by Kelli Lenart
I don’t normally (ever actually) go to McDonalds, but I had 3 hours to kill with 2 little kids while their older brother attended a writing class in a neighboring town. So I allowed myself to be sucked in by the playground and free Wi-Fi.
You don’t know me, but I know you. I recognize you sitting across the room on the other side of the playland telling your 3 little children to “go play”. I know you came here to let them burn off some steam while you try to relax and regroup for the next round of mayhem. I know this might be the only “me time” you give yourself all week. I know how tired you are, and how short your fuse has become.
My heart breaks for you as I hear you steadily losing your patience with your little one. What is he, 18 months? Maybe 2? He’s adorable.
I hear you telling him repeatedly to “go play, go play, go play” but he just doesn’t want to. He’d rather sit with you and sip his fruit punch. My breath caught in my throat when I observed you pick him up and forcefully put him in his little high chair with an exasperated, “Fine! Drink it then.” And slam his cup down on the table in front of him, and then go back to playing that game on your iPad. You seemed so annoyed when he started to whine because both his legs were wedged into one leg-hole, and you had to stop playing your game to yank him out of his seat and reposition him.
I know you didn’t see me cover my face and cry a tiny bit, because by then you were already looking back at your iPad.
I’m not judging you, quite the contrary! My heart goes out to you. Three kids under 4? You have your hands full…and then some. We’ve all had some cringeworthy parenting moments. I wanted so badly to come over and talk to you, but I knew there was no way my words would have come across as anything but a chastisement or a judgment, so I decided to sit here and write an anonymous letter that you will probably never read.
You see, I know you because I WAS you. That little boy who I used to lose my patience with is now almost 20 years old. Of course, back then we didn’t have iPads to distract us, but I certainly brought a book with me to the McDonalds Playland. That was still me though. Overweight, and overwhelmed, with too many little hands and voices clamoring for my attention. Low self-esteem and zero perspective on what my little children were thinking or feeling. Sleep deprived, with a shallow understanding of how my nutrition affected my blood sugar, and how these factors seriously affected my ability to cope. Yes, I know you very, very well
Oh, if only I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self what I didn’t have the courage to walk across the room and tell you: Please put down your book (iPad) and look into your child’s eyes. He is seeking you, longing for the safety of your connectedness. You will have plenty of time to read when he no longer wants to sit by you and sip his drink. When you are rough with him, he learns that he is not safe with you and will eventually seek that safe connection elsewhere. Once lost, that connection is so hard to regain and comes with a lot of baggage.
That beautiful little boy you are so irritated with? Please choose patience and grace, so he will always feel safe coming to you for your wellspring of truth and wisdom.
That pure, sweet spirit gazing up at you as if you are a Goddess? He’s right. He sees you more clearly than you are seeing yourself. You are more powerful than armies, because you have the power to teach and influence the man-spirit in that tiny, fragile body.
Please understand your power. It’s not in your physical strength over him; it’s in your divinity. Own it, and you will teach him to grow up and be the best kind of man the world has to offer. Please don’t lose yourself in your shortsighted selfishness. This is only a season for you, and I know it feels so taxing right now, but in what will seem like a blink of the eye, he will be grown, and then you can get back to being you. However to him, this is not just a season. This is his entire life.
You have a choice. You can show up for this season, nourish, water, prune, and protect this little seedling. Or you can check out, neglect, ignore, and hack away at it when it gets in your way. But remember this: he thinks you are perfect no matter what you do, and when he is grown, he will look for someone “perfect” just like you. Be the woman, mother, nurturer you want raising your grandchildren.
And please, for the love of all that is Holy, put down those fries and Coke and have a salad. You’ll thank me in 20 years.
Kelli Blair Lenart is the mother of four children (3 sons and one daughter) and founder of Being Whole Wellness. She lives in Ohio with her family.