Yesterday, my four youngest children (currently 10, 7, almost 3 and almost 1) and I pulled into the grocery store to pick up a few things we could eat for lunch. As we got ourselves together I asked my son to grab the cart cover for the baby and noticed how grateful I felt when he did it without any resistance. I treasure the moments when we work together with ease.
It’s not that these treasured moments are few and far between. It’s that I really love to bask in them so I realize and remember what’s real – that we have the ability to choose our thoughts and actions as we work together.
I continued on into the store, noticing how my son was also interested in pushing the cart with the two youngest as we wove our way through the fruits and veggies over to the deli and around to pick up some drinks. We were enjoying each other, even in the midst of a busy super market. Even when they would have loved to be outside playing.
We saw a few old faces, said hello and made our way to grab the last few items we needed. The kids helped scan the groceries, we paid, realized we had scanned one item twice, opened some of the food to eat, went to customer service for a refund and slowly walked to the van.
As we stood there devouring some tasty rotisserie chicken and lemonade, a woman my mom’s age walked by on her way out of the store and said, “You must be super mom. You went in the store smiling and you came out smiling. And I didn’t hear your kids all over the store. I sure heard everyone else’s.”
I smiled and said, “Thank you.”
On the inside I also said, “It’s been a long time coming” as my mind flashed to a time when I was at the same grocery store several years ago with my oldest (who was about 5), my son (who was about 3) and my third (who was less than six months old).
I am not sure I went into the store smiling that day, but I am pretty sure I wasn’t smiling when I came out because I was carrying not only my new baby, but also my thrashing son. He was upset because I told him he couldn’t have something (can’t remember what) in the store and he was strongly protesting.
Kicking, hitting, crying.
Although I did not intentionally hurt him, I did practically wrestle him to get him in the car and it took a while for him to calm down once we were in there. During those times in our life together I did not want to repeat the mistakes I had made with my oldest, but I was so new in learning to parent without punishment that I really didn’t know what I was doing. I just wanted to stop the struggle – inner and outer – inside of myself and between me and my children.
I realized how evident this struggle was when I received a call from my case worker at the local Department of Social Services a few days after that visit to the grocery store. Our family was receiving food benefits during a financial lull and someone who knew me mentioned to the worker that he/she had seen me looking really stressed out with the kids while at the store. I wasn’t reported for violence or neglect, but a fly on the wall had noticed that I was struggling to parent my three young children and I was offered resources to help.
I did need help. The call came a few weeks before our family moved to a smaller home, my first marriage began to painfully dissolve and I lashed out in anger toward my oldest in ways I am still working to heal. Thankfully, I sought help. First within myself, then with others and continuing with myself – because in between private coaching or therapy sessions who do we have?
Ourselves. God, if we believe in a loving source. If not, we are on our own with our choices and we live and die by them.
The next thought I had after hearing this sweet woman call me “super mom” was…
I am not Super Mom. I am Super Determined Mom.
I am super determined to choose what I bring forward from my past so I am aware of the residue I leave with my children.
I am super determined to choose the momentum of the present to break the chains of the past and continually choose anew.
I am super determined to learn as I go.
I am super determined to listen to my children.
I am super determined to choose how I respond.
I am super determined to embrace the role of mom as fully as I can, and then some.
I am super determined to meet my children as they are, and myself as I am.
I am super determined to pick myself up after I fall, brush off the dust and keep putting one foot in front of the other – or together as I stand in silent reverence for finding opportunities in the challenges.
I am super determined to meet fear with love, listening and presence.
I am super determined to continually find and put into practice viable alternatives to punishment.
I am super determined to model and teach the behavior that I want to see with my children while being honest and accountable.
I am super determined to share the truth about life – that we live in a cause and effect reality where we are constantly making choices and we reap the results of those choices. All of them.
I am super determined to continue deepening my experience and inner traits of presence, tenderness, compassion and grace.
I am super determined to sit down in moments of question, to reflect in the stillness and choose what comes next.
I am super determined to continue being super determined in all that I do, not to be better than anyone else or to exert my will over that of another or even myself, but to be determined to make this life and this mothering experience exactly what I choose because…
I choose, I choose, I choose.
So, thank you kind woman outside of the grocery store for providing me yet another opportunity to declare my determination to parent my children in a way that relinquishes punishment in favor of cultivating trust. If this qualifies me as super mom, I am worthy of the title.
Are you struggling as a parent? If so, I’d like to share something with you: a story and some hope.