Sometimes serious, sometimes funny, always trying to be warmth and light, focuses on parenting, and the unique struggles of raising a large Catholic family in the modern age. Updates on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday...and sometimes more!
During this time of Lent, we all struggle to grow in holiness. The trouble is, Satan is quite aware of our failings, flaws and weaknesses. How do properly fight against the powers and principalities that are against us? Prayer and fasting yes. Scriptural readings and frequent sacraments, yes.
And then, there's this approach.
I don't know about you, but I'd watch sitting under any tree near where this rabbit has been.
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Half a Duggar
You knew I was going to have to talk about this sometime didn't you?
As a mom of ten, I've heard the quips, the canards, the snipes, the snips, the ungenerous critiques and legitimate concerns about the Duggar family from the time they started making the news circuit with their 16th child with a name starting with the letter "J" long before they became part of the TLC lineup. I've been asked, "Trying to out do the Duggars? Trying to be like the Duggars? Ever watch them?"
Until this week, I hadn't and wouldn't be able to pick them out in a lineup but for the numbers. Being a mom of half a whole Duggar clan, I'm not so foolish as to not know that those uncharitable thinkings could easily be about me. I don't have a tv show, but I do have a blog and invite people to read about some of the stories of our lives by my words and thus open us to the searing scrutiny of anyone who decides we are worth their time.
So I made myself sit down and watch. Admittedly, some of my kids were fascinated. Maybe because I'd had ten, my sense of proportion is skewed, but I did not feel overwhelmed by their lives. I'd read all the "It's selfish! They're wrong and should be isolated/its child abuse rants" with the news of this new baby. I expected to feel the chaos and irritation. I didn't.
It seems that because the Duggars have a tv show, they are fodder and fair game for all armchair quarterbacking of their lives no matter how uncharitable, untruthful or ill tempered. They're a cult. They're publicity hounds. They're pimping out their kids. They're wierd. They're irresponsible to the Earth and their children. How can they raise all those children? They're just in it for the money. He's a repressive oppressive individual who keeps his wife and girls down. She's too submissive, too stupid, brainwashed...insert insult here. The kids will be warped for life...
Concern: The kids are being repressed.
One day, they'll find out how isolated they were and see how uneducated and stiffled in creativity they were. I read this in multiple com boxes that followed articles about the Duggar's new addition. The kids are uneducated and stiffled and will one day rebel and they can't reach their true potential..really? I saw kids doing their homework and playing the violin, engaged in public speaking to peers, playing a game with donuts, sports, being kids. But maybe I needed to see a different episode.
Concern: It's wrong to make the older kids help with the younger ones.
In a world where we believe we are all entitled to be 24-7 self stimming, I can see how instilling the idea that you are your brother's keeper might clash with modern thinking. The show is edited so I don't know how much of what is said and shown is real reality. But I do have a question for those who bash the Duggars on this point. Why is arm chair parenting so vitriolic when it comes to the Duggars and accepting when it comes to people like Snookie from Jersey Shore? We want a world of Snookies? of self involved stupid opulent hedonists? as opposed to people who live debt free, care for each other and have basic skills --oil changing the car, carpentry and sewing, that most of us have long since abandoned or never learned.
Concern: It is unsafe for the mom.
Having had a few difficult pregnancies, I can understand the worry about the mom given her last go around. However most of the criticism on this point is couched in a sheer fury that the couple would allow themselves to become pregnant again painted in the veneer that she (the mom) could die and the child could be handicapped. These same people would be equally smug and self congratulatory if she does struggle and there are complications. Call it preemptive rage. They hated her before they had a reason. The newest baby just reminds them, they hated her.
Presumably, her OBGYN will keep in mind her past history and make adjustments. Morals and values don't change because life gets hard, they get abandoned because people want to stop trying. To my way of thinking, they made a commitment to each other, to life, and to not using birth control methods that 90% of the population have decided is a necessity of adult life to prevent live children. It seems to me, the Duggars are living that out. If our society is really pro-choice, it shouldn't have a problem with this personal decision. If our society is really pro-life, it should also, not have animosity towards this couple. It has gone from it's their choice to if you can afford them to how dare you? In truth, it was always, how dare you! I hope for all of them, that this is a healthy baby and the pregnancy goes well.
