Friday, May 18, 2007

Redeeming the Day

I have a lot of great ideas between 6:20 and 6:30 am. In those ten minutes, before the children leap from their beds starving for breakfast, I imagine how today will be different. With staunch determination, I list my nonnegotiable priorities:
Clean out refrigerator
Two loads of laundry
Make grocery list
Assign age appropriate chores
Make chart for keeping track of those chores
Read books with five-year-old Priscilla
Cut letter “B’s” out of magazines with four-year-old-Ben

Sometime after 7:00am it is obvious that there are ominous forces working against me, and my surefire plans for becoming a super-mother. 20-month-old Mary has the sniffles and would prefer not to unwrap her scrawny legs from around my waist. “O.K,” I think, “I can still do this. I’ve been productive with only one free arm before.” And I start removing mysterious Tupperware containers hidden behind the milk, trying not to dwell on their moldy contents. Fifteen minutes later, heavy sighing interrupts me.
“I don’t feel good, mommy,” says Priscilla, coughing into her elbow like she has been trained to do by her kindergarten teacher.
“Oh …all right then, why don’t you lie on the couch with a blanket,” I suggest to her, “I’ll come check on you in a second.” By now the countertops are completely covered with empty salad dressing bottles, expired yogurt, and inedible leftovers.
“But mommy,” Priscilla whimpers, “I n-e-e-ed you!”
With that, my throat begins to tighten. “You go on, I’ll be right there,” I smile, masking my growing irritation.

Mary and I leave the rapidly evolving kitchen clutter, and walk into the living room where Benjamin has had free reign for the last half hour. Glitter glue caps littering our hard wood floors start my heart rate soaring. “Oh good grief,” I say to no one in particular, “where is he?”
That is when I notice the rainbow of sparkling, sticky, mounds circling my coffee table like a painter’s palette. Someone (who is certainly old enough to know better) had been making glitter glue portraits of himself, sans the paper.
Thus ensues the downward spiral, high jacking my good intentions, and stripping my resolve to stay calm, cool, and collected. By 3:00 pm, after two refused naps, four temper tantrums (three of them by my children), and a checklist of unchecked tasks, I am drowning in failure and exhaustion. By 3:10 pm, I am quite certain that this day, this horrible, non-productive, anger tainted afternoon, is going to last FOREVER.

In perilous circumstances such as these, I have learned that I must act quickly lest I go under completely, unable to retrieve even a single positive moment from this once in a lifetime, 24-hour-period with my family. On the brink of total hopelessness, I take an enormous breath, close my eyes to the chaos, and devote all my dwindling strength to the truly nonnegotiable priority of redeeming the day. Redeeming the day is like boarding the lifeboat on a sinking cruise ship. When all looks lost, your only thought is to save the ones you love; everything else becomes irrelevant. When those waves of frustration threaten to sabotage your peace of mind, it is essential to ignore the peripherals and salvage the relationships most at risk. If it is all my children who have fallen victim to my overtired wrath, redeeming the day can involve lots of M&M’s, a bowl of popcorn, and a family movie, with the six of us snuggled on the couch. If just one of my sons or daughters has pushed my buttons, and I theirs, I find a book and a quiet corner for us to share and reconnect.
Sometimes, however, it is my relationship with me that is most out of whack, and when this is the case no one escapes unscathed. It is easy to self-chastise to the point of despair, but allowing your “emotional tank” to get that close to empty can do all kinds of damage to the overall sense of well being in your home. If your kids are tiptoeing around you, averting their gaze from your gloomy demeanor, it is time to redeem the day for yourself.

It doesn’t take much to refuel, I have learned. A bath, a new library book, a walk, a closed door and good long cry, are all examples of emergency procedures to help you stay afloat. The key here is not letting the sun go down on your discouragement. To not forgive oneself is to deny God’s mercy; accepting His grace takes a lot of discipline. “I am sorry,” I pray every night in bed, “I really screwed up this time.” And then I rest, trusting in the heavenly compassion spurring me on to another morning, where fresh opportunities for earning new patience are available in abundance, and where the great ideas still lurking behind sleepy eyelids are anxiously awaiting their second chance. “Look out tomorrow, this humbled super-mother may appear a little frazzled, but she knows how to weather a storm, and she will survive this rainy season out of love and devotion for her riotous, rambunctious, and irresistible crew!”

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Cheryl said...


What a great piece. This really hits home for me lately. But is something to keep in mind all days that seem to spiral out of 'my' control, as if they were ever in my control in the first place!

BTW, I just found your blog and podcast site. We met at your church this past Lent at the Sunday of Orthodoxy service. I'm the homeschooling mom of 3 girls who also knows your friends from Chicago.

Wonderful writing, a definite bookmarked spot for me.

Molly Sabourin said...

Hi Cheryl,

Yes, I remember you! We talked briefly before being pulled in opposite directions by our children. It is nice to hear from you. Thanks for taking the time to leave an encouraging comment. I hope that you and your family have a joyous Pentecost!


Molly Sabourin