Monday, April 24, 2006

On being a good parent

I was a good mom yesterday.

Most days, I go to bed disappointed in myself in that department. My poor kids have put up with so much: my inattentiveness, my impatience with them, my need for proper order. Though they are still in elementary school, I expect so much from them. When a caring relative told me once, “They’re just little boys,” my response was, “I’m not raising boys, I’m raising men.”

It’s true, too. I expect a lot from them: I want them to learn right from wrong, to have a strong value system, to cherish friendship, to turn away from deceit, and to be kind to others when it is in their power to do so. That’s a big load for a little kid. But, I’m raising men, not boys, and to my mind, a successful man does all that. I don’t care whether they turn out to be janitors or generals, but I do care about their character.

So, anyway, must days, as I said, I go to bed thinking, “I was too impatient. They’re just children, give them a break.” In fact, God convicted me of this recently, to the extent that I was forced on my knees to ask His forgiveness for not treasuring the gift that he gave me. I also know my impatience is hard to control, and comes out of my mouth when I don’t. I asked God to teach me the patience with my kids that He has with me.

He heard me. Somehow, in the last few days, he’s given me the supernatural ability to cut my kids some slack. They seem calmer now, happier, more affectionate, and I know that isn’t coming just from my abilities. I’m just as annoyed when they mess up, or do something to deliberately irritate me, but I think first before I open my mouth, and that’s the blessing He’s given me. Somewhere, from the depths of my soul, comes the words, “They’re only little boys.”

So, when one of my boys suffered an emotional setback yesterday, God’s hand touched us both. My heart went out to my son, and I asked myself, “What can I do that won’t make this worse?”

I took my son on my knee, listened to his troubles and his despair, and sympathized with him. I ignored the mountains of work on my desk that weren’t going to get done that evening (although they desperately needed to be), and the dinner that wasn’t going to get cooked (we didn't eat until 8pm), and I figured out a way to help my child. For over an hour, we sat and talked and developed a strategy to solve his problem. I valued his fears, and validated his strengths. At the end, I played a game with him, and he was smiling. Smiling!

My husband, who had been sitting nearby and apparently listening, afterwards came up to me and hugged and kissed me, telling me I had done a good job. I didn’t even feel I could take the credit. God gets the credit for that one, and I only hope He’ll give me the wisdom to do it next time. Only maybe not when I’ve got so much work to do on my desk...?



Monday, April 17, 2006

A plague of locusts

Recently, my family has been experiencing a run of bad luck that hearkens back to Biblical days. Over Spring Break, we had a sewer line rupture in our new house (leading to a repair bill of $4000), my car break down ($1000), and a swarm of bees lodge in our attic ($78). Our dog has allergies and ear infections, to the tune of $700 in the past two months for special food, vet visits, and medicine. This past week we had a maddened opossum from the forest tear a hole in our deck screen. We had to get a trapper to come and catch him and take him away from where he’d been living under the house ($130). With no income this summer (we’re teachers), we’ve been sweating how we will make ends meet since a good chunk of our savings had just been wiped out. We did some schedule juggling, and though we’d hoped to spend the summer with our children and taking a break from our intense workload, we will instead be alternating summer session employment. The upside is it helps us a little financially; the down side is at no one time during the summer will all of us be in the house, so all scheduled vacation plans (family reunions, etc) had to be cancelled. Add to this the need to have the enormous tree branch hanging over our roof pruned before hurricane season, as well as the fact that we’d intended to have the windows fitted for plywood in preparation of same, and we’re seriously wondering how we will make it.

The joke has been that we’re waiting for the plague of locusts to come next.

Well, be careful what you joke about...

Today, a swarm of something suspiciously like termites attacked our house. They were streaming in the windows, near as we can figure, entering both bathrooms en masse and in the living room. We’d had our regular bi-monthly visit from our exterminator recently, so many of the insects appeared to be dead already...but many were not. We have to wait until tomorrow for the exterminator to come back and help determine for us if these were just some oddly shaped ants, or if we are looking at another expensive bill.

All this is by way of saying: be careful what you wish for. We’ve wanted our own home for years, feeling depressed that we weren’t able to provide this basic ritual of life for our kids. We got our chance when we moved from Los Angeles to a much more affordable area. We were ecstatic (if surprised) when we qualified, since we are just able to afford the monthly mortgage. However, what we didn’t realize was the unexpected expenses of owning one’s own home. While I still love my home, I begin to wonder how many of my other long held dreams might turn out to be a disaster waiting to happen. How many other things I’ve idealized as, “If I could only have X, I’d be happy.”

God is the only one who knows what will make us happy, and I’m beginning to realize that if we don’t have it yet, there must be a darn good reason why.

Another lesson learned the hard way.