The Cereal Box Morning

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My Kroger brand Toasted Flakes with Strawberries cereal has the best advice I’ve ever heard:

“Good days start with good mornings! When your morning goes right, it’s easy to feel great and energized all day. Start with a good night and get 7-8 hours of sleep. Stretch to gently wake up. Eat a nutritious Kroger breakfast to feel full and focused in the morning. Get fresh air with a quick walk.”

Target audience: A sweet 58 year old retired lady who has no babies, puppies, worries, pain, or bladder problems to interrupt her peaceful 8 hours of dreaming about happy places. She obviously has no one waking up at 3 AM to go duck hunting. She completely finishes a refreshing cycle of REM sleep and wakes up when the sun shines in her window. She can “stretch to gently wake up” and reflect on how wonderful the day will be. She gets to make her coffee right when she gets out of bed. She gets a slobber-free dog hair-free bowl out of the cabinet and pours in her Kroger cereal that has equal parts of cereal and dried strawberries because there have been no little hands in it picking out all of the strawberries. And of course she had time to eat all of the cereal before it got soggy. She feels “full and focused”, ready for some fresh air that doesn’t smell like pee diapers and a walk that doesnt require pushing 60 pounds of kids on a bumpy gravel road. She is set up to have the perfect day.

Wow, that’s beautiful.

The cereal told me I had to start with a good night. Well, if getting up three times and playing musical beds with a toddler counts, I’m off to a fabulous start.

Our morning starts well before the sun comes up. And everyone is screaming. Mason is wailing because I turned down his request for a breakfast popsicle. Gotta give him credit for asking in a sweet, polite voice. Nice try. Clint is crying because Mason is crying and he tends to give in to peer pressure. Spud is barking at the deer in the back yard (the same ones that are there every day, you darn dog!). It’s early. I have not yet had my necessary cup of coffee. In fact, I will have to shake at least one baby off my leg if I want to go get the coffee out of the fridge. Note to self: ask Cy to start making it before he gets in the shower. He would appreciate a happy wife in the mornings. I go to the trash can to dump out yesterday’s coffee filter, and I find an overflowing trash bag. I try to pull it out by the red strings but it starts to rip in 14 places. (Insert a couple whispered cuss words.) I take out a few diapers to relieve the pressure on the bag. Gross.

My blood pressure is rising with the sun.

The meltdowns are off and on throughout the morning but are at least tolerable with coffee. (Did I mention I like coffee?) The boys go through periods of play and happiness, then periods of crying and fighting for my attention. I never imagined Clint, at 12 months, would already be jealous of his older brother. I swear he has this radar that detects when Mason is headed for my lap even when he is in the other room. Relax, I don’t leave him in another room by himself… very often. He is the second child. Don’t judge.

I truly love playing on the floor with them, watching their little brains learn at an incredible speed. They smile and giggle and “vroom” their cars. But inevitably the next meltdown will come. And it will come with more stamina than the one that preceded it. Mason grabs a ball from Clint and yells “MINE!”. Obviously, reading the “Minosaur” book has not had any effect on him. He really doesn’t care if he loses Clint’s respect or friendship; all he wants is that ball, not any of the other 345 that we have in the house. And all Clint wants is that ball. So I send Mason to time out for snatching.

He moves around restlessly and does everything BUT sit (I prefer the term “wallerin’” but after being told it is not a real word, I have been forced to delete it from my vocabulary). He screams and cries, “DADDY! DADDY!” I should keep my mouth shut, but I can’t help myself. “Mason, if Daddy was here, he would send you to time out too because you are acting like a baby. SIT DOWN and BE QUIET.” I know, God, raising my voice is not helping the situation. But he is so FRUSTRATING.

Clint is in a full out scream by now. I try to zone out the noise by pulling out my phone and getting on Facebook. I just want five minutes of time to myself. Nap time can’t come soon enough. Then again, I’ll probably spend most of Mason’s nap time trying to convince Clint that he is sleepy too.

And then the guilt sets in. Lord, I know so many people are going through real problems. These are so minor. Why do I get so upset over little things? 

