It’s 7:30 P.M. Wednesday night. I have a Gospel Reflection, this blog, and a summary on a post-synodal exhortation all due within the next two days. Nap times and bed times are the best times to write and I had just put the two- and four-year-old to bed and was on my way to say goodnight to my older three when I realized they were still wandering around the house.
Curious as to why they weren’t in bed, I followed them to the dining room. There I found my daughter setting up a board game on the kitchen table. An inaudible groan of despair escaped my soul. I forgot my husband had told them they could stay up to play a board game.
“Please don’t ask me to play. Please don’t ask me to play,” I whispered to myself.
“Hey mom, you’re playing with us, right?” asked my oldest.
“Honey, I have a lot of homework and writing to do.”
“Pleeeaase. It’s the train game so it should only take about a half hour.”
“Fine,” I conceded.
I put my “To Do” list on the back burner, grabbed a cup of tea that my husband made for me, and settled into one of the empty chairs. Soon enough the whole table was teasing and laughing and singing and everything was going great. Trains were lining up across the board, cards were being accumulated, and just as we were about to go through the last few rounds, my oldest – the intense, high-strung, Type-A, must-win-at-all-costs child – put the wrong pieces on the wrong spaces and didn’t realize it until my husband put his pieces down and cut my oldest off from connecting his route.
Cue the huffing. And the whining. And the exasperated, “Fine. I guess if that’s how we’re going to play.”
“You can’t just cheat and move pieces because you messed up and wanted to put them somewhere else.” My husband tried to correct him.
“I wasn’t cheating!” screeched the child who would probably end up losing the game. “You know what? I quit.”
And with that he threw his cards down and stormed off. We soon heard the front door slam and my sensitive, second oldest started rubbing his eyes and sniffling; upset that his older brother had gone out into the cold, dark night and mom and dad weren’t chasing after him. (Note: He’d heard the wrong door slam and was crying for nothing.)
The game drearily continued, and by the end, even my daughter started to cry because everyone “cut off her route too.” This garnered an invisible eye roll from me because she’s seven and had no idea what she was doing anyway. A “half-hour game” ended up taking two hours, all the children were depressed and in tears, and my five hours of writing now had to wait until tomorrow. I fell into bed frustrated at life.
**********THE NEXT MORNING**********
Huff and Puff went into the kitchen where my husband was making coffee and tried to talk to him like nothing happened the night before. That set my husband off who was expecting an apology and a “I was a prideful turd” soliloquy. I heard about the conversation in the shower, and I told my husband I would handle it.
I got dressed and went down to the kitchen and found Huff and Puff eating a banana.
With a big sigh I started: “Listen, last night was messed up. Remember a few weeks ago when you and your brother were playing a game and he kept getting the losing pieces and it was making him cry? Remember how I told you guys that God can even use board games to teach life lessons?”
“Yeeeaaahhh … “
“Well, last night was one of those nights. You put your pieces on the wrong spots. Then you tried moving them after you saw Dad took the spot you wanted. We wouldn’t let you. You got mad. You stormed off.”
“That’s because Dad said I was cheating!”
“We all perceived it as cheating even if you did not. And at that point, our perception was more important than your reality. You were faced with an opportunity to show grace and humility and you chose to be selfish and prideful. Your sister saw your reaction, and she copied you. You “leaving the house” made your brother cry because he got scared for you. You asked me to play the game, even though I had five hours of homework and writing to do, and then you quit. You wasted my time. This was all around a really terrible experience for everyone because of your negative reaction. You should probably take some time to think about how last night affected everyone and act accordingly.”
Which he did. He went off by himself, chewed on it, and came back with an apology.
Now, I’ve been writing about my family for over two years now and I have come to realize that whenever I have an interaction like this with my oldest son, it’s because I tend to struggle with the same things and God uses my son’s lessons to teach me as well. In this case, it was a reminder of who I used to be – and still can be sometimes when I’m not careful: Prideful, arrogant, selfish, and the “I am always right even when I’m wrong” mantra wielding, windbag.
It took the supreme mantle of my husband’s divine authority to finally help me understand that I had a problem and that I needed to take steps to fix it or risk losing my marriage and my kids. Through prayer, adoration, confession, writing, and more prayer I can thankfully say that my marriage is no longer in jeopardy. It is healthy, thriving, and happy because I am rightly ordered with God and rightly ordered with my husband. The gift that comes from having a rightly ordered household is that I can speak with authority when exhorting and teaching my children.
As parents, we need to be constantly aware of who we are and what we struggle with. We must spend time in prayer, examining our consciences, and digging out all the sin that blinds us from Truth. If we don’t do this, we cannot help our own children who will be struggling with the same sins. It is our job to figure out how to overcome our sins and temptations so that we can can teach our kids how to overcome theirs. In doing this, we are introducing them to not only faith, but to reason. Pope Saint John Paul II said in his encyclical Fides et ratio, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”
Share your thoughts on raising kids with faith and reason so that we can all grow even more in Wisdom and Truth!
Copyright 2018 Kelly “The General” Tallent