I like to think of all of my kids as perfect little angels, who are completely respectful, always choose correctly, and quiet down around 8 p.m. in order to get the needed rest to start the next day.
I must admit, that right now my 7 year old is struggling. She is sometimes out of control, has quite a little temper, does not always use her manners, and bosses her older sisters around.
This drives me NUTS and when it happens, I tend to blame my work schedule and the demands of the job. In reality, part of the problem is my own prioritizing. Sometimes when I get home from a long day at work, I have the attitude that I DESERVE down time…quiet time…time to myself. In my attitude and subsequent behaviors, I sin. I make incorrect decisions – choosing my own desires rather than what the 7 year old needs.
I am reminded at these times that parenthood is sacrificial love. As a working Catholic momma, this means putting aside my desire at 5 p.m. to take care of myself, and to turn instead to my 7 year old who is struggling right now.
I’ve analyzed the times when Elie Bellie is struggling. Without fail, it is during times when I “check out.”
This last week, even living in South Louisiana, we had 2 snow days. I made a decision on the eve of the first snow day that Elie and I would bake bread. I wanted to find an activity that we could complete all phases together.
Elie was ecstatic to complete this activity. The morning of said activity, she asked me no less than 7 times that morning when the bread baking would commence. I knew I wanted to start it in the afternoon. So, that morning I kept her busy with reading books together, watching a short video together, and just being around one another.
The afternoon was spent with Elie wholeheartedly pouring herself into baking the bread – from getting the ingredients together to kneading the dough, to punching it after rising, to the formation of the loaves, all the way to buttering pieces of the loaf for her sisters.
It was wonderfully catechetical. I was able to explain the rising of the bread because of the yeast, and why the Communion wafers are different. I was able to explain to her that Jesus is the Bread of Life, and I was able to understand from her the feelings she was experiencing about her First Communion. It was during this time of baking bread that she and I made the decision for her to wear my First Communion dress. What a blessing.
This exercise of baking bread also gave us a chance to practice the virtue of PATIENCE. Both Elie and I can use reminders to slow down, and to be patient. As the dough rises, patience is imperative. Removing the rag over the bread and “punching it” too early could cause errors in the loaf. We were able to have more conversation during this time, AND clean the kitchen together.
So, today, we bake bread. I needed that lesson. I didn’t want a complicated drawn out analysis of Elie’s behavior. I just wanted us to enjoy baking bread together. The act alone taught us so much, and developed virtue and love in our relationship, and in Elie’s behavior.
I know that being a working Catholic momma is a double-edged sword: on the one side, you are providing for your family, but on the other side, you may miss a few things along the way. Part of our vocation as working momma is to figure out those detours, and to provide pathways to the highway again.
What do you do when something seems out of control for one or more of your kids? As a working momma, what are your unique strategies that help in times such as these?
Here are a few strategies I have implemented over the last week:
1. No technology at the dinner table. OK, this was in effect already. However, our family really focused on true discussion this week at the dinner table. With kids in college all the way to the 2nd grade, discussions can sometimes seem random and even CRAZY. I would NEVER trade these discussions for all the coffee in the world. People who know me, well, they know that’s a big deal.
2. Bed time is now 8:30 p.m. We had really detoured from that standard a couple of years ago. I recognized that some of Elie’s issue stem from her need for sleep.
3. Special time with each kid. This does not have to be big planned time with each kid. It just needs to be special. Our pediatrician several years ago told us this when we moved from 1 kid to 2 kids. He said, “Mary, even if it is just bringing Elizabeth with you to the store to get a gallon of milk, it is important that you take that time with each one.” I reinstated this concept this week. This time looks different for the teenagers (i.e. traveling with them in the car, I engage in deeper conversations) than for the younger ones (i.e. BAKING BREAD).
4. Lower the tones in the evening. Lower the volume of the TV. Do not allow headphones. Talk in hushed tones. Set the tone that evening is for settling down as a family.
Some of you are reading this, and saying, “DUH.” I admit, I let it get out of control. I’m very human in these manners. This is the real experience of the working Catholic momma.
I would love to hear your strategies to dealing with chaos.