Sunday, April 3, 2011

Woman of noble character challenge week 6

Proverbs 31:25-27 "Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness."

Week 6: Proverbs 31:25-27 Do you tend to let your emotions control your attitude? Are there more kind words mixed with laughter coming from your lips, or are they harsh and demoralizing? Write a post about something you have said or done that you need to forgive yourself for. Is there someone you need to forgive or who has let you down? Write about it.

This week's challenge reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite childhood movies, The Never-Ending Story.

The hero, Atreyu, is learning about the gates he must pass through to reach the Southern Oracle. Engywook, the little gnome who studies the Oracle, tells Atreyu of a mirror that shows your true self. "Kind people find out that they are cruel. Brave men discover that they are really cowards! Confronted by their true selves, most men run away screaming!"

Even as a child, I wondered what I would see in that mirror. I think I would have been fairly pleased with my reflection at that time. Now, I am not so sure.

Motherhood has a mirror like the one in this movie. It is called a child. Each of my children are reflections of me. For better or worse.

It is truly one of the most horrifying and disappointing experiences of life to see or hear your child do something negative and know that they learned it from you. That two year old voice telling her doll to "pick that up RIGHT NOW!" with just the same inflections that I use. Or the 8 year old who clamps her teeth and says "STOP IT" with the same expression I am sure I have. Or how about the disgusted sighs when anything doesn't go their way?  I want to crawl under a rock and die of embarrassment!

A few years ago I received an email that struck me right in the hard spot of my heart. It explained that we would never treat strangers as cruelly as we treat our own families. It's true. For me anyway. I know that I would be mortified if someone over heard me berating my children. I am very hard on them. Probably too hard sometimes.

A few years ago my oldest son was fighting with his younger brother at church. We were in the small foyer of the building. I grabbed him, pushed him onto a seat and loosed my tongue. I wasn't yelling or smacking him. I was just, you know, the wicked witch. I didn't think about what I was doing until I heard a horrified cry. I turned to see a young girl with Down Syndrome staring at me. I took a deep breath, realizing that I had scared her and went over to calm her down. She drew back, afraid of me. She turned her back to me, leaned on the wall and began sobbing. I was ashamed. Deeply ashamed.

I put my hand on her shoulder and apologized. She turned around and hugged me. We had a little conversation, me saying what I needed to say, her jabbering at me in French (She didn't speak English). She smiled and hugged me again, then she was off to explore.

I remembered a Relief Society lesson where the teacher compared living in the Celestial Kingdom to a black-tie dinner. She asked us to imagine showing up in a wrinkled T-shirt and flip-flops. Would we feel out of place? That is what it would be like to be in the Celestial Kingdom if we were not worthy to be there.

I imagined this sweet, innocent child was like the angels in Heaven. Were these heavenly beings looking at me in terrified shock each time I lashed out at my kids? Were the angels hiding their faces and sobbing at the sight of me? Would the Saviour himself turn from me and say "I don't know who you are. Certainly not one of mine."?

I knew in that moment I needed to change. I would like to say that I am now the most wonderful mother in the world. I would like to tell you that I never raise my voice or say things that I shouldn't say. I would like to tell you that I never get angry or overreact. But that would be a big fat lie. Really big.

Don't get me wrong, I am not beating my kids with my broomstick or calling them horrible names. But there is more to it than that. I can see my children's spirits cringe when I say, in that certain tone, "What are you doing?!" It isn't just the words or the actions. It is the tone, the expression, and the emotion behind them.

I once taught a lesson that included a quote about anger. It said that when we are angry we reveal our weakness. I always thought of "weakness" as "Failing", "Flaw", "Defect". You know, the generic scene of a coach saying to his players "Your weak! Your soft! Your a slacker!"

But a sweet sister raised her hand and said "That is so true. I know I am more likely to get angry when I am tired or hungry. I definitely get angry when I am in a weakened state."  I was dumbstruck. I had never thought of it like that before. I had thought that if I was  a stronger person I wouldn't get angry. Ever. Now I saw a different perspective. A kind of preventative approach to anger and frustration. I started recognizing when I was more likely to get upset and make plans to react differently.

For example; if I got upset with my children when we were waiting for an appointment, I made sure I brought things to keep them entertained. If I was frustrated by their bickering, I waited a mintue before I went to intervene. Sometimes they resolved it on their own and we were all happy.

Lately I have noticed some regression. As the children get older, their problems and issues change and I have to learn all over again how and when to react. I am sure I still have a long way to go to make the full transformation from Screaming Banshee to Sainted Mother. I hope my kids are not too damaged in the process!