcomings. After all, without parenting challenges like this, I might mistakenly believe that I am actually the one in control. Parenting (and loving) a spitfire toddler is a very humbling experience because you have no choice but to rely on God’s grace to both strengthen you and ensure that you and your wee one make it through this volatile stage without falling to pieces.

The good news? It is just a stage. Of course, my Mommy meltdown was not the end of the story. We ate lunch, took a nap, and eventually my crazy toddler mellowed… and I regrouped. And you know what? Less than 1 month later, we left the ‘scream’ room for good and have been able to worship in the auditorium ever since. Crazy stage doesn’t last forever! Isn’t that comforting?

It Does Not Last Forever

I can kind of laugh now about my experience that Sunday morning. It does make a great story.. but there is a larger take away as well.

If you are experiencing a crazy stage, please know that it does not last forever. It’s not just about toddler drama either…

Is your work crazy? It won’t last forever.

Are you going through a rough patch in your marriage? Trust God and eventually it will get better.

Are you feeling boxed in by debt? Start chipping away at it… and your financial constraints won’t last forever.

A Time for ‘Crazy Stage’

And know this- It is hard to appreciate ‘crazy stage’ when you are enduring it. However, if you can forge ahead and trust God, eventually you will appreciate the perspective gained by surviving that stage. If you can manage the valley, the view from the mountain will be even that more refreshing.

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. ~Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 (New Living Translation)

Thanks for reading!

PS- remind me to reread this post when Sweet Pea turns 13!

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Joy Healy

Thursday 26th of March 2015

As we all know, "One day at a time" is great advice, as is "This too shall pass," both mantras that I have lived by, chuckled about, proven true. Thanks, Sara, for a well-crafted blog about a real life issue.

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