Concern: Overpopulation and Unfair use of the Earth's Resources:
7 Billion people...7 Billion. Begin screaming! Cry! Duck and Cover! Start canning the tomatoes...wait, we might need to ask someone to teach us how to can...start dying now so that the earth can survive! So...should we just tell every woman that discovers she's expecting that the Duggars used up the last slot on Earth and they're out of luck? Pro-choice for me but not for thee? Celebrate and promote war so we can decrease the surplus population to unburden Gaia? That was the gods' solution in the Trojan war, when mankind had grown too numerous. The Duggars are not the end of civilization. Snookie just might seem like she should be.
Concern: Too Many to Love:
In our contraceptive culture, our hearts are becoming ever smaller. We do not understand how one could love more, because we can scarcely tolerate ourselves. We cannot imagine loving a handicapped child. We cannot imagine a handicapped child being happy to exist. We cannot imagine that children in a large family will be real, will be accomplished, will be normal, will feel loved. It's an odd thing that we think so much of individuality as a society, but want so much to fit in to a larger group that loves us for who we are...isn't that the definition of family? But on a practical note: if it takes a village to raise a child, then why would not supplying your own village in your own home be an effective manner of doing just this without the pesky need for ordinances or a commute?
Concern: It's Not Normal:
Being a mom of many, I've run across what I call whispers of joys remembered. A teacher, almost in a hushed voice will tell me, she's one of 7 and so is her husband. A chef who became a chef because his job was to cook, is one of 13. It wasn't so beyond us as a people, as nations, when we didn't think of women's fertility as something to manage and repress.
My dad was one of nine. He and his brothers and sisters went to college and in many cases, beyond to earn secondary impressive degrees. One of my good friends was one of 11 and again, all are educated, survived childhood unscathed by the experience and live productive meaningful lives. A cousin's spouse was one of 18. They were all kind, college educated and each helped the next get their degree so that in a single generation, they all became part of the middle class and beyond. It's possible, it simply requires that those involved, knuckle down to the business of doing --which they did. To me, this is what the Duggars are doing. They have learned how to market their existence into income without becoming excessively attached to wealth a'la John and Kate plus 8.
Based on the fact that this is apparently season 4, the Duggars consistently live this out well enough to get paid for it and make it look possible. In answer to "It's not normal." It is unusual. It is however historically, closer to normal than what now passes for normal. And saying something isn't what everyone else is doing, isn't a criticism, it's a complaint, that they aren't doing what everyone else is doing.
Concern: They Aren't Good Parents:
One or ten or twenty, it is never the number that determines if we are good parents. One dollar or 40 billion dollars, it is not money that determines if a family is whole and well. Consistency, discipline, love, attention, hearing and meeting their needs, challenging them, taking care of them: these are the hallmarks of a healthy parent child relationship. CPS would be in there like white on rice if the show indicated abuse or neglect. Cursory looks indicate happiness ergo, I'm going to say this one goes to the Duggars unless contrary evidence is revealed.
Concern: Using show/kids to make money:
The Duggars had 16 before they had a show that made money. They were debt free then. Kind of undercuts the argument. But then, I'd also say, given that studies indicate we can't afford children unless we've somehow won the lottery or been one of those Wallstreet fatcats that made money even when the stock market went down, wouldn't they be foolish not to agree to a show that would finance their family's needs. ***(Cue irony alert to those who think these folks are stupid)***
Besides, Americans have always loved their big family shows: Brady Bunch, Eight is Enough, The Partrige Family...the Cosby Show...so fantasy comedy shows about having large families is fine, but reality isn't okay? They use the show to make money. Granted I wouldn't want a camera in my family's face 24-7 but hey, I'd love to use this blog to make money. I'd love to be paid to write. So it seems to me this is a jealousy argument, married to envy that it's hard to pitch a show that can top them if you're going for numbers.
Concern: They Can't Afford This Many
19 was fine but 20....well....isn't that's why they have the show?
There are a lot of articles out there that indicate children cost more than a NASA start up program.
