Sunday, March 17, 2013

On Being a Loving Mom

After mass last Sunday a woman stopped me and told me that she had been watching me and that I was "such a loving mom."

That was really nice to hear because I've been working really hard on becoming a more loving mom in general and it had been really difficult to maintain my *loving mom* composure during that particular mass that had lasted two hours.  It was a total mom win.  

I'm not always so successful though.  If she saw me at my cranky grouchy worst at home, "loving" may not be the first word that would spring to her mind, a fact that was demonstrated later in the week when I was informed that I was in fact a "mean mommy" and that same certain someone wanted to "throw me away in the trash can".....ouch.

But being grouchy and even mean is inevitable right?

I hope not.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about this and I truly believe that my impatience, my quick temper and the tone of voice I use with my children but would never use with anyone else shouldn't be dismissed as character flaws or just the inevitable result of too many littles and not enough sleep (which is my own personal favorite excuse); "...these are not faults or mere imperfections, but venial sins."

"Our Lord has called us to holiness for us to love with deeds.  And on the approach we adopt towards deliberate venial sin will depend the progress we make in our interior life.  For when we do not struggle to avoid venial sins or when there is not enough contrition for them, they damage the soul grievously.  These venial sins make the soul insensitive to the inspirations and motions of the Holy Spirit.  They weaken the life of grace and make the virtues more difficult to practice, and incline one towards mortal sin.
Many pious souls...are in an unfaithful state almost continuously as regards 'little things'; they are impatient, hardly charitable in their thoughts, judgments and words, false in their conversations and attitudes, slow and lax in their piety; they don't control themselves and are excessively frivolous in their language....They know their own defects and infidelities, and perhaps even accuse themselves in confession; but they do not seriously repent of them, nor do they make use of the means to avoid them in the future.  They do not realize that each one of these 'imperfections' is like a leaden weight that drags them down...The soul thus loses the splendor of its true beauty, and God is increasingly distanced from it." 
In Conversation with God, volume 2 

When I started to think of the way I'm relating to my children as sinful and not just an inevitable character flaw it really changed my perspective and motivation to do better.

With those thoughts in mind I picked up a copy of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting...and by picked up I mean of course ordered with my Amazon Prime and waited like the impatient crazy person that I am for the entire two days it took two arrive.  It was worth it though--this book is parenting gold.   I've read a lot of books in this same vein before and many of them do a great job explaining the whys of peaceful parenting but not so much the hows.  This book is full of practical advice and inspiration:
"Most parents yell.  It's just something we assume happens when we live with kids, like the flu.  Afterward, we're often regretful, hoping we haven't done any damage...It is usually true, as we reassure ourselves, that our children know we love them, even if we yell.  But it isn't true that yelling doesn't hurt children.
Imagine your husband or wife losing their temper and screaming at you.  Now imagine them three times as big as you, towering over you.  Imagine that you depend on that person completely for your food, shelter, safety, protection.  Imagine they are your primary source of love and self-confidence and information about the world, that you have nowhere else to turn.  Now take those feelings and magnify them by a factor of a thousand.  That's something like what happens inside your child when you lose your temper at her."   

If anyone spoke to me the way I sometimes speak to my kids--I would cry.  Now, if you know me you know that I'm not a yeller and neither is Chris, but when I get bogged down in the daily frustrations that are inevitable when you have too many litles and not enough sleep I do become exasperated and impatient and often clearly lose my temper with my little darlings for various *good* reasons and after a while I'm cranky and irritable for no reason at all.

It's in those moments that I can see most clearly that my impatience and my lack of control are sins that have damaged my soul and only prayer and a firm resolve to not let it continue can fix that damage.  I think step one is recognizing that reality and step two is to take responsibility for myself.  I can't make the boys behave but I can make myself behave and I can choose how I respond to their behavior.

"Parenting isn't about what our child does, but about how we respond.  In fact, most of what we call parenting doesn't take place between a parent and child but within the parent.  When a storm brews, a parent's response will either calm it or incite a full-scale tsunami.  Staying calm enough to respond constructively to all that childish behavior--and the stormy emotions behind it--requires that we grow, too.  If we can use those times when our buttons get pushed to reflect, not just react, we can notice when we lose equilibrium and steer ourselves back on track.  This inner growth is the hardest work there is, but it's what enables you to become a more peaceful parent, one day at a time.  
The Aha! Moment here is that an adult's peaceful presence has a more powerful influence on a child than yelling ever could.  Your own emotional regulation--a fancy way of saying your ability to stay calm--allows you to treat the people in your life, including the little people, calmly, respectfully, and responsibly.  That's what produces children who are emotionally regulated, respectful and responsible."  
When I'm calm I can parent more effectively.  When I'm calm I can be open to the Holy Spirit (you know it's hard to hear him when your screaming--even if your only screaming on the inside).  But, if you're like me, you need a game plan--get the book, it's a game plan :)

If this book can help me not only get my three boys through a two hour mass with no tears (did I mention it was two hours) but to do it in such a loving way that someone else actually noticed--it can definitely help anyone.  Unless of course you are already a lovely and peaceful parent who is flabbergasted that all of these amazing insights were news to me,  in which case just disregard all of this and offer me up some prayers m'kay?  :)

 Here's to less yelling and more peaceful days.


  1. I will have to get the book. Thanks! I feel inspired to do better.

  2. I know Elizabeth and Julia have read it too....maybe we need to make a book club :)

  3. The book is indeed gold. I found I did really well with the methods at first and I do think they are effective. After the first few weeks I found myself slipping back into my old ways a little. It is hard to keep up the pace with 2 young ones but at least now I know what I'm aspiring to. I really enjoyed the excerpts from "Conversations with God." So true. We have started going to daily mass twice a week and it's really amazing the difference that makes in my ability and desire to remain patient and loving. Glad you're enjoying the book!


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