Let's be honest: sometimes even Christian moms swear

She stood in her car seat, legs stiff and straight, little fists clenched and said in a fierce and firm tone, "I don wan to!"

At 2 and a half this is a familiar mantra. It often occurs when she needs a nap but sometimes it's uttered simply because.

Because she can.

Because she wasn't ready to leave.

Because she wants to sit next to her brother in the big kid seat.

Because she wants to be the one to decide what she will do and when she will do it. 

Because she's her own person and wants everyone everyone to know it.

It was Mother's Day. My husband had worked third shift and was asleep.

The plan was to visit my parents for the day but there Grace stood, blocking the way with toddler defiance and my stubbornness.  

"If you sit down you can watch Paw Patrol," I told her in a sing song voice I reserved for moments when inside I was seething but outside I was trying to look and feel like Donna Reed.

"I don wan paw patrol!" She snapped defiantly.

The conversation bounced back and forth for another five minutes, a ping pong ball of emotional negotiations. 

I tried the tactic where you explain to the two-year old why it's safer for her to be in her own seat. 

"I don wan to!"

I offered her a special treat if she she sat down.

"I don wan to!"

I offered her a special viewing of her most recent favorite cartoon on my phone.

"I don wan to!"

Her brother sat eating chips and watching a cartoon on his kindle, no help at all at this point, though I'm really not sure what I expected a 10 year old to do. 

Over the last few days our family had faced a number of stresses and I was no longer in the mood to stand in the driveway negotiating with a toddler terrorist.  

Lisa R. Howeler 2017

Suddenly I lost the resolve I'd had to stay calm but firm.

Not only was she trying to steal the control I always needed to have but she was chipping away at what I felt I was supposed to do, what others have said has to be done and "the unwritten rules" that have to be followed.

I knew someone, "they", whoever, would find out what a horrible mother I was for not forcing her to sit in the seat that is safer for her. I knew "they" would shake their heads in shame at me for not being strong and firm and showing who is boss.

She was getting in that seat and she was getting in "NOW!!!!"

And it came out in a growl, a growl that had built up from the moment we walked outside when my body tensed up for the battle I knew was coming.

She started crying.  "no! I don want to!" She said over and over in between sobs, stamping her little feet in the car seat. 

It's a repeated scene. 

Car seats have been the consistent battlefield since she was a few weeks old. The screams came the moment the belt was secured.

Not crying. SCREAMING. Red faced-tiny hands clenched-veins popping screams.

Each destination reached left me a trembling mess, nerves frayed, muscles taunt under skin, motherhood doubts looming like midnight specters.

That Mother's Day morning the nerves were beyond frayed. I was tired of the fights over everything from diaper changes to naps to car seats, tobedtime and teeth brushing and washing her hair.

In absolute, almost blinding anger I screamed "you will sit in this seat right now!!!!" I sounded like a certified lunatic and I knew it.

I walked away from the car, punted a light by the sidewalk across the front yard and then I said IT. 

I said IT.

That swear word. Yes, THAT one.

The Big One. The big bad swear word. The swear word that Christian girls raised in a Christian home shouldn't even know. 

But I do know it, partially thanks to working 13-years in small town newspapers with people,  like the staff photographer, who could make an entire sentence using only THAT word.

I know it and I said it. 

I mumbled it, muttered and threw myself into the grass and growled it. I went back to the car, shouted again (not The Swear Word or any swear word, thankfully) then told the kids we weren't going anywherebecause I was "SICK OF IT ALL!" 

I went into the house, threw the keys across the room, flopped on the couch like I was the 2-year old, and cried for being such a horrible mom on Mother's Day and every day.

Not only was a bad mom I told myself, sobbing while my husband decided he'd try to get her in her seat, I was bad Christian. 

But being ashamed doesn't mean living in a permanent state of shame. 

Ashamed is a feeling.

 

Feelings are not facts.

 

I thought of all those moms at my son's school - the Christian school where they taught him to have self control and be like Jesus. I just knew none of those women ever yelled at their children and they certainly never, ever yelled a curse word, let alone The Big One. I saw their faces looking at me in shame and disappointment, shaking their heads and vowing to say a prayer for my children, having to be raised by "that woman" with her "potty mouth" and lack of decorum. 

If they knew what I'd said today I was sure my son would be kicked out of the school and part of me didn't even mind because it's hard to live up to the pointed expectations of other moms, especially other Christian moms, even if that expectation is only in your own mind. 

I know those moms really wouldn't look at me that way (well, hopefully) and that the pressure was placed there by me, not them. Maybe some of those moms would look at me knowingly and say "Been there, done that."

They might never admit publicly they've yelled at their children or they've slipped and uttered any curse word, let alone the "big one". Maybe those confessions are reserved for their journals, spouse or best friend.

And like me they might have felt the searing pain of shame and guilt and listened to the lies whispered in their ear: 

You're a hypocrite.

You're a horrible mother. 

You don't deserve your children.

 You certainly don't deserve to be honored on Mother's Day. 

You should be ashamed.

And those mothers are ashamed.

And I was ashamed.

But being ashamed doesn't mean living in a permanent state of shame. 

Ashamed is a feeling.

Feelings are not facts.

Feelings can be a conviction from God or it can be a condemnation from the darkness.

If it is a conviction we recognize the mistakes and vow to improve. We commit to do our best to not use language or behaviorsthat reflect anger and darkness and go against the nature of God. 

If it is condemnation we walk in a circle and wring our hands.

If it is condemnation we lay down in the bed of shame we made for ourselves with the help of the great liar. We tell ourselves we don't deserve to get back up again.

In Romans 8:1-4 the Bible tells us there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He already bore our shame.

 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c] And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

 

Romans 8:1-4 NIV

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 

 

Romans 8:1 NIV

 

I am not proud of my swear fest. 

I don't condone turning the air blue in every day conversation or even in anger.

But it can happen. 

We fail. 

We make mistakes.

We fall down.

And then we get back up.

We start fresh. We learn from the mistakes. We record the lessons in our hearts, in our journals, somewhere we can reflect. But we don't live there. 

We ask for forgiveness.

And it's given. 

And we keep pressing ahead.

________

All images by Lisa R. Howeler. Available for purchase at Lightstock

Lisa Robinson-Howeler

Lisa Howeler Photographer, Athens, PA

I'm a wife, mom, writer and photographer from Northeastern Pennsylvania. I'm a former journalist, which is what my degree is in, and enjoy the freedom of being able to create as a mainly self-taught photographer.