I'm starting to realize that I too have a formula. It goes a little like this:
(Things that must be done) + (things that can be done) = Happy Mom and Kids.
Each day is made up of things that must be done, things that can (but don't need to) be done. If the result is to be a happy household, then the value of things that can be done cannot exceed a certain amount, or else the answer will change. And in my case, it goes downhill. No matter how good the things in question may be, if they exceed the amount of what we can do, the result will no longer be true.
Case in point, at the beginning of the year some homeschooling families organized a co-op. As we tried to find a day that worked best for everyone, I took a hard look at my schedule. We had been taking the kids to a gym class at our local Catholic school with my oldest son's grade, and as another year had passed, this meant that class met on a new day - Wednesday. If I attended the same class we did last year, the kids would all be a year younger than my oldest, and I wanted so badly to keep him with his peers (especially since he attended Kindergarden and half of grade one with all of them, and has many friends in that class). But there was just no way to squeeze it into our schedule. We have our piano lessons on Wednesday afternoons, which I could probably change, but not without throwing our whole week into more chaos than it is. I didn't want to change it to Monday, because I find after the weekend I always need a day in the house to get caught up on things. Tuesdays the older boys have Cubs and Beavers, and we need to have supper early (making it not a good day to be out for the afternoon). We have nothing on our agenda for Thursday, but with co-op being every second Friday, that would mean that every other week I would be out three days in a row (Wednesday for gym, Thursday for piano, and Friday for co-op). I've organized our week to have one free day to allow for outings, but with three days out in a row there's no possible way I could take that much time off - meaning not only would I have extra curriculars to get to, but school days on top of that for at least two of them. I know my limits, and if you ever saw me on a morning when I have to get everyone out (even if it's not until after lunch) you would understand real quick why doing that two days in a row is something I avoid with everything I can. Three days? Just not an option to me.
Gym class with my son's peer group is a good thing, sure. But at the end of the day, there's only so much we can do. When A+B=C, A+2B just will not work. We could not do the older gym class. There is, as I mentioned, a gym class for grades 2-3 which meets on Mondays, that I plan to attend on Mondays during the weeks we don't have co-op. It's still a good option and, more importantly, does not put me in a position where I am trying to do too much.
The longer I do this, the more I become aware of the things I just cannot do. Sometimes we get so caught up in all of the things we wish we could do or think we should do, that we burn ourselves out. For me, I'm becoming keenly aware of what certain circumstances are likely to do to my disposition, as well as my lack of discipline in handling that disposition. The flaw is mine, to be certain, and something I hope will not always be the case. But for now, I can't thrust myself into a situation of high stress without accepting that I will likely lose my cool. I am working on it but I'm not there, and for now I find it best to be realistic about what I can handle. For example, I do my best to get my kids to weekday Mass whenever an opportunity reasonably presents itself. I also try to take advantage of opportunities for Eucharistic adoration when I can. But if I ever tried to do both in the same day, I know I would lose it. The stress of keeping my crew of little ones still for one of those most certainly means that I would enter the next one a bed of nerves from having to fight through the first one. And that's not how I want to be before the Lord, nor do I think it's fair to ask of my children. Adoration and Mass are two very good things, but at this stage in my life they are not something I can add together in the same day. So for now I build my strength. I take all the kids to one or the other when I can, do my best to muster the most patience I can, praise them for good behavior and try to be merciful and understanding of their poor behaviour. When I can be reasonably confident that we can attend either consistently in relative peace, maybe then it will be time to add them both together. But for now I believe this is where I am.
Which leads me to another thing about formulas, sometimes we don't know the answer right away. Which means that it needs to be worked and reworked, to figure out what's right. Isn't that so true of family life? My earlier example of A+B=C really is overly simple, in that it doesn't take into account how external factors like the ages and maturity levels of the kids, the changing seasons of life, finances, relationships, or just about anything you can think of affects our overall happiness. Which means that we should expect to be working at this our whole lives. We should never assume that we have everything figured out, because that is when we run the greatest risk of being blindsided.
I don't believe we will ever have the answer figured out, but I know the One who does. And I know that, as with the best teachers, He doesn't spare us the struggle of searching for ourselves. As with anything worth knowing in life, when we follow the right guides with the information we know is true, and we never stop working, we will inevitably find ourselves with the answer. May the Lord always be our guide as we search for true happiness in Him.
|My favorite accompaniment|