My Mom is a genius.
All my life, she’s had one phrase that covers every childhood problem.
She would simply say, “You’re tired.”
Fighting with a sibling? “You must be tired.”
Cranky the day after a sleepover? “You sound tired.”
Whining about having nothing to wear? “Someone’s tired.”
Broken arm? “You must be tired.”
I’m kidding about that last one. I think.
But sometimes, that’s how it felt. Tiredness was to blame for everything. I wondered if the world would end and my Mom would blame it on exhaustion.
And I hated hearing it, honestly. I hated that she had a calm answer when I wanted a dramatic reaction. I hated that she didn’t seem to care about my life-altering problems. I hated that she acted like she knew me better than I knew myself. (“Like I wouldn’t know if I was tired,” I would snort to my teenage self.)
But now that I’m the parent, I see the genius in that phrase. Because my Mom wasn’t just diagnosing a condition.
She was showing us grace.
She was saying, in essence, “I believe you know how to get along with your siblings and stay kind even after a late-night party and be content with the clothing you have. I believe you can do better than this. Surely, it’s the tiredness that’s making you act this way. You must be tired.”
I understand this now, because I watch my two-year-old after a week of not taking naps, and I see how she melts down when I tell her no, she can’t have marshmallows for breakfast. And I know she can do better than that. I’ve seen her have better reactions.
She must be tired.
And I watch my older son and daughter bicker and pick at each other all day after a weekend of swimming and late night ice cream cones and extra reading time before bed. I know they can treat each other with kindness. This isn’t like them.
They must be tired.
It’s a beautiful thing, really, to believe my children can do better if they just had a little more sleep. It’s a way for me to give them the benefit of the doubt. I believe in them. They just need more rest.
And now, it’s time for me to go to bed. Because tonight, I found myself getting annoyed when my toddler wanted to hold my hand while she was falling asleep.
I must be tired.
Kelly blogs at Love Well, when she's not too tired.