By Sandi Brown
All of my life I had this idea of what a perfect mother would be. As a child, I looked at moms as being the ones who knew everything and could fix any problem. My mom always knew just what to say to make me feel better. It was like she read my mind as to the very words I needed to hear! Then as I grew up, I formed an image of what a perfect mom would be. She would be someone who was calm and composed. She would attend to the needs of her family and always be there for her children. She would be Supermom!
So naturally, when my husband and I adopted our three kids, I had certain expectations of what it would be like to be a mother. I envisioned myself being the one to keep the peace and keep our kids on the right path. I mean, the parents are supposed to be the serious ones, right? I thought I would be able to help them in any situation and have the right words to comfort them. I thought being a mother would be a fun job each and every day, filled with rewarding experiences. I wanted to be the perfect mother.
But as we became instant parents to three school-aged children, I quickly realized that was a very distant dream. Yes, parenting is a wonderful and rewarding experience. But parenting is also messy and changes every day. Some days I feel like Supermom
. . . and other days I feel like a complete failure. There are ups and there are downs, and some situations make me question my sanity! Nothing seems to ever work exactly as I plan it.
As parents, it would be easy to let this stress us out and take us to the point of ultimate frustration. But we do have a choice. We can turn these messy parenting situations into something negative or something positive. It all depends on how we, as the parents, respond! When we choose joy, that attitude carries down to how our kids respond.
The Start of the War
One thing I have found is that sometimes you just need to stay one step ahead of your kids and shock them by your actions. For instance, in our Brown family memory book, all of our kids will remember the day that Mom started the grape wars.
I honestly don’t remember what my daughter said, but she was doing something that day that completely irritated me. My first instinct was to let the frustration get to me. I felt my stress rising, as I knew this was probably going to turn into another outburst and I just wasn’t in the mood to deal with it. As I sat there eating grapes out of a bowl, I suddenly got the urge to pelt my daughter with one of them. I was out of any other brilliant ideas of how to handle the situation, so, being the good mom that I am, I picked up a grape and threw it directly at her head.
The look on her face was priceless. She was in utter shock. Disbelief. And with that came a huge pause in her bad attitude. She didn’t know how to respond to what I just did. And then . . . well . . . like any good mom, I took advantage of her shocked state and pelted a few more grapes at her before she could say anything.
Soon a war had begun. My daughter suddenly reached for the bowl and ran across the room holding a handful of grapes hostage, trying desperately to hit me with some as she randomly flung them across the room. She had forgotten all about the attitude she had.
Soon after, my youngest daughter came running upstairs to see what the commotion was and instantly took part in the war of the grapes. The three of us paraded around the living room and kitchen, ducking as grapes flew by our heads and smashed on the windows and walls behind us. We had grapes everywhere, but we were having a moment that none of us would forget.
Then my son entered the room. He’s the more serious kid of the bunch and he looked at us with horror when he saw what we were doing. He started to lecture us about how we were ruining the furniture and walls. Panic gripped him as he realized there were a few grapes under the sofa.
“You can’t do that! We’ll never find all these grapes, and they will go bad and start rotting under our furniture and then our house will smell!”
He was obviously stressed. I paused for a moment to consider my response. Maybe I was being silly acting like this. Maybe I should be a more “proper mom.” I thought about it for a moment. And then . . .
I did the only thing that seemed right to me at the time—I pelted him in the head with a grape. He didn’t know whether to laugh or yell at me. I saw a slight smile form on his lips as it was the last thing he expected me to do. This wasn’t how I normally acted. He tried his best to stay out of the war and instead started to pick up the random grapes strewn all across our house. He was quite a fun target for us as we continued in our fun grape war and focused all our attention on hitting him with grapes.
Joy in Any Situation
Watching my son, I realized that’s exactly how I have been before. I often stress at all the little things, and that prevents me from finding joy in a situation. Hard times will come. Stress will overwhelm us at times. But with God we can turn any situation into a positive, joyful one with his help. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Now I know that being thankful and joyful in all circumstances is not always easy. But think about how that could change your world if you looked for the positive in every situation. If you can’t find the positive, pray and ask God for a creative way to turn an experience around into something beautiful. It’s our choice how we react to the situations that bombard us in life. We can wallow in self-pity, anger, stress and let that overtake our lives. Or we can choose to be joyful—no matter what.
Starting the grape wars was something I never imagined doing. But I am certain now that God used it as a blessing. Sure, I couldn’t let it get out of control. But what a memory for our kids. They still talk about it years later. And yes, sometimes we do still find random shriveled grapes around our house. But that just makes us smile and recall the day. Hopefully choosing joy in the moment is something they will pass on to their own kids.
Sometimes you just have to laugh. And if it means flinging grapes at your kids—well, by all means, go right ahead!
Sandi Brown is a freelance writer and pastor’s wife from Tomah, Wisconsin.