It had been a rough morning. One where every boundary was tested, every rule questioned, every bit of patience sapped right dry.
In fact, it was one of the very few days when I actually entertained the thought that, perhaps, I could give up this desire for my own children, stop watching the boys, and just be happy with a quiet life without interruptions.
Finally, the oldest one sent outside to play and the little one on the couch quietly reading a pile of books, I escaped to the bathroom. Before I came back out, I took three deep breaths. I made a mental checklist: wash dishes, check email, start dinner. I pushed open the door and…
there he stood. On the kitchen table. With a quart jar of maple syrup tipped up to his mouth. It flowed down the front of him, pooled at his feet, slipped between the cracks in the table onto the floor where one long stream slowly twirled toward me. Apparently our floor is slanted.
His eyes widen a little bit and I said slowly and carefully, “What are you doing?” (which in retrospect, is the most ridiculous question in the world. It was quite obvious what he was doing.)
He pulled the jar from his mouth and dropped it, sending it spiraling and bouncing across the table onto the floor where it thankfully did not break but unfortunately sprayed the rest of the syrup in a wide ring across the kitchen.
I don’t think I said much. Just lifted him by the back of the collar (the only place not plastered in syrup) and deposited him into the bathtub. Clothes where stripped and water run and when he started to speak I covered his mouth and told him that I didn’t want to hear one word.
When he came out slightly less sticky but still smelling sweet, I filled his hands with wet wipes and told him to clean up every last drop of syrup. He looked at me, opened his mouth, then shut it tight when I wrinkled my forehead.
A half hour later when I had scrubbed the floor and the table clean behind him, I scooped him up and took him right in to bed. Again he started to speak and again I told him to hush. “Just take your nap,” I said sharply, then turned the light out and left.
Somewhere in the middle of washing dishes it hit me. I should have just laughed. That’s what a good mom would have done. She would have laughed and then scolded him slightly and then made a game of cleaning it up. In the future, she would never have left the syrup on the table again.
No wonder God hasn’t given me children. I can’t even laugh at maple syrup.
Instead I snap and growl and make the two-year-old clean up everything with wet wipes.
The door bangs open and the older boy comes in, six-year-old eyes widening at the shiny clean table. “You’ve sure been cleaning,” he says and charges into the bathroom.
And I stand right there, my hands in soapy water, and feel tears prickling my eyes. That table was cleaned with anger and frustration. The floor mopped with stubborn irritation. I look out the window, watching the way the wind moves the pine trees.
How quickly condemnation rules! How swiftly the lies of the enemy fall in and fill up. It is so easy to look and decide and lay down judgement. On him, on me, on everyone. Maybe I should have laughed. Maybe I should have let him speak. Maybe I should have responded somehow differently, extending grace instead of frustration but that does not mean that I have failed at motherhood.
It simply means that, just like a two-year-old, sometimes I spill the syrup. Sometimes I create a chaotic mess. Sometimes my attempts at living right and good leave me covered with the sticky messiness of mistakes.
I finish the dishes and sit down to read through Scripture again. To soak in forgiveness and love.
When he comes out, rubbing sleep from his eyes, it is still my lap he climbs up into. He snuggles and his hair smells like spring and maple trees. “Tasha is sorry for being so angry,” I whisper.
He looks up at me, eyes wide and serious and we have the talk we might have had before. About the table not being a place to play and that one should not eat or drink things without asking permission. And his big brother says, “What happened?” So I tell the story and part way through a giggle escapes and soon all three of us are sitting there with heads thrown back, laughing and laughing.
We spent the afternoon together, reading books, writing a book (the boys love this little hobby of ours. We’ve written about 6 kids books together and they are all delightful!) and playing in the front yard.
And, to top it all off, I’ve left the maple syrup on the table ever since and we’ve never had a problem.
Turns out we can all learn from mistakes.