My phone rings. It is someone from church wanting to discuss a new ministry opportunity. And, as my luck goes, Mason screams, “I need to go doo-doo! Now Mommy! I better hurry!”. I give him the “go ahead” nod and watch him walk in the bathroom, trusting that he will yell for me when he is finished because that’s what he has always done. Of course 2 year olds always stick with the plan.

I’ve got Clint on my hip while talking on the phone. Three minutes into our phone conversation, I think it might be a good idea to check on Mason. I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say he decided he was old enough to handle toilet paper by himself.

“You wouldn’t believe what’s happening. I’m gonna have to let you go.” Before you hear me come completely  unglued.

Motherhood brings out the best in me.

Really though, it can at times. I’m good at teaching. I’m a master at disguising active learning as fun. I’m good at carving out one on one time for each of them to make them feel equally loved and special. (We’ll see how that continues if we ever have more children.) I’m great at prioritizing and multitasking, skills that were essential for surviving nursing school. These are the things I tell myself after my ugly side shines through. They make me feel a little better at least.

Most days are pretty good. I’m gentle, kind, compassionate, all the things I should be and try to be. Some days, however, not so much. My morning starts with very good intentions, but the challenges get harder as the day goes on. My patience wears thin as my exhaustion grows. I’m gonna blame it on that refreshing bowl of cereal that I didn’t get to finish.

I expected motherhood to teach me a lot about children, but what it taught me about myself changed my entire outlook on life.

I’m really a sinner.

I hit a major crossroads in my life. I was traveling down the Christian path knowing in my head that I was born a sinner, then I had a child and BAM! I ran into the road that showed my heart that it was really true. You see, my husband and I had lived a life of comfort and selfishness full of ‘go out any time you want’ nights and ‘sleep as long as you want’ mornings. Now, although I try not to let it, my rebellious stubborn self comes alive. Suddenly, my attitude stinks. I have a temper. I am impatient. And I am supposed to be teaching these kids how to act in society. Cy has said several times, “Don’t be surprised when he starts responding to you that way.” Man, I hate when he’s right.

So why did it take becoming a mom for me to realize how much I actually struggle with sin? Our sins become apparent when we are challenged mentally, physically, emotionally. When we are pushed out of our comfort zones, even into wonderful, blessed circumstances such as starting a family. The more stressed I am about issues such as work, meal planning and house chores, and the more my back hurts from lugging around these precious babies all day, the more likely I am to snap and act like the 2 year old I’m trying to raise.

Fortunately I serve a God who doesn’t strike me down when I screw up. Instead, he treats me like he wants me to treat my 2 year old when he is acting up. He forgives, loves, teaches, and helps me move on. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are NEW EVERY MORNING; great is your faithfulness.” Reminds me of a song by The Neverclaim called “Sweet Sweet Mercies”. Look it up.

I have learned so much in the first 2 ½ years of parenting. Perhaps the greatest lesson is that serving others is not about me. There is no one patting me on the back. There are immediate rewards, but I am constantly being drained of my energy and strength so it is hard to enjoy them. Side note: Be on the lookout for an upcoming post called “How to Keep Your Cup Filled”.

Although I could easily construct a list of dos and donts and tips that help prevent these issues from occurring in the first place, I will refrain. You likely have your own list of “things to do differently next time.” I don’t like to be lectured. I like when people acknowledge my struggles in a real way and remind me that I will never be perfect and shouldn’t be so hard on myself. If we beat ourselves up every time we made a parenting no-no, we wouldn’t have the strength to get up and do it again tomorrow. Plus, I think it can be unhealthy for our kids to see us constantly beating ourselves up. Instead, how about we show them that we are able to forgive ourselves and are at least trying to do better each day?

As painful as this self-realization process has been for me, it has been my greatest source of growth. It is such a beautiful thing to realize how crummy you really are because then you realize how much you need forgiveness. And forgiveness is THAT much sweeter when you know how much you need it and don’t deserve it! That is the definition of grace, friends. When you feel it first hand, you seek opportunities to extend it to others. And the pressure is off when you can stop pretending to be somebody you’re not and just be the love seeking, grace giving sinner that others, especially your children, need you to be.

My final thought: I have a sneaking suspicious that you didn’t have the kind of morning that the sweet lady on the cereal box had either. What kind of challenges did you wake up to?

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