This has been a particularly Monday-ish Monday. You know it's not going to be the best day in the world when you are awakened long before your alarm by a screeching 6 year old. He was screeching because he wakes at the crack of dawn and feels the need to wake up brothers and sisters. Not surprisingly, he didn't get the reception he hoped for and needed to screech out his frustration. The day didn't improve. We had drama. We had irritation. We had annoyance. And it wasn't all from me. It was also one of those days when every room I walked into looked as though a tornado had arrived before me. It was not the calm, serene, peaceful home I aspire to. I was also not the calm, serene, peaceful mother I aspire to be, either.
Now, I don't know about you, but sometimes when I get into one of those moods (the irritated at the world and my children in particular mood), I have very little motivation to get out of it. There is a part of my brain which blames my children for my bad mood and everything else that has gone wrong and I don't want to change my mood because that might make my children happy. And they shouldn't get to be happy because I'm not. It is the ultimate in cutting off one's nose to smite one's face. No one is happy and no one is doing anything to change it.
Really, it's just plain selfishness. I am unwilling to take my share of the blame for the tenor of the home and I am also unwilling to sacrifice my sense of personal justice to make it better. I want someone to pay for my bad mood. Someone who is not me.
But parenting is sacrifice. Sometimes the bigger sacrifices are easier to manage. We sacrifice our time and our money in order to raise our children. We do so knowingly and often happily because we love our children. It is these little daily sacrifices that are sometimes harder and not as obvious.
Let's take my bad morning (and mood) as an example. I know I have the possibility to change my own attitude to redeem a bad start to a day. But, it means that I must sacrifice what I feel I deserve. I have to fight the idea that I somehow deserve not to be the one to make the first move. I deserve a clean house all the time. I deserve always well-behaved children. I deserve... I deserve... I deserve... This idea of entitlement, that there is something intrinsically special about me that deserves an easy life, does not make for a pleasant home. It stops me from sacrificially loving my children.
It stops me from treating my children with the grace with which God treats me. And God does treat me with grace. All the time. I do bicker and whine and complain and make messes. Far more often than I care to admit. I am so thankful that God does not give me what I deserve, but instead offers me His sacrificial grace and love. Grace and love that I did not earn and do not deserve. If this is how God parents me than it is good to remember that it is how I should parent my children.
It is one thing to know this and another thing to act on it. It can be hard to lift ourselves out of the pit of self-pity and annoyance. I wish I always took my own advice, but when I have succeeded in changing my mood and the mood of my household, this is what works. 1) Start with God. I really can't do it on my own, especially if there is a pretty big part of me that is rather enjoying the abyss of self-pity. But God can. Ask Him to begin to change your attitude. 2) Get away for a few moments to regroup. Sometimes it means I lock myself in the bathroom, other times I can run a few errands, either way, it helps to take myself out of the fray if even for a couple of moment. 3) Be thankful. I remind myself that I really do love these children. I remind myself why I love them. And I spend some time thinking about why I chose this parenting path and what the alternative would be. (On the face of it lots of free time and lunch dates sound fun, but multiplied over the course of time come up looking empty.) 4) Do something radically different to set a new tone. Put on some music. Get out a game. Play in water. Tell jokes. Do something silly. Make people laugh. My children were not the only ones responsible for the bad mood, I am just as complicit. They pick-up on my bad mood and it is on some level threatening. They may not be able to voice it as such, but they are reacting to a less-than-ideal environment on an emotional level. I need to make our home feel safe again.
When I have been aware enough of what is going on and I take these steps, I find not only my children are rewarded, but I am as well. I feel happier and more content. Life doesn't look quite as dire as it did a few hours ago. Parenting can be tough. We have to be adult enough to see a situation for what it is and be willing to make the sacrifices to change it. It takes a lot of grace, but thankfully, God's grace never runs out. He has grace in abundance.