It was a dark and stormy night...
Not really. I just felt dark and stormy on the drive home from our friends' house last night. We had been invited over for playtime and dinner - to get us out of the house and ease the burden while Russ was away. It was so generous and thoughtful and delightful and... my children managed to exhibit some of the rudest and most foolish behavior they've exhibited in quite a while. While I don't necessarily think it's appropriate to write in detail about their misdeeds - my children deserve a little cushioning from on-line over-exposure - it is sufficient to say that it was bad enough that we left the dinner table and I took them home. It was mortifying.
Know what a mom thinks on the car ride home from that fiasco? I've been humiliated by my children. I've humiliated myself. I'm a failure. Those kids never listen to me. I haven't taught them self-control. I missed my chance to teach them manners. If they're rude, they must have picked it up from me. Their formative years are over and there are no more opportunities to "fix them." I'm a failure.
And I am, sort of. Because if I wasn't a little bit of a failure, I would never have the opportunity to improve. And that's kind of what parenting is - trying your hardest, doing your best, wondering how you could be better, making tough decisions and struggling to stick with them... and then doing it all over again the next day. Over and over again - because we love our children and because we're not perfect.
And it's also because I love them that I want them to be better, and to try harder, and to stick with it. When they slip up, mess up, or get tripped up, I don't usually think, "well, that one's a failure." No. But I do know that there's a lot of work to be done - correction, consequence, encouragement, education. Over and over and over again. That's how they learn and that's how I parent - because I love my children and because they're not perfect.
That's also what humility is. Humility is not degrading oneself by saying, "I'm no good at that and never will be. I'm a failure." It's being able to say, "I am weak in this area but if it's God's will, and with his grace, I can improve."
Father, you told me, I have committed many errors, I have made so many mistakes.
I know, I replied. But God Our Lord, who also knows all that and has taken it into account, only asks you to be humble enough to admit it and asks that you struggle to make amends, so as to serve him better each day with more interior life, with continual prayer and with piety, and making use of the proper means to sanctify your work.
St. Josemaria Escriva
The Forge, 379
I was humbled by my children's behavior last night. But I've recovered from the self-accusation that I'm a complete failure. It actually happened pretty quickly... before we even arrived home last night. I realized it's foolish and un-truthful to think that they're always rotten and I'm a miserable mom. There are so many , many times when they shine - politeness, gratitude, service... coming from my children! (Too bad it wasn't happening last night!) It's so important to remember these bright and shining instances of goodness, for my own benefit and for theirs!
After last night's three ring circus I was really, really, really hesitant to take the kids to Mass by myself this morning. I was thinking of skipping it and thought if I didn't remind the kids it was Sunday no one would be the wiser. But they remembered and insisted we go even after I voiced my concerns. Well, my Jekyll-and-Hyde crew were as good as gold all through Mass. I felt like a had a different set of children entirely. Prayers and hymns flowed forth from them. No one squirmed (well, mostly). No one whined. I was even sitting next to a child - my child - who beautifully sang all four verses of The Battle Hymn of the Republic (thanks to Wee Sing America and his crazy memory for lyrics!) Humbled was I, once again... God's grace is capable of sowing and reaping much more in their lives than I can accomplish when parenting in a spiritual vacuum. I'm not the be all and end all in their lives, and to parent with that mentality WILL certainly lead to failure.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
Enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the Earth...
because I definitely can't do all that on my own :)
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