It all derailed so quickly. The morning was sunny, joyful, peaceful. . .the perfect spring day was beginning, my to-do list already well underway. Josh helped me pack lunches, the big boys were woken up with hugs and kisses from their baby brother, Noah. . .I had even remembered to sign the "Go" folders before it was time to "Go" to the bus! WIN!!! This mom was on FIRE! It was THAT KIND OF MORNING. And then. . .it wasn't.
I heard the rumbling upstairs of little first graders who had gone from sleepy to wild and crazy in under the 30 seconds it took me to walk downstairs to my spot at the kitchen sink. I could hear their feet thumping over my head and doors opening and closing, laughter and shrieking traveling from their bedroom all the way to the kitchen. I let it play out, as I always do, waiting for the inevitable tears. Phil popped his head around the corner with a mischievous grin as he came bounding down the stairs, leaving a crying Daniel running behind him screaming, "SIRRRRRRR!!!!!!"
I looked at the clock. 8:02.
I looked at Daniel. In his underpants.
Teeth and hair unbrushed.
Guarantee the bed was unmade, too.
And I Just. Lost. It.
"Daniel Joseph Zink, get upstairs THIS INSTANT!!" I scolded, as I chased him upstairs with my finger pointing.
"But, MOMMY!! I'm SCARED!!" He pleaded. "Please come with me!"
"Daniel, I don't have TIME to come with you, don't you see? You wasted ALL YOUR TIME. You are going to have to get on the bus IN YOUR UNDERPANTS."
(this is not my finest parenting moment, OK?)
"But, MOMMY!! The monsters might get me!"
"Daniel, how many times do I have to tell you, there are NO MONSTERS in your closet!!!??? And you would be DRESSED by now if you hadn't been goofing around with your brother, and you wouldn't even HAVE THIS PROBLEM. See what happens??? You get left behind. You goof around and you get left behind and that is just going to happen to you for the rest of your life. . ." Blah, blah, blah, I can't even remember what I said but it was all mean and crappy and, again, nooooooooot my finest moment.
I stomped downstairs leaving a tearful Daniel on his bed with shirt half-on, feeling angry and righteous and justified.
Then I found the other three boys, saying grace over the gourmet cereal breakfast I had prepared for them.
The exact opposite of how I was just acting.
The exact thing that I very much needed at that instant. How perfectly timed that Grace is, right before a meal. It was just the reminder I needed, and as I turned my head toward the kitchen, I saw the Mary Engelbreit calendar for today.
"The winds of Grace are always blowing, but you have to raise the sail."
It was time to raise the sail.
Sometimes, we get so lost in a moment or in our feelings that it is easy to forget that we can stop. A little pause might be just what we need to raise the sail and remind us of the truth: Each moment is a new moment, we can always, always start anew. Now, I can't unsay the things I said, but I sure can apologize. I took a breath, and I took a moment to open the sail and let the grace fill it up. Because with grace, comes humility. And with humility, there is no room for anger and self-righteousness, just no room at all.
Daniel came down the stairs. Teeth brushed, hair combed, dressed for school. . .and tear stains on his face. Tear stains that were really my fault.
I ached as I knelt down beside him at the table. "Daniel, I am sorry I lost my patience with you. Can you forgive me?"
"It's OK, Mommy. I'm OK." He said, biting his lip and avoiding looking in my direction.
"Daniel, I didn't mean to say those things to you. I love you and I don't want you to be scared to be upstairs alone. I'll help you come up with a win-win. How can I help you?"
"Mommy, can you have someone stay upstairs with me while I get dressed? And not come downstairs even if they are done until I am ready?"
I took a moment to put myself in Daniel's shoes. Although I am not terrified of my closet, there sure are a lot of things I am terrified of. Being criticized. Letting people down. The drain at the bottom of the swimming pool. You know, normal stuff. And I know how much it means to me when someone is there for me and supports me through my fear instead of ridiculing it. (Also, I know that I don't always have the time to sit there with him through his fear because Lord only knows what his little brothers would get into while he put his shirt on.) So, I went over to Philip. My rock. My little right-hand guy.
"Phil, can you stay with Sir while he gets dressed in the morning and not leave him? If he promises not to be crazy?"
"Yeah, I guess, Mommy. I can just read my book until he is done."
"Daniel," I said. "Can you promise not to be too silly while you are getting dressed so it doesn't take so much time?"
"Yes, Mommy," he said, still not quite looking at me.
And he bowed his head to say Grace. And I could feel it washing over us all. It's something we need every day, that Grace. Sometimes I act like it is a one and done. . .as in, hey, I filled up with Grace! I'm set for life! But, unfortunately, I'm just a feeble human. I need grace, and grace, and grace again.
I like to think I have lots of good moments in the day. That just wasn't one of them.
Grace covers that. Thank you, Grace. Help me to remember that you are always there, I just need to take a deep breath and raise the sail.
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Colossians 3:12-14