This week’s reflection starts long before the classroom. I woke up Sunday morning and started my morning meditation.
When it was time to wake up my children, I called to them through the door to their room so I wouldn’t have to open it and disturb the blanket fort they were sleeping under, it’s corner wedged between the door and frame. I started to get dressed and think about breakfast when I heard my children talking and then yelling and then screaming at each other. I called through the door again hoping my voice would disrupt their anger and retorts, but it didn’t. In fact, I could hear that the argument had turned physical and they were hurting each other. It was time to come in, fort or no.
These moments prove to me some of the most difficult parenting situations I encounter. I want to protect both of my children from being hurt physically or emotionally. I want the yelling and fighting to stop. I want to bring calm to the situation, but their anger tends to fuel my anger, especially when they are more intent on continuing their argument than in listening to me. I found myself getting louder and louder and more frustrated and soon we were all yelling and unkind to one another. Embarrassingly, the melee ended by me tearing down the blanket fort and separating the children.
As I prepared breakfast and took some time to calm down, I marveled at how fast that situation had gotten out of control and how disappointed I was in myself. I not only didn’t manage to bring calm to the situation, I added to it. That is not the kind of parent I want to be. Parenting is a spiritual practice for me and it truly breaks my heart when I fall short.
I first decided I needed to apologize to my son, who had built the fort. I told him that I wished I hadn’t taken it down and I would help put it back together. I apologized to my daughter for yelling. We ate breakfast. And then I built the fort myself, fixing the blankets higher than they had been which was a welcome improvement according to the kids.
And then we went to church. It was story Sunday so we all went to the Sanctuary together and sat down. Even though I sat between them, they started to poke and pick at each other disturbing those around us. I stood up for the first hymn and noticed they were drawing a line on the pew delineating whose side was whose. And then they started drawing a line up my back. This was a sad moment for me. I don’t want my children to feel scarce with my love and attention so that they need to claim their part of me. I want all of me to be for both of them. Listening to Jessica’s sermon asking us to please have mercy on ourselves for our moments of failure was just the balm I needed.
Our lesson in class was about the Persevering Ant who goes on a pilgrimage to find what is biggest and most powerful, ending up in conversation with God who was everywhere and nowhere at the same time. One child said that the piece of fabric under the story was the most important part because it held all the other parts. All the pieces were included. And it made me think about one of the greatest powers of Love, to hold all things, even the things that we sometimes find difficult or painful. To have mercy on myself means that the power of love can draw me back to my center and give me the strength to apologize. It gives me the desire to wonder why I behaved the way I did this time and what I might do differently next time. It gives me the assurance that there is more than this; more than my painful learning as a parent, more than the smaller forces of fear and tiredness and hurt. There are more chances, more relationship, more love and more mercy than I can exhaust by my mishaps and missteps. This is truly good news and worth practicing again and again and again. What does the power of love call you to? Where do you need to have mercy on yourself?