Shuffling through my registration papers, I traced a line from the title of the sectional to the room location. Acting without thought, I began to make my way from where I stood on Illinois State University's campus to where I was scheduled to go. I did not know the speaker then... but had heard already many times that if you have a chance to hear Julie Barnhill speak, you have to take it.
A knot grew in the pit of my stomach. It is one thing to hear a well-recommended speaker... It is another thing ENTIRELY if the topic makes you cringe.
I looked down on the paper again. I glanced at the map and wished I was better with directions. Time was ticking away and I knew I would not walk in late. Where was this room? What was it called? Braden... I was looking for Braden. Glancing at room names, now back in the main building, my unfamiliarity with all things ISU was obvious. I was not yet lost but certainly not found and I knew I could not ask the way. Then, they would know...
I had not expected Hearts at Home to be so... well... honest. There was so much laughter, so much joy but I was caught off guard by the fact that people talked about the struggles they had. I had anticipated a lot of sharing about our kids, our successes, our moments of pride. But, this sectional confirmed for me that this was a place about more than all that... not separate from it... but interlinked. The good AND the bad, the beautiful AND the ugly, the moments most proud AND those filled with shame.
I looked down again. The title looked back. "She's Gonna Blow!", it read. And there I stood, just outside the door.
Now, there are no perfect mommas. I know this very well. But I have always wanted to do a good job. I have always wanted to be kind, connected, compassionate. And yet, standing outside of Braden, not knowing what to expect, the reality had hit me full force. In the two years since Mark and I had left Trinity with Noah and Benjamin, our number of children had literally doubled. Our home was too small, my patience was thin and I was juggling the lives of school aged children and babies not yet in school. My frustration with many things had gotten the best of me and sometimes my tone was too strong and my anger too big as I sought to care for our fast-growing brood. I wanted to do better. I wanted to be better. And now, standing outside in the hall, I wondered what people would think if they saw me enter this room? What would my friends, my MOMs Group, my family think if they knew I was going to a sectional about anger?
I stood there for a moment feeling lonely and shameful and small. Surely, this room would hold only a handful of moms who struggled with anger from time to time. Feeling conflicted, I decided that I had come to this conference for help, for support and maybe it could be found on the other side of the door. Grabbing the handle firmly, committed now to the task at hand, I opened the door and could not believe the sight that lay before me.
Braden was not a room. Braden was an AUDITORIUM. It was, in fact, the name of the auditorium that held ALL the mass meetings at Hearts at Home, making the space easily able to hold thousands of women. And, inside, there were hundreds and hundreds of women taking their seats.
I actually, physically stopped then, amazed at what I saw. In even walking through the doors, all these women admitted to having struggled with anger in one way or another. Some had been angry for years... some for a day here and there. But, however it happened that they had come to this place, this sectional, it did not really matter. It mattered that they were here and that they were telling the truth. Sometimes, parenting is HARD. Sometimes, it gets the best of us. Sometimes, we need to admit that we get mad at our kids. For some, seated in that room that day, their anger had turned to rage. Some were just afraid it might. But, what struck me most was that there were so many of us there. And all of a sudden, it became real to me... this is NORMAL.
I love my children with all that is in me to love. I play with them, wrestle with them, read to them, care for them each and every day. I want what is best for them and want to do right by them... but sometimes.... all this closeness and all this love and all this hope and all this planning and working and trying and doing come right up against the unpredictable reality that is child-rearing at it's core. And sometimes, I get mad. Sometimes, I manage that in a way that is good and healthy and sometimes, I find myself regretting my tone, my volume level, my choice of words. And you know what I learned that day in Braden Hall? It happens to you too. And, in letting that truth sink into my soul, healing took place.
There were a lot of people there that day. And Julie spoke such grace and truth to the whole of us. She shared her story and, in doing so, gave us permission to own our stories as well. The room was full of people who are trying to do better. Our kids see that, you know. My kids see that there are more days that I pull them close than days when my voice sends us all in different directions. There are more days of laughter and game playing and working together to cook or bake than days when we fall into bed frustrated and still a little bit mad. More days of laughter, less days of tears. And it is good. Can you see it, too? We are not called to be perfect. What good will that do our children?? No, my friend, we are called to be real. REAL. And in doing so, we help our precious babies to see what life really looks like. In being real, we show our kids what it looks like to fall and get back up, to make a mistake and ask forgiveness, to be sad or angry and find a way to laugh again. That is what they need from us and that is what will impact their every day lives for years and years to come.
Seeing that group of women gathered together on that day impacted me in significant ways. I know what it is like to feel alone but on that day, at Hearts at Home, I realized that I stand in good company with thousands of mommas, just like me. We are all doing the best we can and our kids are blessed by our efforts.
Today, you may comment if you choose, otherwise, just leave your name and maybe your state and, if you would like, the names of your children. And, we will spend this day knowing that the work may be hard but the company is good.
Carvel Ice Cream: Free Junior Cone on April 27, 2017! - Stop by Carvel Ice Cream on Thursday, April 27, 2017 from 3-8pm to get a free junior soft serve cone. Limit 1 per person. Thanks, Freebies 4 Mom!
14 hours ago