Recently I was set to wash Adelade’s hair in the shower. It’s easily one of my least favorite everyday tasks of motherhood, right behind flossing teeth. If you’ve never had to floss another person’s teeth, be happy. It’s really gross.
Well, the water was the wrong temperature, and I was trying to adjust accordingly. I was pretty annoyed and frustrated by the whole process (I know, I know. Joy in all circumstances and all that.), but I was getting hopelessly wet, standing outside the shower fully clothed, leaning in in that straining-every-muscle-you-have kind of way. Adelade bravely decided to chime in. She started trying to tell me how to adjust the water. More specifically, she was trying to dictate to me which direction to turn the shiny knobs that I was wrestling with.
That didn’t go over too well, as you might imagine. I said in a rather superior tone: I am 35 years old. I think I know how to work a faucet.
You can probably guess what happened next. I realized that she was right. I was turning the knobs exactly the opposite direction that they were supposed to go. Yes, I had been standing there feeling so smart, so capable, and the whole time the eight year old watching knew that I was wrong.
Once I discovered that I was mistaken, I had to laugh. I chuckled in that sheepish, embarrassed kind of way. I looked over at her and saw that she was laughing, too, probably just relieved that I was finally lightening up and getting over myself. I had let that shower moment give me a bad attitude. I was humbled. And there’s something about humbling that makes you wake up to the ridiculous way that you’ve been acting.
But, look at me, writing about having a bad attitude the day after Mother’s Day. Total downer! The truth is that bad attitudes do come and go throughout this motherhood experience. Even when you love your kids. Even when you know that you are going to miss giving baths one day (right? right?). And especially when flossing teeth makes you gag just a little bit. I find it’s often the every day tasks that affect my attitude the most. It’s about the drudgery. The never-ending sameness. It can get to me.
And, then I make mistakes. I act in a ridiculous manner. I don’t model the calm, cool, peaceful demeanor that I always dreamed of having.
The great thing is that it’s okay to make mistakes in front of our children. It’s a good thing that it’s okay, because we’re going to make mistakes. I can’t live out an entire lifetime in front of my little audience without messing up, because I’m not perfect. But, it’s good for them to see me make mistakes because they can see how God’s grace extends to me. And, they can learn to extend grace themselves. They are really a very forgiving group. And, if I tried to act as if I am perfect, they would see through that instantly. No one wants to live with a big, bad-attitude-wielding, superior-acting, sarcastic bundle of unpleasantness. But, they don’t mind having a genuine, sometimes-wise, often-humbled, grace-receiving, mercy-giving, imperfect, laughing-it-off Mama.
So, the lesson I learned in front of Adelade that day often comes back to me when I start feeling that bad attitude creeping in. Now, when I can tell I’m getting a little too big for my proverbial britches, I just turn to Adelade and say, Remember that day when I said, ‘I’m 35 years old. I think I know how to work a faucet!’ I make sure I use an extra-whiney voice while imitating myself. She laughs, and we both remember that I’m not hot stuff.
It’s a good thing. Because I still struggle with knowing which way to turn those darn knobs when I’m helping her with her hair. I smile through the mist that is getting my clothes soaking wet, and think, I’m 35 years old, and I don’t think I know how to work a faucet.