Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Finding The Beauty In Spilt Milk

"When are we going?" she asked. "Where are we going and how long is it going to take?"  "Do we have to go there?" He demanded. "What time are we leaving, and what are all the stops we are going to make?," another child begged to know. All day long, the questions rolled in like waves, peaking in my frustration and anger:

"I DON'T KNOW!" I screamed. " Too many questions! From now on, NO-ONE IS ALLOWED TO ASK ME ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT WHERE WE GO OR WHEN OR...WHY. In fact, only ask me important questions that you NEED to know."

A little girl gets tears in her eyes. She can't hold it back. She starts to cry. "Mary Margaret, what's wrong?"

"You mean we can never ask questions again?" And then  she proceeds to ask ten questions about exactly what kinds of questions they ARE allowed to ask.

As my children say....EPIC FAIL. or at least, EPIC FAIL PARENTING MOMENT.

It happens every day. The wrong questions, the pestering, the tedium, the relentlessness of life...
THE MILK SPILLS....over...and over...and...


And I'm not always gracious and loving and kind.

One day the milk spilled, and I saw the beauty. I saw the way the life-giving liquid dripped and oozed through the cracks of  husband-hand-hewn table, curling around the wood and catching the light as it slipped to the floor.

I think I was only able to see this, this beautiful mess, because the table had just been cleaned. Anna had wanted some milk, and I placed her cup on a clutter-free surface. When the milk spilled, it didn't saturate school papers and important mail or soak into a cell phone or ipod, carelessly strewn on the table. I don't think I would have seen ANYthing lovely about that!

Then it dawned on me: If I could clear the clutter from my mind, if I could somehow clear the encrusted mental garbage, I could see the beauty in the messes. I could be more patient with the incessant demands, with the questions, with the milk spilling into my brain. When I am feeling overwhelmed, I need to take five minutes to get away and empty my mind before "cleaning the mess," a 'timeout' for myself.

I CANNOT BE PRESENT TO MY CHILDREN IF I AM NOT PRESENT TO MYSELF, present to my state of mind, present to what I need in order to be available to THEM.

Even if I simply stop what I am doing and take three mindful breaths, right where I am, I can gain composure. We don't always have the luxury of a mere five minutes, but we can always breathe!
Breathing deep oxygenates our mental well being.

So...I will fill my cup, hand it to a needy child, and if she spills it, perchance, I will be ready to clean the mess up cheerfully.

That discouragement produced by your repeated lack of generosity, by your relapses, by your falls- perhaps only apparent- often makes you feel as if you had broken something of exceptional value, your sanctification. Don't be worried: bring to your supernatural life the wise way simple children have of resolving such a conflict.

They have broken- nearly always through frailty- an object that is dear to their father. They're sorry, perhaps they shed tears, but they go to seek consolation from the owner of what has been damaged through their awkwardness; and their father forgets the value-great though it may be- of the broken object and, filled with tenderness, he not only pardons, but consoles and encourages the little one to learn.
~ St. Jose Maria Escriva