As I dragged myself down the hallway to Tommy's room for the fifth time last night I glanced out the window and saw this:
I don't know if I was thinking that all those negative thoughts would make me feel better, or if I felt I was just venting, or what. But what I didn't realize was how it affected the people that meant the most to me. I thought that if I kept those negative thoughts to myself no one would be affected at all. But those negative thoughts seeped into my words and actions like thick, black smoke. My attitude let everyone know that everything was work. Everything was hard. Everything was a hassle. And it did affect my family. They could feel it. I didn't know how much until Todd and I got into an argument and he told me I was miserable and no one wanted to be around me. It was a shocker. But it really woke me up.
Somwhere in the past few months I had lost my joy.
At our wedding our priest, and very good friend, read from John 15:9-12.
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."
After the priest read the passage he went on to talk about joy. He spoke about how important it is to live your life with joy and how he wished for Todd and I to have joy in our lives and in our married life.
I thought of all of this when I contemplated my recent attitude. Where had my joy gone? How had I gone from enjoying my family, my children, my husband to acting like they were bothersome? And how could I let them feel that from me for even a second of their lives?
I knew I needed to change my attitude immediately. While I was not speaking to Todd for the day and a half following our little argument I realized something. I was much more pleasant to be around when I wasn't speaking. That is not good. Apparently, I was spewing much more negativity than I thought. Instead, I began speaking only when absolutely necessary and when I needed to reprimand the kids I did so in a sugar sweet way as if to say to Todd, "See! I'm so pleasant and the children LOVE to be around me." In doing that I also saw how much better the kids responded to me. I realized if I could behave like that for a day and a half to prove a point to Todd then I could certainly do it all the time to be a better mother to my kids. It really was an eye opener.
But getting out of the negativity takes constant reminders. I needed to constantly remind myself to bite my tongue. I went online and found a mother and child necklace that I love. On the back it says, "A mother's arms are made of tenderness." Yes! That was exactly the reminder I needed. I bought that necklace along with a necklace of the Virgin Mary (who could be a better model of a mother?) and when I got them a few days later I wore them both constantly (you can probably see the necklaces in a couple of the pictures from our trip to the museum). Feeling the necklaces around my neck, and remembering the words engraved on the back, helped to keep me focused.
(Image from The Catholic Company)
It seems to me that everything happens for a reason. Even that ridiculous argument Todd and I had happened for a reason. Good came out of it. The weeks that followed have been a blessing. Have I been perfect? No way. But my attitude has changed. I feel like I have changed. I am more myself again. These last few weeks I have definitely liked me more and I think my family has too. I can see clearly again.
Everyone has bad days. Everyone gets grumpy and nasty sometimes. But what bothered me was thinking about the possibility that I could have made my children and my husband feel like they were a burden. Never, ever, do I want my family to question my love or devotion to them. They are the best and most precious part of my life, and I know I was not expressing that to them enough.
I want to be their warm, cozy, nest that they can hide in from the rest of the world. I want to be the one place they can come to when they need comfort or fun or laughter or rest or energy or help or creativity or warmth or love or tenderness. I want to show them how to live their lives with joy.
Motherhood is hard. It really exposes all of our flaws and our failings. It forces you to hold a mirror up to yourself and it is not always the picture you thought you'd see. I am definitely a work in progress. But what I do realize is that if I want my children to be joyful and loving and compassionate and kind and patient then that is the person I need to be. I can not make my children behave one way or the other, but I can be a good example for them as to how they should behave. That is what I am striving to do. I just want to be better. And in trying to be better I am finding my way. I'm finding my joy.