Last week, I was attempting to multitask in an effort to cross some of the 17 things off my to-do list of household chores. You know. The sock-matching, toilet scrubbing, “easy-healthy crock-pot-recipe” finding-via-Google type of tasks that roll around in my brain daily. In an instant, I turned around to my 18-month old son spraying himself directly in the face with bleach bathroom cleaner.
(Let me first say that this is not the time to go all organic-Earth-Mother on me. I don’t care about your Norwex miracle cloth that scrubs human feces and salmonella away with only one wipe. I just don’t believe it. Sorry. Oh, and I also just like the smell of bleach. That is, until the moment when I realized that it may have landed directly on my son’s corneas.)
I quickly scooped up Ben and ran to the kitchen to stick his face under the kitchen facet. Please God! Help me! After a minute of crying and panic-rinsing we were both covered in water, clinging to each other on the kitchen floor. Ben soon found the whole toddler-waterboarding to be funny. He started giggling and dancing around, totally soaked.
Okay. So he can see. That’s good. I had not blinded him. Thanks be to God!
Here’s the thing: I am pretty responsible. I have child-proof locks and I do keep an eye, sometimes two, on my kids as they play and eat and breathe and live. I am alert and with it, pretty much.
Who could I even TELL that this Bleach incident occurred without facing harsh judgement?! How do you even bring this type of parenting hiccup into conversation, into daylight?
With my heart still pounding, I grabbed my phone and texted a girlfriend, a confidant who would not judge the fact that my son was almost blinded by my love of bleach.
Me: “Holy cow. Ben just sprayed himself in the face with bleach bathroom cleaner. I rinsed his face off and it appears he will live to see (literally) another day. This event has caused me to lose seven years off my life expectancy. This is why I have gray hair.”
Her reply: “I’m sorry! That must have been stressful, no doubt. True story: Last week I found _____ (her toddler son) sitting in the corner licking the liquid from an ant trap. He’s still alive and looks okay.”
Me: “It is a miracle that we’ve kept these kids alive for so long.”
Seriously. Thank you for being real, friend of mine. Thank you for admitting that you are not always perfect and that you have had a parenting mishap or two.
So let’s take this illustration from my house last week and bring it into the church setting. If ever there were a place to bring your hardships or to show your flaws, it should be at church, right? The church is supposed to be a place where we come together and worship our God who is all-knowing, all-perfect and who does not harm us with Bleach. We are sinners. Imperfect people who can’t get it right without the saving grace and MERCY of a God who gave Himself for us.
Mothering is hard. It is hard to do at home. It is hard to do at school. It is hard to do at the grocery store. It should not be hard to do at church.
About a month ago, I stumbled across the church parking lot carrying/pulling/propelling my two boys through the front door of church, and only four minutes late! Glorious day! I grimaced when I heard a 50-something-year-old mother say, “Oh wow. I do not miss THAT.”
THAT my friend, is life. THAT is the glorious struggle of motherhood. THAT is one of the hardest, best things to have ever happened to my husband and me. THAT is two boys, being boys stuffed into church clothes at 9:04 AM.
Instead of staring and commenting nonchalantly on the obvious fact that the Knipes were a little frazzled walking into church, perhaps consider grabbing the hand of my rambunctious four-year-old and HELPING me.
I know that that you’ve “paid your dues”. I know that you’ve “been there and done that.” You have raised kids. Your kids are teenagers or are off to college or have gotten married and officially graduated from life under your roof. I know that you don’t mean to come off in a condescending way, standing there with your actually HOT coffee and child-free arms.
Please just help me. Encourage me. One line is seriously all it takes sometimes: Tell me that it was hard for you too. Tell me that I am doing a good job. Tell me that my kids are beautiful, even with spilled milk and granola stuck to their church clothes.
Above all, tell my kids they are LOVED by a mighty God, a God who is overjoyed that they’ve come to learn more about who He is and more about His incredible love.
Truth be told: I might look like I have it pretty much together, but I am just one more weak, tired sinner in need of GRACE and TRUTH. And our church on a Sunday morning is where I want and need to be.
Mothers, aunts, and friends of older, grown children: Remember the mommas with little ones. Encourage us. Laugh with us. Tell us that you too have almost-blinded your children with bleach.
You have such a crucial role to play in the lives of the young women in your church. Please never discount it. Please don’t just sail through your post-parenthood years and unknowingly ignore the young families at your church. We are eager to learn from you. And we need you!