Stair Master by Sherry Antonetti

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Parenting is often an act of obedience even more than love.  When you drive to the school to drop off the book you nagged a kid to put in their back pack but for some reason, they didn’t, it’s obedience born out of love.  When you agree to sew a stitch on a bear, pick up envelopes and stamps and help make a snack for a third child because each has come and asked, you get a glimpse of how if God were not love, He might feel at our constant petitions.  Yet, His answer is always yes …and so those moments when I don’t want to give, when I just want to (and all to often do) yell up the stairs, “JUST GO TO BED.” in response to the umpteenth request or attempt to prolong the day, I know I am being not what God called me to be and that walking up those stairs to reassert order is the loving response that both my body and spirit chafe against.

We are always asked to give one more kiss good night, to remind someone to turn off the lights, to stay on task, did they eat, did they brush, do they need anything?  And likewise, we’re asked to turn off the lights, stay on task, cook the food, remind them or tackle the snarls ourselves and go get the things they need.   The answer is supposed to be “Yes.” not because we want to spoil them but because we love.

The problem is, I know what is right and part of my brain still says, “I’m staying right here. You’re going to bed, the day is over, I’ve given, I’m done and that’s that.” and I’m sitting on the couch. The part that is fallen says, “No more.”  That part of me that snarls when anyone says, “God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle.” is some days, more of a challenge to beat back than others. If I weren’t trying to just control everything, I might ask, “God could you just pick up the slack for me this time because I’ve got nothing.”  but I’m too annoyed to ask.  And then it hits me again; the very nature of God is relationship, communion, joyful service and obedient love; ergo the opposite is isolation, demanding non relationship, refusal not for any reason but an unwillingness to give.

Sometimes I really hate it when I think things through because it means I can only not obey the wisdom given by a sinful act of refusal.   It means..I…have….to….climb…the…damn….stairs.   I’m trying as I stomp to stop stomping.  I turn off the lights, I say good night, I even throw in an “I love you.” and go back down, hoping my compliant obedience will buy me their compliant obedience.   It doesn’t as I immediately hear doors open and see a light or two click back on once I’m settled back at my chair.  And then I get the even more annoying recognition, my own stubbornness is mirrored in my children’s behavior.  I keep sitting down.  I keep shutting down.  I keep turning my heart off, as if that is allowed.  It isn’t, anymore than the kids saying on a school night, “Hey, let’s throw a party and pull out all the blankets and make tents of our beds.”  I get to keep laying down the law that the day is over and it is time to sleep and God gets to keep telling me, it doesn’t matter how you feel, you must act with love.

I know these ten children are in a sense, the tiniest cross imaginable.  I just have to love and care for these people my whole life.   What a blessed opportunity, not many get such a light trial full of so many opportunities for luminous moments.   I know people who shoulder burdens I know I would screw up the instant I took them on if they were placed in my hands, and yet, even knowing how bountiful my life is, I chafe at my tiny burdens of minutia.  I know God is wants my cooperation more than I want it from my children, and I am just as difficult if not more so.   So I’ve told myself today, I will walk the stairs whenever I am called, and that I will work to keep my heart subtle and soft and obedient.

But in deference to my fallen nature, the next home we get, will be a rambler on only one floor.

Copyright 2010 Sherry Antonetti

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About Author

Sherry Antonetti is a mother of ten children, published author of The Book of Helen and a freelance writer of humor and family life columns. You can read additional pieces from her blog, http://sherryantonettiwrites.blogspot.com.

3 Comments

  1. How do you know when to insist the kids must go to bed? How do you know when you need to just help them out a little bit more and then they will fall asleep? How long is too long to not help and let them try to figure out how to sleep on their own? What is more loving?

  2. What is more loving is what is done with more love. I am not advocating pure tolerance of chaos, believe me. What I am addressing is the fallen, tired, physical nature of self that responds with less than generousity of spirit. It is loving to be firm and say, “It is bedtime. You are not to get up again.” and I have flipped the switch on the light so my daughters cannot turn on the light and put up a gate when they are having trouble obeying, but it is my, (the Mom’s) response that needs to respond with more love rather than simply rant because I’m tired. Will I fail? Sometimes. But if we believe we are placed here to love by the one who is love, then we understand that everything, even discipline, even when we don’t feel like it, (especially when we don’t feel like it), must stem from love, must reflect love, must be loving. Discernment is a process of assessing the self to be sure the self is not dominant as the motivator in actions, but a facilitator of actions, all for “the good” of the one who is loved. It is a process of practice, prayer, and wilfully detaching one’s self from one’s own actions enough to evaluate, how am I doing this and why? She’s five, she needs sleep, she must learn to follow the rules and stay in bed. (as an example).

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