With estimates ranging between a quarter and half a million dollars if your offspring are smart and/or talented and even more if they want advanced degrees, as the saying goes, if you have to ask, you can't afford it.
The deeper and better the gene pool, the more income required apparently. So I've determined that my children are priceless beyond compare as two are in school while two sit here painting, two are napping, two playing video games and one reading and one writing a report on the computer. Yes, there isn't enough money in the world to finance their true potentials in all circumstances to become the burnished gold Olympic calibre intellects, creative minds and athletes they could be if only we were more responsible loving people. If money were the measure.
Thank God it isn't. As for the Duggars, I thought people were mad that they were getting rich off their kids. But if they have this many, don't they need the money, so isn't it good they're earning it?I'm confused.
Am I Going to Watch the Show Now that I've Done My Duggar Apologist Best?
No. Wasn't interested. My life is full enough and if I see someone with more kids who is organized and whose house is clean, it's going to depress or guilt me into folding. I don't watch TV to be nagged into working, I watch to escape the internal nag that follows me everywhere. I wish them well.
My ten will have to settle for being captured with words and humor as their stories tickle me. And if someday I become famous and these vignettes become part of popular culture and people accuse me of using my kids stories to generate wealth...I'll tell them, "Yes, and I earned every penny."
Yesterday, my son who struggles with defiance, was having a hard day. This also meant everyone else in the house was also having a hard day. After dinner, I had to take his sister to basketball, which meant the oldest two girls had babysitting detail.
Generally I won't make the girls take on too much on a school night if I can avoid it, so when my son started screaming for no reason and refused to stop, I knew I couldn't let this continue. He was chirping loudly in the living room if only to show that when I asked him to be quiet so as to not wake his baby sister, he wasn't going to obey. I knew he either had to reign it in, or come with me, or we skipped basketball.
Over the years with this one, I have found that 1) getting puffed up gets me a higher level of intense defiance and 2) being flexible means he will continue until I stop being flexible because he has made ignoring his antics intollerable. Ergo, I could not simply shrug my shoulders at his deliberate decision to simply scream over and over and over again.
So I issued a straight choice. "You may be in the house and civilized (not screaming). Or you may be outside." When he refused to move or stop screaming, I ushered him outside. He was wearing a coat and shoes so I felt no guilt about this whatsoever. Shutting the door, he began a new creative form of screaming, ringing the doorbell over and over and over again. I told him I would take the batteries out of the doorbell but that he would not be allowed back into the house until he could knock gently and ask to enter. He ran to the back door to see if he could bang/badger/bribe one of his younger siblings to open the door. To their credit, every one of them shook their heads "No." He kept banging.
I opened the door, "This is simple. If you want to come in, you will have to be civilized." He ran to the front.
I was running out of time, and having his sister not get to go to basketball punished her for his behavior. I also considered taking everyone, but the oldest two needed to do homework. I didn't want them stuck with him screaming or banging and they needed to stay. I told my daughter to get ready for her practice and walked outside. My son came over to argue his point that he wasn't being rude, just loud. I told him to get in the car. "But I have homework." he protested. "You can do it when you come home." He resisted.
"You need to be obedient. You need to show self control. You need to get in the car." I held my breath. He got in. He left the door ajar. I shut it and got in. He said he wouldn't buckle, I told him to buckle if only for his own safety. He complied. He continued to explain that I would give him bad grades because he wouldn't get to his homework. I'd love to tell you I didn't say, "You showed no interest in your homework before now, so it can wait a bit longer." but that would be lying. The rest of the drive was spent with him asking me to explain what was wrong with screaming and then illustrating the various types of screaming and occasional mutterings under his breath with just enough volume for me to know to whom they were directed. It was a long ride to practice.
When we got to the school, I got out to walk my daughter in, I invited her brother to join us, he refused. "Fine. You can stay here in the van." I went into the school, dropped my daughter off with her coach and in the adjacent classroom, found one of my favorite teachers who knows and loves him well. I told her of my troubles. She listened, made me laugh and promised to review the 4th commandment in religion class the next day. When I returned to the van, he was quiet. The ride home was quiet, but it wasn't over. I knew he was still simmering.
