When I get worked up at home my smoke detector chirps.
It’s true. I’ve had to leave the room in hot moments to make it stop. But it never fails to make me have a good laugh at myself, a little joke from God that immediately helps diffuse the situation: the Meg detector.
God obviously knew that I’d need help keeping my emotions in check while herding our five little lambs through the day, a job that sometimes leaves me grasping for every last ounce of patience that the good Lord has given to me.
But, why? Why is it so hard? What is it about parenting that brings everyone to his knees?
There are trillion ways to answer this, but a quote from St. Dominic, whose feast day we celebrate on August 8th, reminded me of the layers of battle at play when it comes to raising kids:
A man who governs his passions is master of the world. We must either command them, or be enslaved by them. It is better to be a hammer than an anvil.
The passions are “motions of the sensitive appetite in man which tend towards the attainment of some real or apparent good, or the avoidance of some evil” (New Advent). Our job as parents, then, is to keep our own passions in check as we help teach our children to do the same. And as St. Dominic points out, we either conquer our passions or they conquer us.
Tough stuff. When it comes to our sensitive appetite, there is no hand-holding. Like Yoda says, it’s “do or do not, there is no try.” Happily for us, there’s always the sacrament of confession for when we do give into our base desires.
Training ourselves and our kids to listen to the more noble movements of our appetites instead of the sinful ones is no easy task, but it’s the most important job in the world. It can make us feel like we’ve been put through the wringer, but St. Dominic here affirms for us what we already know: if practicing and teaching virtue seems difficult and painful, you’re probably doing something right!
St. Dominic, please pray for us and our children today that we might fight to choose the good, avoid evil, and keep from setting off the smoke detector!
Copyright 2015 Meg Matenaer.
Photo by curugon (2004) via Morguefile.