Here's an example. Every night I go and look at my children when they're asleep. I've said before that some wise soul once told me to do this because it presses a 'reset' button after the day and indeed it does. On a pretty much daily basis bathtime and bedtime deteriorates in to a struggle; a battle of wills between me and the girls, and by the time I tuck them into bed there have, more often than not, been raised voices and harsh words. I come downstairs with nerves jangled and temper wearing thin. That time of the day is such a difficult time for me. I'm tired and looking forward to bed, or I need them to settle so that I can prepare for home group or something else, and I'm just a mess of frustration and impatience.
So I come downstairs and I do the evening things like set the washing machine, start the dishwasher, water the plants, put toys away and peel sticky tape off every surface (my girls are obsessed with sticky tape. You wouldn't believe the things that can be made with sticky tape).
If left alone, these chores have a sort of therapeutic feel to them and by the time I have a cup of coffee and an opportunity to sit down, two things have usually happened. One, the sun has gone in, and it's no longer worth sitting outside, and two, I am feeling much more well-disposed towards my daughters. This is when The Guilt sets in.
|My lovely Lizzie|
On occasion I've even gone back upstairs at this point to say goodnight again in a more friendly manner and this has mixed success. Sometimes I'm too late with my peace mission and they're already asleep - too late. The Guilt has the upper hand. Alternatively, they might be still awake and subdued because of the palaver earlier and the dire imprecations that if they made so much as a whisper the wrath of Mummy would descend on them all over again. If this is the case, with a cuddle and a snuggle we can be happy with each other before we go to sleep. I like it when this happens.
The third possible outcome is that I mistime my reconciliation visit with disastrous results. I enter the bedroom just as Lizzie or Katy is drowsy but not yet asleep and my arrival wakes them up again. With Elizabeth this means she will be cross and grumpy, compounding my guilt at being a Bad Mummy. With Katy this means that she will wake up again completely, launch into varied boisterous activities and require settling from scratch, a process which could once again reduce me to Snappy Mummy and start the procedure all over again.
|Beautiful Katy. |
NB Barney by left ear
So I maybe don't go back upstairs and it waits until my bedtime before I go in and perch on the edge of the bed (trying to avoid a leg or a hand or a knee or something) and I kiss them and inhale that wonderful wonderful aroma of warm sleeping child. I whisper things to them and I sit with my hand on them and I pray for them. Sometimes it's a 'Lord, just look' sort of prayer full of wonder and gratitude, and other times it's a smidge more involved. I know that you know that it's nothing epic. At that time of night I don't have much in me. Recently, if Katy's been lying the right way I've put my hand on the bump on her neck and screwed up my eyes tightly and begged you to heal her.
But that's another issue altogether.
What I wanted to say, Lord, was that I wish I could do better, I really do. I end every day looking at my girls and promising myself that tomorrow will be a better day. Tomorrow I will be much more patient, considerate, smiley, encouraging. Less critical, shouty, irritable. Usually I've blown it before breakfast. Katy hates having her teeth brushed. Lizzie has a wobbly tooth and is so incredibly protective of it that I have to brush her teeth through a gap the size of a keyhole. Neither of them want to get dressed. Katy can't have milk on her cereal because of her drugs and of course, the only thing she wants to eat in the world is milky cereal. Elizabeth doesn't want her hair brushed, Katy won't find her shoes. Throughout all this, of course, Mummy didn't want to get out of bed and wishes she were back there so isn't exactly the postergirl for a.m. affability.
I know what I want to do but I don't do it. I know what I ought to do but I can't seem to control myself. I regret what I often do and resolve not to do it again but do it again I do. With discouraging regularity.
St Paul (himself) put it like this:
'So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law, but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am!'
There are so very many parts of my life in which this is true, but none so painful to me as this one. I hate that I am crabby to my kids so often. I dread that they will grow up thinking back to their tiny days with me as an impatient, critical, nagging mother who was constantly making threats and stalking off disgruntled at bedtime. Remembering me as the Mummy who shouts rather loudly when Barney goes missing at bedtime for the hundredth time, and then throws him at the wall in a temper when he turns up (under the pillow on which she was lying, grr). I blame tiredness (all the time) and their naughtiness or disobedience or a million other things but I need to be more patient. More giving. To let them be children and accept that they're not perfect, as I am not perfect. I do try to apologise, to say, 'Mummy shouldn't have said/done that; I'm sorry I upset you' but there's a limit to how many times it'll make things alright.
I need to get a grip.
Paul finishes off:
'What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that it subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!'
Amen and amen.
Forgive me for all the times that I make a mess of it all, Lord. Thankyou that you will indeed deliver me from all the bad things that I can't seem to help doing.
You need to help me with this, Lord, because I am just too short of sleep, short of tolerance, short of love, short of patience to do it myself. I want to look at my girls tonight and marvel at their beauty, their smallness, their innocence; resolve to do better tomorrow, and actually do better tomorrow. Help me to stop doing the things I hate doing. Help me stop the anger, the impatience, the temper, the harshness and the criticism.
'But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.'
I need all those things, Lord. I can't seem to do it on my own.