As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

People are Watching

On two occasions recently, I have been in the rather awkward situation of having people brag me up in my presence.  It's awkward only because I know the things they're saying just aren't true. "You're always so patient."  "Nothing gets to you."  "I don't know how you do it."  And my response to them is always the same - that's because you see me when people are around.

There's something to be said for that, I think.  Everyone is different around people, it's true, and sometimes we can feel bad about that.  We feel like somehow we're putting on a show, and not being a true and honest person.  But I think it's a good thing that being around people draws goodness out of us, and I think that's the biggest blessing of community.  At home we're different.  We're not accountable to anyone, really.  The kids maybe, but I can still pull out the old, "I'm your mother and I still know best" line.  But in public, our friends are watching, strangers are watching.  People who will make their own judgements if you have a meltdown at your kids in the grocery store, who won't care one little bit that you've had a really rough morning and getting six kids reading to go anywhere is hard!  People who know that, no matter what, it's never okay to yell at your kids that way.  And, conscious of that, you'll probably try harder not to yell.  And that's a very good thing.

Being out for a day is hard.  But I always find that when I get home at the end of a long day out, I feel happy.  Taking my kids out and doing things with them is fun.   And more often than not, I reach the end of the day not having freaked out at them, which always makes me feel good.  Of course if I did that every day, I'd burn myself out.  But staying home every day carries it's own risks too, at least for me.  It isolates me, puts me in a position where I am more likely to get frustrated and see my circumstances differently than they are.  People draw me out of myself, give me a reason to dig deep and try harder.  They help me enjoy my family life despite the challenges, to look at my kids with new eyes and enjoy them that much more.

My favorite blogger wrote a post one time about pretending her kids were not her kids.  She was getting her six kids ready to go somewhere, and (as is often the case) everything spiralled out of control in the ten minutes prior.  She wrote about how as she buckled her very irate two-year-old into her seat, she tried to look at that little girl as if she was someone else's little girl.  We have so much patience with other people's children, don't we?  We see the Mom with the screaming baby and think, "Oh isn't that little girl precious?"  Or the precocious preschooler hopping around the pew at mass and think, "What a sweet little boy."  And she channeled that for her own darling girl, buckled her in with such gentleness and compassion and tried to meet her where she was.  "There there sweetheart," I imagine her saying, "I know you don't like the car seat.  We'll be on the road soon."  Instead of the flustered, frustrated, "Let's just get out of here and would you please stop screaming!" that is all too often on my lips.

If someone affirms something good in you, take it for what it is.  Acknowledgement that, in this moment, you are trying (and probably succeeding).  Encouragement for the journey, that is sometimes so difficult.  Don't hide away from the hard things, don't stop taking your kids out, and don't feel bad when someone tells you you're doing a great job. Be thankful for the community God has put in your life, and take that home with you when things get rough, an encouragement that you are indeed capable of choosing the good.  If all else fails, pretend there are people watching at home too.  Or pretend their someone else's kids.  Seeing what others see in your family life might be just what you need to draw yourself out of the occasion of sin, and see your life as it really is - big, full, and beautiful.  And yes, even a little bit crazy.          

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