Friday, January 30, 2009

Not Quite the Lesson Mother Teresa Intended I'm Sure.

So today, I’ve got a toddler crying because she doesn’t want to go to the potty even though she’s practically twisted her legs into a pretzel. Carrying a screaming three year old to the bathroom that is all the time kicking isn’t a joyful mother moment. At the same time, I hear the tell tale crash of a breakfast plate by a fellow toddler followed by the on the spot news reporter play by play by the very earnest but not necessarily helpful four year old. The baby has also chosen to voice his irritation at all the racket.

Sitting her on the potty, the phone rings. I’m ignoring it as I’m in no mood to talk to anyone, nor do I want some telemarketer to hear a symphony of caterwauling children as I decide whether or not time is running out on a once in a life time offer to buy tracts of undeveloped land in North Carolina. My newscaster son nevertheless brings me the phone. “There’s a spill of orange juice in the kitchen.” He tells me solemnly, “And it’s Dad.” The cell phone has begun ringing as well.

Currently, I’m reading Mother Teresa’s “Come Be My Light.” It details her intense suffering of spiritual darkness as she persevered in helping the poorest of India for decades. Over time, she learned to embrace this gift of the silent God as His answer to her prayer to be the one to “carry Jesus into the darkest holes of India.” To truly be able to do this, she had to know the darkest holes herself. That the darkest holes of poverty were not found in the slums of India or anywhere else, but within the terrified soul that either does not know or fears there is no God.

It was a sign of her perfected faith that she underwent this great purification while on Earth. Most people did not know of her deep pain, her daily struggle with her faith, as she took it as God’s command that people should Not know. She wore her smile as a cloak to hide her suffering. It was her gift back to God, in return for His. She understood that acting in complete Faith required nothing less than absolute surrender and she gave it. She covered that suffering with a sense of humor and a generous smile. It was a shield and an invisibility cloak that rendered her transparent, so that only God shone through.

“Hello?” I cradle the phone with my neck as I’m now cleaning up from the successful pottying, handing out a few m&m’s and mentally preparing to get out the mop, fix my son’s medicine and a bottle and maybe get myself a diet coke.
“Hi Sher. The school called, we’ve got a sick kiddo. ”

Mentally trying to pull together how I’m going to shod and dress for the weather the four and under set in less than thirty minutes, navigate the icy drive way and get our daughter, drive back home, drop her off, run the toddler back in for another forced potty march and then shuttle back to the school for 2:45 dismissal, it overwhelms. I start to rant. “I want an invisibility cloak, a ring, something to mask all of this craziness.”

“The Cloak. Mother Teresa’s cloak. I’m smiling.”

“You need to work on it.”
“I know.”

“You can’t be gritting your teeth.”
“How would you know? I’m on the phone.”
“I know.”

So I began the trek. Loading the four children, something prodded me to go back in and make a bottle and a complete diaper bag. I even got an extra outfit in case we didn’t make it back home in time for a potty break and snacks. I never pack snacks. I’m trying to put on the joyful smile even when one of my daughters starts to flop and refuse to get in the car. She wants to throw shovels of ice instead. I’ve brought a new music CD for them to listen to, though I’d rather hear the news. Faking a sing songy voice of enthusiasm, amazingly, they all get in the car and we’re off. I can hear Mother Teresa telling me, "Honey, you're still gritting your teeth."

Spiritually, I have learned that whenever one seeks to deepen one’s faith life in practice, the level of challenge responds. Having fastened a joyful smile to my face to stare down the struggles thus far, the front tire promptly blows out equidistant from virtually anywhere that might have been remotely useful. I am on a freeway ramp. I cannot leave, I cannot get out and I cannot drive.

Calling my husband, no answer. Calling Tripple A, I get disconnected. Calling the school to explain the situation, I hang up in mid call as a policeman is knocking on my window. He has called a tow truck and summoned a second car so as to transport all four of my kids and me to a gas station. “It’s a good thing I hadn’t picked up my whole family or you’ld need a paddy wagon." We spend the two hours at the dealership and a woman who is sitting there waiting for her car, can't believe I'm smiling.

"I've engaged the cloaking device." I think as I shrugged, "It's not so bad."
When my husband arrives to pick up the kids, I mentally send Mother Teresa a message. "Hey, I didn't grit my teeth this time."

1 comment:

MightyMom said...

did you ever get that Diet Coke??


I think gritting our teeth while smiling through aggravatingly ridiculous situations is a mommy default. It happens somewhere during that first pregnancy...or maybe it's during that first sleepless month...I don't know.

I remember realizing I was gritting my teeth and having to actually open my mouth as wide as possible to get the jaw muscles to relax...spent a year or so looking like I was continually yawning. ;-)

learning to smile. to be grateful for the ity bity nice things takes us time to achieve.

glad to know I'm not alone in my struggle to get there!

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!