I pulled treasures out of a high cupboard and set up Noah and Elias for a few minutes of independent play. (Strategic stashing of forgotten toys was one of my favorite mommy tricks to occupy toddlers with the novelty of “new” and buy myself a little time.) Content with their red monster trucks and ABC blocks, I left my two and three year old on the living room rug, picked up the baby in his bouncy seat, and hurried to my bedroom.
Today, I was going to get dressed.
Pants without an elastic waistband, a shirt without spit-up. This was big stuff.
I looked through every pair of jeans in my drawer and every shirt in my closet and they all screamed awkward! I was still in that uncomfortable postpartum stage where neither maternity clothes nor my old skinny jeans were an appropriate fit.
I glanced at Jude drooling happily and swatting at the fuzzy monkeys hanging from his mobile. Cheerful noises drifted from the living room. “Brudder, do you want to race me?” Followed by the zoom of toy wheels racing over hardwood and the familiar crash of plastic against baseboards.
“Boys,” I called, “I’m so glad you’re playing nicely! Keep up the good work.”
After a second peruse through every piece of clothing, I decided a fresh pair of yoga pants was probably the best choice after all. I pulled on the comforting black stretchy fabric and reached for a flowy top.
Then I noticed it was very quiet.
I love quiet. But it’s rarely a good sign with young boys. I peeked my head out the door and peered into the living room. No little bodies to be found.
I heard a giggle.
I took a few steps and spied spindly legs crouching under the dining room table.
“Whatchya doing under there?” I asked.
“Umm, nothing?” my oldest replied in a tone dripping with guilt.
I stooped down to look in the faces of my mischievous children. I was not prepared for what I saw. Wedged between their little feet lay an open carton of eggs. Cracked shells. Yokes everywhere. STICKY SALMONELLA SLIME SLIDING DOWN THEIR ARMS!
My moment of peace, attempting the tiniest bit of self-care, was instantly transformed into a disastrous mess. I instantly transformed into Monster Mommy.
Red faced, raging blood pressure pounding in my ears, I roared angry disapproval at my boys at a decibel my hard-of-hearing neighbor probably heard. With white knuckles I clenched the arm of each eggy offender and carried them to the bathtub.
“Sit down and don’t you dare move!”
I seethed picking fragments of jagged shell out of the looped carpet. Then I scrubbed my boys vigorously in their pre-8 am bath.
Just as I was beginning to regain my composure, I found egg smeared on my clean outfit. A fresh bout of rage awakened my beastliness again.
Three years later and I can finally laugh over the ridiculousness of this event. How my boys were just being inquisitive kids and I was just being an exhausted mom reacting to an unfortunate episode of childhood curiosity.
But for days, maybe even weeks after, I beat myself up over how I had completely lost it.
I carried a thick blanket of guilt over the way I had scary screamed at my small children. I felt shame over the hot tears we all cried—tears springing more from my volatile response than their poor choice.
I know most would offer comfort and consolation that I was normal. That anyone would react that way to food being wasted and a good rug being ruined by children who obviously knew their actions were naughty. Yet, calling it “normal” didn’t bring relief to my wounded heart. Because this wasn’t an isolated incident. I was angry a lot. And not just about big stuff like children crunching raw eggs into my dining room rug.
If a boy fussed about buckling his car seat or asked for a second bedtime drink. If brothers bickered over whose turn it was to use the blue crayon or someone dropped a bowl of Cheerios on a freshly swept floor. If a little one wanting attention tapped my shoulder or tugged my shirt just one more time—I was like a time bomb waiting to go off.
From calm and clear-minded to triggered. Boom! Explosive.
I was a young mom with three kids under four who was rocked raw that the very people I loved the most could bring out my very worst. I adored my children but I detested my anger. Most of the time I loved them well. But my increasing pattern of reactionary parenting in the gritty moments of the day made me feel like all the good stuff had been totally erased.
I feel the throb of tears welling behind my eyes as I write.
I want to go back in time and hug that worn and weary mama who felt like there was no hope for her brokenness. I want to assure her that though the journey is long, she doesn’t stay stuck in that angry place. I want to encourage her that God’s grace is greater than her sin and new patterns of gentler parenting are possible! Love wins.
I write this today as a testament to God’s redeeming grace. I am not the same mom I was then. Do I never get triggered? Is all my anger gone? Not by a long shot. I am still very much in process. But I have made meaningful progress.
Looking back, I recognize three main things the Lord used to help me break through my sin of anger toward my kids:
- Being rooted in the Word and prayer.
- Getting honest with and accountable to friends.
- Inviting my kids into the process of forgiveness and fresh starts.
Recently, my friends Wendy Speake and Amber Lia wrote a fantastic book about this very topic, aptly called, Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses.
I wish I would have had this book three years ago.
Anger can be a shameful, shackling reality for so many moms—but it doesn’t have to be! Triggers brings the darkness of anger into the light of shared experiences, and offers parents practical tools to identify what sets them off and then develop strategies for anger prevention and wiser reactions.
It covers 31 of the most common triggers, including disobedience, backtalk, whining and complaining, exhaustion, running late, and no personal space (just to name a few of my personal “favorites.”)
But more than parenting tips and self-help tricks, Triggers offers a call to deeper intimacy with and reliance on Jesus. It is life-changing support for every mom and family wherever they are on the journey.
I recently shared with The MOB Society (Mothers of Boys) about the impact Triggers has had on my life. You can read that interview here to learn more about my personal story and Triggers. You’ll also find other encouraging stories about the incredible ways God has used this book to transform hearts and homes.
I am thrilled to be giving away a copy of the book here!
Whether you feel totally controlled by the Mommy Monster inside of you like I did, or you just need some fresh ideas on how to respond well to the regular frustrations that arise as a parent, I highly recommend Triggers!
To be entered to win, just leave a comment below.
- Feel free to share a prayer request for the struggle that weighs most heavily on you, or a praise for how you have found hope and growth.
- For extra entries, share this blog post on social media. Then hop back over and leave a separate comment letting me know where you shared.
- Giveaway will be open until Friday, March 4th at noon (PST). If you don’t want to wait for the giveaway, get your copy of Triggers today, available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.
***UPDATE: And the winner is…SABRINA JOHNSTON! ***
Congratulations, Sabrina! Email me with your address and I will send you a copy of Triggers! I honestly wish I could give this book to every precious mom who s post. But I can encourage you with the fullness of my mama heart to buy Triggers as a gift to yourself and your family so you can start experiencing greater freedom in your parenting.
Guess what, mamas?
Now even more hope and help is on the way!
Introducing the NEW Triggers Study Guide
The authors of Triggers got such incredible feedback about the ways homes and hearts are being changed by the biblical wisdom and practical tools put forth in their book, that they decided to provide another resource to help moms apply the material in an even deeper way.
The Trigger Study Guide is now available! It’s perfect for going through on your own, with a small group, or you can join authors Wendy Speake and Amber Lia as they lead an online book club study with the MOB Society beginning September 6th.