Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Parental Virtue

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.


Anonymous said...

As a parent, I sometimes feel like my patience is slim and I am consequently a horrible father. And, if "snapping" and/or yelling, corporal punishment is the norm, there is obviously a problem. And yet (maybe this is an excuse...), it seems that periodic "snaps" are possibly part of God's plan in discipline. Was it bad when Moses "snapped" and destroyed the tablets when he came back down the mountain to find the people is a depraved state? Was it bad when Jesus "snapped" and turned over the money changers tables in the temple? Being on the receiving end of a snap can be, at least temporarily stressful and disconcerting, but maybe part of a larger plan for setting and maintaining appropriate character and boundaries (which we all know are important and beneficial, in the long run). Although it is nice to think of a loving, gentle, and patient God disciplining us, don't you sometimes wish he would "snap" us into shape periodically? Maybe not totally appropriate thinking in your specific circumstance, and again, maybe just an excuse for weakness in parenting, but submitted no less for your consideration...

Anonymous said...

Every day I would pray for patience with my children. Someday hoping that I would suddenly "become" a patient person. What I strive to work on is knowing that God is putting unpatient times in my place so I practice becoming patient. Strength training so to speak.

Plus kids are resilient. The kid I had a fight with last night and who pouted as they went to bed, is the same child that said I love you as they walked out the door to school.

Kurt H said...

Great, thought provoking comments. I think a blog post on Chastisement and Mercy is germinating.

I am, as a parent, not where I started out. I can usually tell when my fuse is short, and the kids are throwing sparks at the wick. I've taken to warning them that they're playing with fire. I just don't understand why they don't seem to heed my warnings. Similarly, when I want them to do something, it often seems like they pay no attention until my face turns red, and my voice gets REALLY LOUD.

I'm sure that I never aggravated or annoyed my parents!