Back home, at the homework desk, he started in again, wandering, making noises, and I reminded him how worried he'd been about homework. This resulted in sulky rude responses. "GO SIT DOWN!" I ordered and went to the kitchen to collect myself. I'd prayed. I'd asked. I'd used humor. I'd removed him from the situation. I'd ignored. I'd done all this stuff and none of it was working. A voice that wasn't a voice, unbidden said,"Turn the other cheek." It wasn't a memory, it wasn't my own voice or my own thoughts. It was a command. "Turn the other cheek."
Immediately I went into the red room. He sat at the table with his papers. He looked suddenly lost and small to me. I didn't know how I was to turn the other cheek, but I asked, "Do you need anything for your homework?" He looked up shocked. "What?" "Do you need anything, to help with your homework?" I asked again. And just like that, without an actual request or demand or specific or anything, the whatever it was that had kept him hard, broke. "I'm sorry Mom." he said. It was the Holy Spirit. It had to be. There was no other way that angry wall of adolescence could have been torn down. I don't know how long, but I gave him a long hug. Things weren't perfect after that, but they were decidedly BETTER.
We live in an age that likes to label every struggle as part of a systemic diagnosis of something, but I think he just has a strong stubborn sense of will, that sometimes dominates his brain, and only love, only constancy, can bring to peace. Reflecting on my son and his struggles, they are universal, all of us fight to assert our will, however silly, distruptive, distructive, spoiled, angry, agitated, unfair or unreasonable it may be. The sin that dominates our heart rubs us raw, and destroys every relationship it touches. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit, can heal things that seem unfixable in an instant if only we ask. Love, constant love, is the only cure.
Every day when we drive to school, we say set prayers. It is partially to settle the crowd in the van. It is partially to pray. It is partially to prevent or stop fights.
It does not always work.
But we do it.
Each child has a separate designated prayer. The youngest gets the "Glory Be," the next "Hail Mary," the next, the "Our Father," then the "Hail Holy Queen" and the oldest going to the elementary school has "The Prayer of Saint Francis." I have the "Act of Contrition." Yes, sometimes there are editorials in those prayers.
However yesterday, the children were not happy. The prayers came grudgingly.
"Make me (Kick) an (Kick, Kick, Kick) HEY! an instrument of your peace...
"Where there is Hatred..."MOM! HE'S KICKING MY SEAT!"
Mom edict from front seat, "NO KICKING DURING PRAYER..."
Prayer/Kicker is still going...
"To Console as to be consoled...to understand as to be understood...."
I am not quite in a consoling mood. I have already said my prayer and am feeling it big time that I need to say it again.
We have to cross a train track to get to the school. The train guards are down. We will be delayed. We are already late. Tattles are starting to roll in like thunderclouds with a cold front. Mommmmmmm.....
I can see the snake/mongoose faces of my children in the back seats preparing for battle during the stall at the station.
I turn off the car for dramatic effect. (We're stuck waiting for the train to go past so it won't matter).
"Attention. ATTENTION. Right Now...Saint Francis is face palming because you asked to be an instrument of peace and yet you are still kicking your sister's seat."
"Well she was making faces..."
"Well he looked at me funny."
I am not happy. I launch into a lecture. Let me sum up with the take away shout being, "Talk about NOT GETTING IT!"
"Mom! Count to Ten!"
"Mom! Calm Down!"
"Mom, You need to Chill."
I get a chorus of corrections.
I lose it.
"I don't want your advice. I want you to listen TO ME!"
"But You're the one who Told Me to Count to Ten."
"Fine. First, we are going to pray one more prayer."
I begin the Act of Contrition.
"Mom, you already said it."
"Evidently, it didn't take." I explain and carry on. Halfway through, I have a vision of all of Heaven, face palming as I run through the prayer with no small amount of irritation. I can hear Saint Francis whispering to Saint Anthony. "Talk about Not GETTING IT." and swallow hard.
The train is passed. I restart the car. I tell them I love you, and there is the settled silence of a crowd that has been squirrely and fighting and now realizes, it is over.
