There’s no other way to say it. Last night, I had a very public, very humiliating parenting fail at the mall.

It wasn’t a planned trip, which I’m sure added to a bit of the chaos. Nevertheless, the four of us there “acted ugly” as my grandmothers would have said. I’ll just jump straight to the juicy part.

The whole shopping experience began to plummet as we approached Hollister. The brightly colored coin operated cars outside of the store wooed my two littles. The littlest of the bunch, a new two year old, didn’t want to leave the cars, and he certainly didn’t want to be in the stroller. We walked into Hollister with a kicking, screaming toddler and a whining 6 year old, as the 12 year old and I argued loudly. The toddler screamed louder as I attempted to put him in the stroller. The 6 year old loudly proclaimed boredom and hung from the handle of the stroller. I yelled at her to let go, as the 12 year old yelled at me. I yelled over her to go look at shorts. She yelled back that she needed help.

“You’re 12!” I shouted. “Go get some shorts in your size and try them on!”

The toddler continued screaming and arching in the stroller. The 6 year old yanked my arm, crying.

“GO! GO GET THE SHORTS!” I insisted.

I picked up a couple of pairs which were met with eye rolls and “Nooooooo!”

I huffed, “That’s it. We. Are Done. LET’S GO!”

My apologies to the employees and shoppers of Hollister. I’m sure we did our part to drive away your customers. My only hope is that secretly the parents nearby were not annoyed by us, but secretly thankful for our episode, as this could quite possibly serve as the best and most effective form of birth control for their offspring.

I was horrified at us. What a spectacle we had made of ourselves. We were that family that was out of control, and I replayed the scene over and over in my head as I stormed out of the mall. The glares from the store employees. The raised eyebrows of strangers. The turned heads of everyone that we passed. The mall security guy surveying the situation. My son, red and shaking in the stroller from anger. My daughter hanging once again off the stroller handle. “GET OFF!” I said through clenched teeth. My older daughter angrily questioning why we were leaving.

This is what they all saw. This is what I focused on. And I’m sure the enemy was giddy. He was probably pulling right up to the sidelines of the scene and relishing in my internal anguish over the situation.  He was probably thinking, “Murder? Theft? Whatever. That happens every day. The Jesus chick that helps run the church moms’ group is losing it over here!” He was satisfied that I allowed this to run on loop over and over and over in my brain, as each time I heard more negative messages.

You’re no good at this.

Why can’t you control your kids?

They all think you’re a terrible mother.

How are you going to handle another?

Our little outburst lasted maybe three or four minutes total, and that’s all they saw. The public parenting moment that played the highlight reel of my faults. What they didn’t see, before and after, was the invisible parenting.

They didn’t see us chatting happily in the car on the way to the mall.

They didn’t see us looking at “Forever Home” shirts for soon-to-be little brother.

They didn’t see the happy toddler walking nicely through the mall and melting everyone with his smile.

They didn’t see the 6 year old holding onto my shirt after I had gently removed her hand from the stroller three times before.

They didn’t see the 12 year old and me laughing at weird shirts in Forever 21.


(Seriously, this shirt is terrible. It has prepunched holes in it. I have thrown away clothes in better condition. It can’t help but lighten the mood.)

They didn’t see the talk in the car afterward.

They didn’t see forgiveness.

They didn’t see the 12 year old and me making brownies at 10 pm for a school project.

They didn’t see me get up at 2:00 am to bring the crying toddler into bed with us.

They didn’t see the 6 year old and me snuggling on the couch before school this morning.

All of this was unknown to the strangers that I allowed to value me as a mother based on their stares and scoffs.

Why do we do this, Mamas? Why do we allow five minutes of ugly that the world sees undermine all the good and the love and the sacrifice that we make the other 1,435 minutes of the day? The invisible parenting where we become the hands and feet of Jesus to our children?

Last night, I checked FaceBook before going to sleep. A post by Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries spoke to me.

“Satan has no power over us except what we allow moment by moment, decision by decision, step by step we must choose–will we operate in God’s all powerful Truth or allow Satan to entangle us in his lies?”

Ephesians 6:12– For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

When I read it I knew I had to share this story. It’s not original; it’s happened to all of us at some point. It is not profound; it was a few minutes of us all falling apart in a shopping mall. It’s not even interesting; I’ve witnessed similar situations dozens of times and given the nod and smile that says, “Been there, girl!”

What matters is how we choose to react to these snippets of our day. We have to remain true to the Truth that God forgives our sins and we forgive those who sin against us. We have to remain true to the Grace that God gives us and that we must give ourselves and others. Satan’s highlight reel is not our norm. And we shouldn’t let his lies become our Truth.

And for those who were at Target at 10:00 am today, that was MY 2 year old screaming for 30 minutes straight. I promise, I did try to make it out of there quickly. My parenting, both public and invisible, have  already exceeded yesterday’s efforts, but the day’s still got a lot of minutes left.

Hang in there, Mama. You’re doing it right.




2 thoughts on “Invisible Parenting

  1. Excellent Article! I’m a gramma now but my daughter has her hands full and she is the best mom I very proud of her. I thank God for her and my granddaughters every day. They are my legacy. The best thing I did as a mom was to bear my children. I love them all so dearly.

  2. We’ve all been there, darling! We all fall short at times, but thank God for His grace and forgiveness! Being a parent is the hardest job ever, but as you know, it has the greatest rewards! I’m so thankful and blessed to know God is in center of your lives!

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