I‘m a stressed mom. I’m stressed too often. I worry that August’s most prominent memory of his childhood will be my contorted anxiety face leaning over his carseat, snapping at him and plugging his seatbelt in tight. Sometimes he asks me, “Mama, are you stressed?” Sometimes he tells Chris when he comes home: “Mommy was really stressed today.”
Oh, how I hate that. That is not the story I want for my boys’ childhood. Sweet Lord, I beg from my gut, unweave that story. Put a new one in its place…
Tuesday, when were running late to dinner with some relatives I haven’t seen in years, I felt panic missile-blast (to use my son’s lingo) my insides when August wouldn’t hurry into his seat. He was crouched on the floorboard of the back seat, refusing to climb in. I yelled. I slammed my bag into the passenger seat. I sighed as if my sweet, wide life was oppressive, as if these children had made me late. (The truth: I was never on time before I had children. It’s almost always not their fault; it’s mine.) I called my husband as I pulled out the driveway, saying we were late and I was so frustrated that my relatives would have this impression of me, The Late Person. Mostly, I just talked at a high pitch and made the “Ugh!” noises Chris has come to expect from my late afternoon phone calls.
He sighed: “Well, Mama Monk, what are you going to do about it?” And I groaned. How dare he play that card, like I’m actually supposed to practice what I talk about around here? I hung up and drove tapping my hand on the steering wheel for a few blocks while August’s sweet voice was singing along to the cd. I was completely unable to hear the miracle of that boy’s voice, the glory of a 3-year-old’s vocal chords vibrating rhythm and melody.We stopped at the light and I squeezed my mind tight enough to hear August’s song, long enough to consider Chris’ words. Then I thought about all of you. The light turned green. I prayed, turning the corner onto the access road by Mopac.
I prayed: Lord, Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
I prayed the words over and over until my mouth was sighing Lord, Lord, Lord.
And, miraculously, my heart pounded strong and matched the sound of my little boy’s voice behind me. I widened my eyes and the world was open again. The tunnel walls fell down and light shimmied in and I breathed. Wow, Jesus, I thought. This time, you fixed me fast.
And that’s true. God is healing me, I know. I know it because each time the slick black slime seeps through my mind and down onto my tongue and slides through my arms and legs to drag me into the dark tunnel, I’m remembering more and more quickly that the tunnel is not my home. The dark slime does not have a bed in my brain anymore. All of this life–the beauty of Brooksie’s chubby legs waddling down the sidewalk, the glory of the budding vines in the backyard, the patter of the rain outside my window–all of it has the potential to break me open into the light and soft curve of God’s goodness.
So, maybe the stressed mom will be the story my boys tell. But, right alongside it, let them tell of the mom who prayed in the car, her left hand on the steering wheel, her right lifted out, offering her broken spirit.
Let them say, She was broken. Let them say, She was always being remade…