We are in the middle of a rough couple of weeks in the Perkins’ household…or should I say the Perkins/Ward household, since my parents have graciously opened up their home to us while our new house is being gutted and brought back to life. Last week Levi got sick…like a 7 day illness…where he couldn’t go to school because of nightly fevers but was basically perfectly normal during the day and bouncing off all of the walls. Then just as he was turning the corner, Greg went man down…hard…like sky rocketing fevers and looking like death, kind of sick. We’re still in the middle of this sickness for him and I’m basically feeling like a dead man walking just waiting to go down in a blaze of sickly glory. On top of all this, we are still working on the above mentioned house which seems to be a never ending stream of dirt, dust, decisions and delay…check out that alliteration!
So we’re in the thick of it over here and I will be the first to say that I have not handled the stress all that well. With Greg spending so much of his time and energy on trying to get us in the new house, I’ve already begun to feel the bulk of the parental burden and now with him in a perpetual zombie state of flu evil, it really is all on me when it comes to Levi. (Although my parents are a huge help in giving him welcome playmates when I want to throw Thomas the train against the wall.) But single parenting, whether temporary or permanent, is a hard place to be and I’ve been feeling it for the last few weeks.
I say all this to give you some context into what happened with me and Levi this past weekend. It was Saturday afternoon and I was getting ready to put him in the tub for an early bath because we had spent the day at the new house filling the blasted outside trench with all the dirt we had previously shoveled out of said trench a few weekends before. I was covered in dirt and exhausted from a week at home with just me and sick Levi. Greg was still at the house because he’s a champ and has much more stamina than I do. All I wanted to do was put my filthy child in the tub, scrub him down, sit his whiny butt down in front of the iPad, and take a long, hot shower myself. I wanted it so bad I could feel the hot water washing me clean as I filled Levi’s bath. I called him in and asked him to go potty and mistake one happened. I take complete responsibility, it was my bad. I was too lazy to plop him up on the toilet so I told him to just pee standing up. He proceeded to then pee ALL OVER THE BATHROOM FLOOR that my mother had just cleaned that very morning. Mistake two: I began yelling “Keep it in the bowl! Keep it in the bowl!” not realizing that we had never discussed that another word for “toilet” is “bowl” so he began swinging his weapon all over the bathroom, trying to figure out what bowl I wanted him to pee in. Mistake three: I lost my ever loving mind. Big time. To my credit, I kept all swearing inside my head but I made it very clear to Levi that I was upset and angry and that the reason for my sour attitude was all his fault. He began crying, I dumped him in the tub and then went downstairs to find something to clean the bathroom…again. All the while muttering swear words and willing my life to somehow magically be swapped with someone who was sitting on a private beach in the Caribbean.
When I came back upstairs to the bathroom, because telekinesis really isn’t possible, Levi was crying quietly in the tub and when I walked in he said, “Mom, I just don’t feel like you like me anymore.”
Now, this moment was ripe with the opportunity to unleash the guilt/shame beast on myself. I had let down my kid. I had messed up and he was feeling sad because of it. And he was all sorts of pathetic and dejected and crying because of something I had done to him. And for a split second, I felt the weight of all this guilt. And then a miracle happened. All of the long talks I have had with my counselor about shame and guilt and its dysfunctional affect on our lives and all of the wise and powerful words I have read and quoted from Brene Brown on the silent killer that shame can be, came flying to the front of my brain and I drew strength from them…and I laughed. Not at Levi, which I quickly had to explain, but I laughed because none of those Mom guilt records were going to play on my turntable anymore. I laughed because I came this close to beating the crap out of myself for simply being human and having a human mom moment. And I laughed because Jesus used all of those valuable resources I have collected for the last year and powered my arsenal with them at the exact right moment.
So I sat on the toilet and apologized to my child. I told him that there is nothing he will ever do to make me not love him and I told him that I even like him. I explained that I was human and I messed up because even adults mess up. And when adults mess up we have to do the same thing we make kids do. We have to apologize, try our absolute hardest to not do it again and then apologize again when we inevitably do it again. Because two things are important to me as a parent:
One, that Levi knows that adults, especially his parents, will mess up and accidentally hurt him along this road of living life together. And that just because I’m his mom doesn’t mean I don’t need to take ownership of my wrongs against him. And two, I want him to know that the mess ups don’t have to take us out emotionally. We can rise against the shame game that can come out to play when we mess up. We can take ownership of our mistakes and then learn how to not repeat them the best we can.
Levi and I walked out of that bathroom having both had a win where we might have both felt significant loss. He felt the win of knowing that I truly love him no matter how many times he pees on the flipping floor and I felt the win of facing my mom guilt beast and telling her to find another victim. I wasn’t coming out to play that day.