three daughters running via Ashley Stevens at Mountains Unmoved

My Favorite Thing About You Is…

“Are you mad at me again, mommy?” my daughter said as we drove home from school.

My heart sank. 

We had a morning, an absolute MORNING, trying to get out the door. I’m talking battles over waking up, hysterical crying one sister scribbled on another’s journal, and, a “put your shoes on in the car because I ain’t got no time for that,” kind-of morning.

I felt bad about how frustrated I had gotten and decided to apologize over cake pops after school, with the added perk of mama sanity coffee. After greeting them with a smile and, “How was your day?” we hadn’t even left the parking lot before they were pulling each other’s hair and screaming about homework comparisons.

“Uggggg!!” I yelled, “We’re already back to this??”

“Are you mad at me again, mommy?”

I took a deep breath to find my chill and decided I could respond one of two ways. The first, “Heck yes!! Get control of yourself!” I decided to go with the second.

Me: “Do you feel like you make mommy mad a lot?”
Her: “Yes.” She shook her head slowly. 🙁
Me: That makes me really, really sad. Your bad behavior frustrates me a lot, but if you feel like you always make me mad then something has to change.”

As I prepped dinner, I reflected on times I had felt similarly, when I had felt like a disappointment or not enough, and it hit me like a guilty ton of bricks. I resolved to do everything in my power to make her know with certainty how much I love her, how beautiful and strong and inspiring she is to me.

In recent quarantined days, here’s how I’m trying to change my narrative to remind her, even on days mommy’s mad, she will always be more than enough.

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“MY FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOU WAS…”

What if we changed frustration to praise?

As I put her to bed, I said, “Do you know what my favorite thing about you today was? I LOVED how you helped your little sister with her homework when you got home from school. You were patient as you explained subtraction and that made my heart so happy.

We had a frustrating morning, yes, but I need you to know you make me happy way more than you make me mad. You make me proud way more than you make me frustrated and I want to end each day telling you the reasons why.” 

“TODAY I’M GRATEFUL FOR”

What if we changed being annoyed to being grateful?

“What part of your day are you most thankful for?” we’ve begun to ask before bed.

At some of the hardest points in my life, I’ve kept gratitude journals. Some days my list was small and other days it lined two pages, but getting into the habit of penning gratitude made me look for reasons to give thanks each day. We’re trying to make this same habit as a family.

I make sure my list always includes them – rocking their art class, sharing with their sister – because I want to make sure my kids know I am thankful for them. I need them to know they bring me far more joy than anger, far more gratitude than frustration.

As their answers range from, “playing Candy Land,” to, “eating popsicles,” smiles spread across their faces.

My prayer is my kids never stop looking for joy; that they never stop seeing the many reasons to give thanks, even for each other, even on hard days. Click To Tweet

“I’M SORRY. WILL YOU FORGIVE ME?”

What if we changed pride to forgiveness?

We’re still figuring this thing out, her and me, me and her.

So many times our pride as parents gets in the way. “I know better than them,” we tell ourselves. But by owning our mistakes, we give them freedom to own theirs as we try and fail and try again to love each other better.

“HOW CAN WE DO BETTER TOMORROW?”

What if we changed resentment to beginning again?

When I saw we were both up first recently, I made her favorite, Reese’s pancakes. She shared her thoughts on this question and I shared mine.

As she smiled between bites, I asked her how I could do better, how she could, as we brainstormed ways to better handle our hard days. It was only an hour, but I reminded her how much I am in her corner and we came away better equipped to handle ALL THE EMOTIONS.

What was your favorite thing about me today, mommy?

This has become our new routine, one she won’t let me forget. Every night, as I tuck her in, I tell her. Every night, she asks.

As I put her to bed, I don’t recall her missteps (or mine) from the day. I put a name to her strengths, to her virtue, to what I love most about her.

No matter how frustrating these quarantined days are, no matter how many times we made each other mad, we’re learning to end our days with love.

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