Thursday, August 28, 2014

Feeling Like a Sham

Do you ever have days (or weeks, months...) when you feel like a big sham?  Everyone else seems to think that you've got it all together, but you feel like you can't do anything right.  I've been in "sham mode" for the past two weeks.  "Sham mode" is when I feel like a huge fat failure at life.  

Harry developed an ear infection a few weeks ago, and he took awhile to recover around his birthday.  Just about the time Harry was feeling better, Jane and Walt started preschool.  Then, they both came down with bad cases of preschool hangover.  The exhaustion from adjusting to school made them extra whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiny, impatient, irritable, and irrational.  Early this week, Harry developed a high fever that lasted 24 hours, and I saw that he was starting to cut his top front teeth.  

I like to think of myself as a loving mama, but there's comes a time when this mama reaches a breaking point.  The combination of whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiny, irrational preschoolers and a sick and/or teething baby over the span of two weeks was too much.  

Every evening after we got the kids to bed, I would tell Philip (often through tears) that I was struggling.  I felt like a big failure for:
  • Jane and Walt's behavior (epic tantrums, ignoring me, fighting, etc.)
  • Feeling more like a referee than a mom
  • Not being able to console sick Harry
  • Yelling at the kids more than I care to admit
  • Getting way, way, way behind on housework because I was only putting out fires with the kids
  • Being lousy company for Philip because I was so exhausted and grumpy 
That's what was going on when Julie Nelson sent me a message inviting me to come on the "Catholic Women Now!" radio show.  When I read her message, I thought, "Oh, man, if she only knew what a train wreck things are like around here lately!"  Nonetheless, Philip convinced me that I'm a great mom and that I had a lot to contribute on the show.                      

Unless you count the time I called call Rush Limbaugh at age 13 to chat it up about President Clinton, I had my big radio debut this morning.  Oh my goodness, it was so much fun!  I am so grateful to Julie for inviting me on the show, and I am so glad Philip convinced me to do it.  

The kids were pulling out all the stops this morning to make me feel like a sham before I went on the air.  Before leaving for Walt's preschool dropoff, I noticed some new artwork on Jane's bedroom wall.  

Of course it's in ballpoint pen and not pencil
Apparently she was busy drawing behind her closed door when I thought she was getting dressed. 

It was sprinkling outside this morning, so I put the kids in their new raincoats.  I bought them a size too large in the hopes that they would last for two years.  Walt wasn't thrilled that he had to keep pushing the sleeves up and started sobbing.  It was a serious production to get that kid to school!  

Jane, Harry, and I got back to the house, cleaned up from breakfast, and got a few things done before my sister and precious goddaughter arrived to play with the kids.  As my sister walked in, she pointed out that Monty had pooped in the living room.  

"Uh...(looking over to the evidence on the floor)...yup!  He sure did!  Come on in!"

We played with the kids for awhile before I went on the air.  As it turns out, today is the Memorial of St. Augustine (infamous wild child of St. Monica turned saint).  While I was on hold, I listened to Julie and Chris talking about the power of a mother's prayers and that our entire mission as mamas is to get our babies to heaven.

YES!  YES!  YES!  That is why I am doing this stay-at-home mom thing.  That is why I created the whole Happy Saints Reward System in the first place.  That is why the crazy weeks of preschool hangovers and a sick/teething baby matter--they (can) make saints.  

Mothering is tough stuff, and I'm the first to admit that I let it get the best of me these past two weeks.  I allowed myself to feel invisible, unimportant, and like a doormat with the kids.  I had stopped keeping the bar high for the kids, expected the worst behavior from them, they delivered, I got sick of fighting battles, they acted out more to get attention, and I'd usually yell in return.  They needed a St. Monica instead of a Poor Me Mama these past two weeks.  They needed a mama who would put her own pride and need for gold stars aside long enough to realize that she's in the business of making saints.  

The radio show seemed to go well, and I had a great conversation with Julie and Chris.  Do you ever have moments when you're talking but feel like the Holy Spirit is moving your lips?  Everything clicked for me today while I was on the air, talking about how gaining a saint in heaven through miscarrying Thérèse propelled our family to take this becoming saints business seriously.  

Something fantastic happened after I got off the radio show.  I remembered that I was uniquely called and qualified to help them become the saints they're supposed to be.  I remembered to ask for help, and I said a little prayer before rejoining them.  The rest of the day has gone well.  I stuck a bunch of saint coins in my pocket, and I gave them to the kids as I caught them being good or helping with their responsibilities around the house.  I used a calm voice to empathize and talk them through their frustrations.  I was consistent in my discipline.  I gave them specific praise.  Heck, we even got the playdoh out after lunch!  Today was gloriously peaceful and different than the past two weeks.  

I know I'm a sham on my own, but He can change all of that.  I write this blog and share advice when people ask for it, but I keep screwing up with the yelling, the impatience, the pity parties.  My kids write on the walls and they have epic temper tantrums.  As our pediatrician in Omaha loved to say, our kids "are developmentally appropriate," and I need to remember that.  

Raising our children to become saints won't happen overnight, it's not always pretty, and it certainly won't happen so long as I demand perfection or forget that preschoolers are naturally irrational.  So long as I keep sending myself to the confessional to admit that I'm clearly not able to do it alone, it's not a sham.  

"There but for the grace of God, go I."  

I'm only a sham when I forget Him and think, "I've got this."  I'm a sham when I abandon my personal prayer time out of being "too busy," when I forget to punctuate the day with little prayers, when I don't pray for the kids, when we don't pray with the kids, when Philip and I don't pray together, when I stop asking for the communion of saints to intercede for us, or when I say I've had enough of this "take up your cross and follow Me" stuff.  He's teaching me daily to see how Philip and the kids are precisely the souls I need to get me to heaven, and that I can somehow do the same for them.   When I remember that, remember Him, and remember to carry the crosses as they come, I'm not a sham.

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