Do you ever wake up in an irritable mood? No? Surely I’m not the only one! It can be very difficult on such days to radiate the love of Christ to the world. Paradoxically, it’s difficult to feel the love of Christ on such days and yet, it is the sure knowledge of that love that makes the day bearable. On such days, we can have no better model than Mother Teresa of Calcutta, as anyone who has read Come Be My Light can attest.
On days like these, those closest to us suffer the most from our affliction. I’m sorry. I should be saying that those closest to me suffer the most from my affliction. I really shouldn’t project my own trials and failings onto anybody else.
Unfortunately, I ran just a little short on patience with my dear little Erin this morning. Twice she dragged me from the kitchen into the family room. Interestingly, I try to hold her hand, but she insists and leading me by my thumb. I had to make it clear to her that she was not going to play on the Wii or watch family videos before school. As I poured her Cheerios, I watched as she pulled a full gallon jug of milk out of the refrigerator, tried unsuccessfully to twist of the cap (it hadn’t been opened yet), then returned it to the refrigerator and stood there, with the door wide open, just looking at two unopened gallons of milk.
After breakfast, I directed her to the bathroom, where I’ve been having her sit on the toilet whenever I change her diaper. She’s been asserting her independence lately, and today she wanted to remove her own diaper with me out of the bathroom and the door closed. I know that the probability of a mess goes up exponentially that way, but I let her do it. I have to watch closely for when she’s finished to make sure that she washes her hands – another thing that she now wants to do on her own. Now she also wants to brush her teeth. This has all taken a terribly long time, and I still have to brush my own teeth, shave, and get off to work. When she pulled the towel off the rack to dry her hands a second and third time, all while still standing on her stool at the bathroom sink wearing nothing but a T-shirt, my patience ran out, and I snapped at her.
Finding the right balance between patience, gentleness, and firmness is hard enough with my typical children. With Erin, it seems that God demands of us a higher degree of perfection. Raising our Down Syndrome child requires a greater degree of parental virtue than raising our typical children does, although even with our typical children, I get frustrated and occasionally snap. Every time that I do, it feels like a failure. I am profoundly thankful that God’s patience with me is infinitely greater than my patience with my kids, and I try to learn from that and let it inform how I parent them.
But I am frail, and some days I am worn thin, for reasons that I do not understand. On those days, I can do little more than rely upon God’s grace and pray that I do no harm.