Some days I wish I could hit a “do-over” button and start the day again. I reason that things would be better if only I had an opportunity to physically restart the day. I envision this do-over erasing all the guilt and heaviness of bad attitudes, frustrated reactions, and discouraged thoughts. This new start would eliminate negative energy, which would instead be replaced with a calm attitude and a fresh opportunity to react with a positive demeanor. I would no longer be emotionally exhausted from the daily unexpecteds and disruptions.
I do my best to create small moments of mental reset as needed throughout the day. I try to find grace, especially in the moments I secretly wish I could just escape to a quiet, solitary place. I envision wiping away my frustration while intentionally calming my mind as I attempt to usher in encouraging thoughts. Sometimes, I use these breaks to whisper a desperate, brief “God, give me the strength” prayer as my kids fight for the umpteenth time that morning while I begin my daily chores. After this quick break, I’ll think to myself, “OK, now I should be good to go.”
Except it’s never that simple. Undoubtedly, two seconds after my momentary reset, my daughter will poke her brother because, well, who knows why. Or, my son will whine loudly that his sister is “interfering with his playtime.” I do my best to tolerate about another minute of the chaos before I inquire, in a not so gentle voice, “WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON?!” This is met with either blank stares or hurt-feelings cries. I immediately regret my tone and wish I had reacted differently. It is at this point that I wish for a grand do-over, a magic button that would take us back in time. After this do-over, I know I would have a better attitude, I would be more patient, I would react more calmly. I want more than a momentary mental reset, I want a complete do-over.
When taking a reset doesn’t work and starting over isn’t an option, I default to rationalizing my bad attitude: didn’t log enough sleep; the kids aren’t listening; this season is a little crazy at the moment. However, this rationalizing can turn into a spiral and get pretty deep surprisingly quickly. Suddenly, my thoughts turn to: I’m always tired; the kids never listen; everything is perpetually terrible. I can go from an “I’m frustrated” to a “things will never get better” in about two seconds. The worst part of this is that I struggle at the bottom of my emotional spiral for a long time, wishing for a do-over and coming up with a thousand excuses why my negative reaction and subsequent bad attitude are justified.
Obviously, there is no such thing as a do-over. But I like the simplicity of such an idea. If only our mistakes and regrets could be so easily forgotten with the opportunity to start over. I’d like to think life would be quite straight-forward and relatively easy if this was an actual thing. But it’s not, and instead of focusing on moving forward I often find myself dwelling on the negative. I recognize that this is where I get stuck, because asking forgiveness and accepting grace can be awkward and difficult. Moving forward requires a lot of intentional energy.
It was at this point recently, as I battled various emotions and struggled to switch gears after an unpleasant reaction, that I reflected on kids’ reactions. They fluctuate between emotions with surprising agility. It’s literally desperate tears of disappointment and frustration followed by smiles and infectious laughter seconds later. Yes, they can dwell, oh, can they dwell, but they’re also incredibly resilient and very capable of moving forward to the next moment. Granted, their moving forward is often largely facilitated with reasoning, gentle reminders, and encouragement; habits I need to remind myself to implement more regularly as I continue to grow in the process of moving forward.
Although I don’t articulate it to my kids quite to this extent (because, attention-spans), I can acknowledge that the hard work of asking forgiveness, reconciling mistakes, amending bad attitudes, and accepting grace as part of moving forward is how we work at growing into better people. And, isn’t that what we’re all still working to do? To grow and do the very best we can as we learn from mistakes and regrets and move forward into the next, grace-filled moment.
Wendi, her husband, and their two kids are currently perfecting their best “ya sure you betcha” accents, having relocated to northern Minnesota. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters and a member of the podcast Moms Who Wine.
*photo credit: personal photo*