They get out of the car and I get a small chorus of, "We're sorry Mom." and I am too. We missed out on a morning, we missed out on getting to school on time, we were lost, all of us. I felt it all day until I came back to the school in the afternoon for the class parties (Valentine's day). I'd spent the afternoon feeling as if I'd flunked love 101. It was hard to focus, it was hard to do anything. My heart felt shriveled, like whatever it was, wasn't yet finished. I was still damaged from the morning.
Arriving, each child is pleased to see me and their younger siblings in tow, they are eager to load my two toddlers down with red lollipops, chocolates and heart stickers. The principal gets on the intercom to say the afternoon prayer; it is the act of contrition and the prayer of Saint Francis. And my heart starts to unfold. Somehow, everything is better. Somehow, all of the morning is washed away in the saying of the prayers now.
I look at this place, this annex of my home for my children, and if I could hug every parent for sending their children here, I would. If I could send a card to every teacher that pulls late nights to grade papers or do extra research to teach here and try to get my kiddos to listen, I would. They are all deserving of a dozen roses, a box of chocolates and a paid day off. I know they work hard, and part of what they do, is create this place with its capacity to pull back to health, the crumpled foil heart of this parent when she's done her best to close off. This is why they are here, in part, to protect me and grow my faith. This is why I am here, because I need these feasts, these moments even during Lent, even only one day into Lent.
In the interest of making sure that I provide content more often than my life currently allows, I shall start a schedule of providing Spambot inspired links to prior gems that obviously have some relevance to today. Since no one thumbs through prior blog posts, and I've written over 1,466 posts, there should be some gems back there that people either never read or forgot. Thus, Saturday shall allow the various spammers that clog my email account daily to help me comb through the archives.
I invite all bloggers to participate in "Slumming Saturday." Take a spambot generated post and post it on your blog with the Slumming Saturday title, and then link here in the combox section. It will be like potluck without the casseroles that no one wants to touch.
It was a funny day, this Ash Wednesday. After having written a piece for Catholic Digest, 40 Ways for 40 Days, I sat there on Fat Tuesday wondering, what am I going to do for Lent? I tried on different suggestions from prior Lents, from prior attempts at prayer discipline, nothing seemed to resonate, "Yes."
Then I remembered a conversation with my sister, the more Marian of the two of us, wherein she discussed trying to avoid butter for Lent, as a way of not allowing "Richness" or "Fat" in her fasting on Friday. I sat there thinking guiltily about how I don't mind fasting from meat, as we have pancakes or pasta or cheese pizza and wondering if my meatless alternatives weren't in some way, not fasts at all. After all, I'd regularly dispatched my husband for a Friday night run to a favorite Cajun place for seafood gumbo and felt positively virtuous eating all that okra goodness. I tried to push off her words, but it wasn't the food, it was the purpose or way of approaching food that needed slimming.
Fat is a biblical sign of joy, and something I really understood! But I was looking to go into this Lent to make my spiritual life less fat, more fit, more full. I wanted to really fast. Many years, I've been unable to do so, owing to pregnancy or diet restrictions that resulted from pregnancy or nursing. My discipline towards food is very slack, as the scale will testify. I needed to learn how to be filled without being over full of that which did not satisfy.
I considered banning fast foods, but there were times when this would be not feasible owing to our large family's schedule. I considered fasting from fried or from chocolate which felt honestly 4th grade even though I knew it would be hard for me, I knew diet coke couldn't go, if only because having a mom asleep at the wheel and crabby when she's awake was a non starter. Was I making excuses? Yes and no. I was looking for the resolution that echoed "Yes." in my heart.
My younger sister's words kept coming back to me. Giving up the "Fat" of my life. What was fat in my life, besides to some degree, myself? Yeah, butter, cheese, olive oil, ice cream...but there were other forms of fat too; letting the kids watch TV, letting myself surf the net, eating on impulse, credit card budgets, ignoring schedules, routines, all sorts of things that needed trimming, restraint. It fit. There was simply too much fat in my life that needed exercising.
As soon as I decided I would give up the "Fat" in my life, I felt both at peace. "Yes. This is it." and the instant panic plague of "You won't be able to do it, you'll forget. You'll get slack." Yes. That would be a problem, part of the fat we are talking about, part of what we are seeking to reduce.
