The last thing on my mind this morning was gratitude. In fact, the first thing on my mind was a string of curse words. While I didn’t let them escape my lips, I felt that if an innocent bystander were to view my body language, they would probably be offended. I was stressed. Angry. Irritated. I slammed doors. I barked commands at my daughters. We had to get out the door NOW! We were going to be late for the doctor! Shoes ON! Coats ON! I was frustrated with the situation, not with them. We’re going on week number three of illness in my house, and the pressures of care taking are starting to wear on me. Little sleep. Constant demands for attention. To-do lists with little actually done. My effort to find contentment and gratitude in everyday situations was failing before 9 a.m. And to top it all off, a certain aunt had come calling this morning, and I was doubled over in pain, waiting for the Advil to kick in. This was going to be a long day.
We whizzed out the door to make it to a last-minute doctor’s appointment 45 minutes away. I hurriedly threw together the diaper bag, but not before packing the most important thing. A box of chocolates. After all, if that Advil was going to take its sweet time to hit my blood stream, I’d do the job more quickly by shoving copious amounts of sweets into my mouth while driving. Best. Decision. Ever. When my toddler begged for a piece from the backseat, I told her not this time. It was mommy’s medicine. And it wasn’t a lie.
I drove like an angry mom on a mission, which I was. But who was I angry at? God? My children? Myself? No. There was no target for my aggression, which only made things worse. So, against my own emotions, I decided to take action. Like an eye-rolling teenager, I debated with myself. “This is stupid. It won’t work. I just want to be mad. Leave me alone!” But someone, a more mature, loving spirit, made these words come out of my mouth, “Sweetie, let’s play a game. It’s called, Name Your Blessings.” My preschooler, in and out of feeling feverish and downright yucky, was game for playing anything to keep her mind off her constant coughing. “Mommy will go first. I think this sunny day is a blessing.” Blech. Who was I kidding? It was freezing, with traces of ice still on the ground. I was annoying even myself. “Ok, now your turn. What do you think is something good in our life?”
We went back and forth like this, naming good things. Our house. Our family. Our friends. Our car. Simple things. Then slowly, cumulatively, bursts of sun started breaking through my cloudy mood, forcing in light. I had to admit, I was starting to feel better. Then, I asked my daughter to name one more blessing before we ended our game. Her response completely melted away my frosty interior. “It was a blessing when we took cookies to that nice family when their home was all smashed up in the tornado.” This was last spring, and I couldn’t believe she even remembered. We had blessed another family, and she considered it a blessing on ours. Maybe I’m not screwing up this parenting thing after all. And if that’s not enough to turn around my mood, I don’t know what is.
I’m glad I practiced eucharisteo, especially when I didn’t feel like it. At all. But that’s the whole point. It’s an act we must perform. We must develop the discipline. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, as I needed an extra dose of patience and grace when we arrived at the doctor’s office. Her fever spiked while we were in the waiting room, sending her into a super-silly-yet-cranky delirium. After being ushered into the exam room, she went into a giggly rage (if you can imagine), and repeatedly shouted, “My mommy poops on the floor!” To which, of course, I attempted to shush her and calm her down. This only revved her up more, and she yelled even louder, before suddenly sprawling across the chairs and falling fast asleep, drool escaping her potty-mouth lips. I sat and stroked her hair and back, and found one more thing to be grateful about. Someday, her own lively daughter would recreate this little episode just for her. And that just makes a mother smile. (And just so you know, she’ll be fine. Just needs lots of TLC. Oh, and I do not poop on the floor. Just so we’re clear.)