I am not much of a “player.” It’s not because I don’t like playing. It’s because I don’t like to lose. Friends often hear me say: “I only play games, I can win.” (Which does not include: win lose or draw, or a thousand other games…)
When Noah suggested “Hi Ho! Cherry -O? ”  I felt like I had a shot.
In my brain, I know that when it comes to playing games with kids- winning (or losing) isn’t the point. It’s not even really “how you play the game” it’s playing, together, that counts. Thursday night was a good reminder of that for me.
We were  on the third straight round when I started to tense up. Because I kept losing.  I snapped at Noah- to “just set up the game, and hush” when he talked trash about beating me: again. “I am the cherry-o master!” and “In your face! Take that!” , “Bring it on, Momma!”,“Uh huh… I’m the man” He was taunting me. Worse yet- he was beating me. Mostly- without cheating.
I started thinking strategy and how I could “crush” him. Yes-  a five year old. My five year old. I wanted to kick his little cutey-booty.
Forget about connecting and enjoying time together…I wanted to win.  I started talkin’ trash. “Bring it! Little guy!” “I’m the momma!”

Which was funny until I beat him, gloated and he cried.  #parentingfail.

It was not one of my finer parenting moments. Competing in a caged death match game of Hi-Ho Cherry-O, rarely shows up in the top ten list of best advice for parenting. It amazes me how quickly I lose focus, and what starts out as a “good mommy moment” degrades into future fuel for my kids’ therapy sessions. (“My mom used to talk trash and beat me at hi-ho cherry-o, do you think that’s why I’m such a loser today?”) I can see in his future the therapist’s notes.

I’d gone too far. A tsunami of guilt rushed over me. Putting away the game, I knew I’d blown it, again. I should have apologized. I didn’t. Something in me thought that if I pretended nothing had happened… maybe this  hurt could be put away with the tiny red cherries.
It wasn’t. I felt (once again) like a failure. “Will I ever be a good mom?” I wondered. Pretty sure the answer was: No.
Later that afternoon-Noah climbed up into my lap. He put his arm around my shoulder, and said “I love you Mom, even if you’re bad winner.” My eyes welled up with tears.
I thought I felt Jesus put his hand on my other shoulder- and say : “Me too.”

I make lots of mistakes as a parent. I say stupid things, I do stupid things. Trash talk. Yell. Things I know better than doing. The bottom line? I love my kids-and I communicate it to them, in all kinds of ways. (yes- even playin games- I don’t like, or can’t win) They love me, too.
And- no matter how much I mess up- so does Jesus.
I apologized for the trash talking.  He patted my back. “I like you, Mom”
“I like you too, Noah”

“Dear Jesus- please help me to keep focus on the things I do- help me to remember how short my time is with my kids, and to savor the moments I have with them. God- change me- make me more like you- create a new heart in me- one that is full of your love- a perfect love without competition- full of grace. I love you Lord- amen!”