When your daily activities are in concert with your highest priorities, you have a credible claim to inner peace. – Hyrum Smith


11/9/16

What was I thinking?

I arrived at school at 1:45.  Perfect!  Plenty of time to find parking, go to the office, collect the kids, and be on our way.  Our dentist appointment wasn't until 2:40.  Caleb woke up happily from his nap in the backseat and sat right in the stroller.  (Will wonders never cease?)

We wheeled into the office by 1:50 and were watching the fish in the tank in the waiting room when we suddenly heard a harsh alarm and a robotic voice announcing: "Attention!  Attention!  The school is now on lockdown mode.  The school is now on lockdown mode.  Please proceed to..." Are you kidding me?  We were ushered up some stairs and locked into a darkened office where we were told to be quiet and silence our cellphones.  Why yes, yes, of course.  Asking a 3 year old to be silent is completely reasonable.

I sat there holding a squirming Caleb, while trying to text the dentist office that we would now be late.  It saddened me to think that this was now a drill as common as a tornado drill had been in my day.  Thanks to lunatics with guns, our kids were now adept at hiding in the dark, waiting for the signal that it was safe to emerge again.

After about 10 minutes we were back in the main office, waiting for the kids.  By the time we all ran to the van, it was clear we would be nearly half an hour late to our appointment.  The best laid plans...

When we arrived, the kids immediately found a partially glassed-in play area.  Apparently this semi-enclosed area triggered some sort of animal instinct in them because over the course of the next hour, they transformed into wild [possibly rabid] beastly creatures who did not appear to comprehend the English language.

I am no stranger to this bizarre, wait-room phenomenon.  In fact, a few short weeks ago, when I had some extra time in my schedule, I had actually visited this very office to fill out the pages of paperwork required for each child.  Of course, when I reminded the staff of this, the forms were nowhere to be found.  Grrrrr.

As the dentist took the children back, one by one, I accompanied the patient, leaving the eldest child in charge of the rest, and briefly explained my concerns/observations, before hearing the first inevitable screams from the waiting room.  Then I would dash back and deal with whatever crisis had arisen within the 1.5 minutes I had been gone.

Fill out a box on the form.  "We don't stand on furniture." Look up a policy number.  "Do not poke your brother with the keys." Check the box. "I said, 'Get down.'" Sign. "Do not put your feet on the wall." Flip form.  "I don't  care who started it.  I saw you push him down." Fill out another line.  "He had that first.  Give it back." Enter dentist.  "So-and-so's teeth look fine.  Do you happen to know when he last had x-" "Mommy!  I'm hungry!" "The dentist is speaking to me.  Please don't interrupt.  Please go on..."

Repeat.  Over and over and over and over.

Meanwhile, I found myself grumbling aloud about having to fill out the forms again.  Apparently I was loud enough for Parker to ask "What's 'a waste of time?'"  Which meant I was loud enough for the staff just on the other side of the partition to hear.  Ugh.  Me and my big, fat, complaining mouth.

By the time I sank into the receptionist's chair to present the insurance cards, I was toast.  I had been pulled in so many directions at once, I thought I might literally explode.  At least then everyone could have a piece of me simultaneously.  I had tears in my eyes as I looked up at the three women behind the desk.

"I'm sorry I was so grumpy about the lost paperwork."  They nodded.  There was a long pause [during which there was plenty of background noise provided by my kids].  "What were we thinking?" I asked quietly.

I find I ask this question of strangers a lot.  I usually do it to break the tension when things are particularly chaotic.  I'm saying what they are thinking, poking fun at our decision to have such a large family.  I'm usually grinning.  Tonight, I was not.  I'm certain I looked just as overwhelmed as I felt.  And when the kids began to incessantly push the button that opened the door between the wait area and the treatment rooms, one of the women jumped up and said curtly, "I'll take care of it."

She was clearly annoyed, and I was mortified.  I had lost all control over my brood.  And I was at a loss.  The creative tools in my parenting kit were so far buried under distractions and exhaustion, one might assumed I never had any at all.  I barely made it to the elevator before the tears started to flow.  I had just played the longest, most pointless game of whack-a-mole in history.

Tonight I am trying to make sense of it all.  I'm trying to tease apart the emotions wrapped around my heart that are strangling the love I usually feel for the kids.  Of course I love them, I just don't feel loving right now.  I find myself glaring at them.  And that is a problem.

So I'll start with what I know:  I know I am the mom God chose for the kids.  I know He will equip me for any position He gives me.  I know I have a lot of great parenting skills but I don't always put them to use.  I know there are factors outside of my control that played a part in today's scenario.  I know that pride and worry about others' opinions played no small part in my frayed emotions at the end.  I know I love the kids and always will, regardless of their behavior.  I know that my Savior forgave me before I asked, offered me grace when I didn't deserve it, and treats me tenderly when I act out.

I suspect I'm not the only parent tonight who had a rough day with the kids.  Maybe yours were absolute terrors.  I feel your pain.  Maybe you are shaking your head, wondering where it all went wrong.  Maybe you are questioning your parenting abilities.  May I humbly suggest that you offer your kids and yourself a nice, big, heaping pile of grace?  You don't have to condone their behavior.  You can continue to work on it (and on your own), but don't be discouraged.  Each failure (yours and theirs) is a learning experience.  This was not a wasted day.  This is an opportunity for growth.

I'm off to hug the kids.