I had just finished reaming my 6-year-old out for picking up a sharp shard of glass and squeezing it in his palm (immediately after I had reminded him to “Watch out for the glass!”). I was fuming. It was 95+ degrees, we had been at a zoo for 3+ hours, a zoo that I’ve been to a bazillion times before; we were all hot, cranky, and improperly hydrated. I was tired, physically from all the walking and mentally from keeping tabs on the kids and trying to somewhat keep their behavior in check (alas, still my youngest managed to stick his pointer finger directly in some unidentified monkey goo, so disgusting, again right after a warning of “Watch out for that yucky stuff on the ledge!”) Underlying all of that was a sense that the entire day was just “life filler”: “If I entertain the kids until 11:00, take them to lunch, drive 45 minutes to the zoo, spend a few hours there, and 45 minutes back, most of the day will be gone! I can make it until bedtime then, and I will be one day closer to not having to watch them by myself anymore!” (there, again, that nasty whisper of wishing away time with my children — or maybe it’s the dread talking of me being alone and in charge of them yet again…)
Then I hear from the right backseat, “Mom, do you like being mad at me?”
“No! I don’t like being mad at you, but when you do dumb stuff, LIKE PICK UP SHARDS OF GLASS AND SQUEEZE THEM, you leave me no choice!”
“Don’t call me dumb!”
“I didn’t call you dumb, I said you do dumb things!”
A pause. Then a whisper.
“You know what’s dumb, Mom? Being mad at people you love.”
My mouth dropped open. I promptly shut it. And kept it shut for the remainder of the ride home. There was the wisdom, the meaning for the day I had been [unconsciously] seeking, stated matter-of-factly, by my little king in the back. Ironically, I had to go through a ‘stressful’ day in order to hear it.
I have been pleading for grace in finding the Divinity in the every day, but mainly in regards to interacting with my family. It is counter-intuitive that I can so easily be kind, or at the very least civil, to strangers, that I can pray for and weep over children in orphanages in eastern Europe, and yet when it comes to my family, especially my husband, even civility flies out the window. Why do I feel like I have a right to take out every frustration on them? Why do they incur the wrath of every foul mood (and why so many foul moods??)? Yes, maybe because they are around me constantly, but lately I am understanding that the closeness and proximity we share is all the more reason to be nice.
Or at least say nothing. I can hear my mother chiding, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!” It still rings true, louder than ever, thirty years later. And I have been practicing. Instead of verbally snapping at the first burst of anger, I have been biting my tongue (sometimes literally), taking a breath, waiting for the initial explosive reaction to whatever it was to subside before I speak or act. (Not EVERY time, mind you, but I am trying!) Or instead of my constant parade of ‘don’t do thats’ (“don’t jump in that!” “don’t jump from there!” “don’t pinch your brother!” “don’t poke the dog!” “don’t yell!” [I yell] “don’t” “Don’t!” “DON’T!”) in my obsessive way of trying to avoid pain and harm at all costs, I’ve been [trying to] hush instead. Obviously after the glass and goo incidents during our most recent zoo visit, my kids are going to choose their own actions despite my [near constant] stream of safety warnings. Maybe I should save my breath for, well, breathing. And save the yelling for the seriously dangerous situations. I am also being taught a HUGE lesson about control. I can’t control everything, as much as I may want to. “Mama knows best.” And mama is realizing that sometimes I need to sink back and relax. Let them go. Let it go. Let go.
I also feel like I am on the edge of yet another big spiritual breakthrough, about to unearth the next sparkling crystal of truth. (Maybe another cause of my mercurial feelings of irritation — I sense something coming, and am impatient for it?) I watched an interview by Oprah of Reverend Ed Bacon, who was sharing an anecdote about the first pilot to break the sound barrier. He said right before the pilot broke through the barrier, the cockpit shook tremendously. I can feel my inner and outer landscapes ‘shaking’ in preparation. Do you know what would be dumb? To stop the jet. To turn around.
I am determined to hold on. I do know for certain that whatever is on its way will help me stretch and grow. And that, to me, is most meaningful.