My son brought me a cheese stick. Normally, if it's been peeled and presented, I eat it. This time, I gave it back. He ate it. Feeling momentarily smug, I then went to the kitchen where I found the discarded half of the cheese stick. Throwing it out, I sighed. This would be hard. My two year old came in and handed me a "dum dum" lollipop. She'd unwrapped it and everything. "Eat it Mom." she beamed. "Fun."
I took the treat. She sat in my lap, content that each of us had a sucker. It was still fasting and it was still feasting. It was not fat, it was "trans" fat. (I know). I laughed, and just like that, found myself looking forward to the next 39 days of surrendering the unhealthy fats of life.
Yesterday, I was sad. I felt thrown back to sophomore year in high school. I'd heard endlessly about how great the English class was junior year for those who got in the honor's class. I worked hard to get a coveted spot. Next year, the teacher who made the class so awesome, retired. And here is the me, stuck in a harder class than perhaps I am capable of managing, wondering what to do.
Then as now, the reality is the subject should be the focus, not the faculty. Pope Benedict XVIth knows this and dimly, back then, I did too. I still missed the teacher I'd heard all the great stories about, I still wished I could have had a chance to experience his class. But I did fall in love with the subject and that is what mattered. We did get to experience Pope Benedict's class, he is still pointing even in retirement away from himself, to the true subject of His life, of all of our lives, to that which matters.
In this year of Faith, the Pope gives us by his decision, a lesson in the lost art of discernment; seeking the quiet of mind to listen to God. Not something we're used to in this day and age of checking email and cell phones and 24-7 news crawl across the bottom of a screen. We do not seek silence or allow for the quiet of the natural world in our every day life. Even those out running, are plugged in to earphones. We keep ourselves constantly carbonated caffinated stimulated distracted and multi-tasked, we never have time to simply pray. We never have time to stop and give God more than a twitter's worth of time. That level of business leads to being anxious about many things.
I think, we are frightened by the change that allowing God in, even for a second, would bring to our lives. Hearing and obeying the command to go out into the deep to lower our nets, we would return to the shore changed forever. We would stop and fall on our knees, like the shepherds, like the Kings, like Peter.
So I am still sad, because I have loved this pope. I saw him celebrate mass in Washington DC. I've read some of his writings and found them clear, thoughtful, moving and grace saturated. The years have not been kind and neither has the world. Part of me wants an Ironman Pope, but there are plenty of great players in Cooperstown who aren't Cal Ripken. Pope Benedict's ministry was always more to pull us to be internal, to compel us to contemplate, to pray. Retiring to pray, he surrenders the chair of Peter, the power, trappings, prestige, pulpit, all of it, because all of it is not what he is about, he is about prayer, about seeking a deeper relationship with Christ for himself and for all of us. We cannot do that if we are so busy with our lives, we will not stop, even if our jobs in our lives, are about the business of the Church. However in the end, I'm okay with this ending, because it points to where our eyes should be, on only God.
We even added a widget so you can link up your blog and brag a bit! Stop on by and say hello. Invite your friends to join in on facebook. Come join us and spend a few moments counting up all the reasons today you have to be grateful. It's healthy, it's free and it's fun. What more could you ask?
We're looking into it, but we need to get the numbers of participants up to have a contest.
10) You have accidentally washed a Pull-up in the laundry. (You don't have to raise your hands but I know you did it).
9) All errands are plotted according to their proximity to friendly retailers who will allow you to pull an emergency pit stop.
8) Bedtime sans protective gear is a form of parent roulette.
7) Rock Paper Scissors is a spousal approved method of doing the morning wake and check run. Hint, brush up on the tips to win here.
6) You begin daydreaming about what you will do with that extra 20$ per week.
5) M&M's are consumed at a much slower pace than the norm.
4) 45 minutes are added into all routines for repeated false starts.
3) The debate of "Just diaper him this time" vs. "We'll set him back by months" takes on a religious overtone, between the liberal (I don't want to have this happen in public) and conservative (I don't want to start over). For best results, try Rock Paper Scissors.*
*If you win the initial bet, but are proven wrong in the aftermath, i.e. the kid wets in public or ceases potty training altogether, having won the initial R-P-S trial does not immunize you from "I told you so" harangues by the loser of said R-P-S trial.
