The “Shut Up” Mommy

The weekend before last, I had the privilege of speaking at a parenting class at Living Word Community Church in Red Lion, PA. There were two main speakers, Carey Nieuwhof, a pastor from Ontario, and yours truly. I really enjoyed Carey’s keynote, but what resonated with me most was a very important, but overlooked point. When we are without margin and living like crazy people, we are not the best parents. To be an attentive, kind parent is to be rested, living with ample margin. The more tired, the more mean we’ll be.

Flying home that night, his message still lolling around in my brain, I sat across the aisle from a marginless mommy. She had a four-ish-year-old daughter who acted entirely sweet. She mostly kept to herself, occasionally asking her mom a question. And every time she dared to pipe up, her mom shushed her (loudly, not sure how that works) by saying, “Shut up!” I tried to give the little girl eye contact, empathy pouring out of me, but she was too hurt to even look my way.

Of course I thought of numerous ways to gently approach this mother and let her know that her parenting approach was hurting her daughter, but I realized that my intervention would only embarrass and possibly enrage the mother. She might just take it out further on the little girl.

So I prayed for the little girl and the mother with every single “Shut up” muttered and spewed. Every time I heard those awful two words, I physically felt sick. I remembered Carey’s words and realized that this mommy probably had no margin in her life. Her patience had left the airplane, and she took out her harassed mood on this poor little girl.

When I came home, I noticed my youngest (13) on the couch. She’d had some difficult things happen to her over the weekend. But after a long flight with the Shut Up lady and a weariness I couldn’t stop, I chose not to engage her. Two days later, (ouch), she opened up to me about some things she’s been going through. Big things. Hard things. And I realized that I had let my own weariness prevent me from positively engaging with her in the moment.

So Carey Nieuwhof, you’re right. So right. As parents we must be engaged, but to be so means we take care of ourselves. We rest. We don’t live mach 5 with our hair on fire. We refuel and replenish. Not just for our sake, but for the sake of our kids.

Q4u: When have you learned the importance of margin and parenting? How?

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