2) Expect a panic attack when the diaper box is empty. Purchase one more box for those "Just in Case" moments which like insurance, you hope you never use, and also like insurance, will need desperately if you don't own already.
1) Victory for you will be greater than for said child, but resist the urge to Facebook, blog or tweet about such matters. We've only just begun to recognize the Internet has a long memory, and not discussing when little Johnny learned to use the bathroom will probably lead to easier teenager years.
One of my near occasions of sin, is housecleaning. I hate it. I'm not good at it, and with ten children, short of winning the lottery, it will be a daily demand of my life.
It's not that I haven't assigned chores, taught people how to make beds or put away clothing. It's not that they don't know to only eat at the table, to not stockpile wet towels or to put the cap back on the tooth paste. It's that, there are 10 of them. They all have different thought patterns. Those thought patterns get interrupted in the best of times by other people knocking on the bathroom door, by people bringing in a tea set for an impromptu party, by the music on the radio, by the fight going on in the other room, by colors, by lights, by seasons, by everything.
For years, I tried different techniques.
Clean for 15 minutes (beat the timer). But I have some kids who are gamers. They figured out long ago who wins with that project, and thus ignore the time and the challenge entirely or go so slow that every other kid tries to top them in slowness and I have an uncleaned room at the end of 15 minutes with giggling kids who outsmarted mom in the process.
Allowance. I'm proud they're detached about money, but it would be nice if a bribe ever worked.
Nuclear Mom Melt Down in Five MINUTES!!!!!!!START CLEANING NOW!!!!!! Frankly, this takes way too much energy and leaves everyone miserable. Mom HULK SMASH is a non starter.
But it still left the gritchy unpleasant person on Saturday when everyone else was sleeping in, watching cartoons or playing cards and me cleaning. It was a rut spiritually speaking.
I started doing a daily patrol. I'm like Batgirl, only cleaning. For a time it worked. But I'd discover an apple core, a juice box, hidden piles of laundry, toilets that are not speakable, and that meant, I was mad every day for a time. Again, we're back at Mom mad at kids...not good.
So I turned to my namesake saint, Saint Margaret, who prayed through the raising of her six children. So I tried doing the rosary, but it wasn't quite sufficient to the task. I'd finish praying before the home was done. I tried pop music. But sometimes the tunes weren't good. Finally, I tried the radio mass at 10:00. This was great, because it meant I didn't start until ten, but I finished by 11 and wasn't mad. It worked. It stemmed my ego from it's desire to go nuts over a fiber-one bar wrapper, cheese stick plastic, four cups, two water bottles and a bathroom finger painted with Colgate.
For several weeks, it worked.
Except my ego is restless. Sin works that way, if one method is failing, it goes another. I started feeling funky like I was morphing into 24-7 Catholic Mom...becoming a sort of Catholic Mary Poppins...bleah. Still, I told myself, it had worked.
But today I was running late, it was hard to get going. I didn't get going. Mass was basically over when I started my patrol today so I put on the pop music station. Train was playing. Great! I'm cleaning. I'm cool. I'm not utterly boring...I've got it going in three rooms. I've even gone one better and put away their clothes and organized one child's drawers so he can't tell me he doesn't have shirts. I'm feeling the love....then the DJ comes on. "Hey...come join me on Facebook and vote for which undies I should run in in the upcoming 10K for Charities...sponsored by Trousseau's..." I stopped. That actually had been said by a woman.
That was the stupid toxic nature of the airways that wasn't considered shocking in any way...and I was supposed to be the prig for thinking that a woman shouldn't be proudly announcing, I'm going to be mostly naked but it's for a good cause...
My heart hurt for all those who would see nothing wrong with this, for my children who get to grow up in this toxic sludge for sensibilities absent an alternative. My brain sluggishly clicks into gear. Sherry it solved your problem. It stopped you from being a self absorbed housecleaning martyr in service of your self while serving your children. What more did you want? To not need the grace to get through this? Well, this is your hair shirt. You may hate doing this, but you are trying to do it with love, because you love them. So, what more did you want?
I get it. Go back to the mass. I'll be there tomorrow, and I promise, I won't touch that dial.