I was a cranky grouch today with my children and they responded accordingly. It really is true, I have observed, that when Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Granted, sometimes the kids are going to be grumpy and irascible even if I'm maintaining my good mood...but they are always worse if I get peeved with them. Count on it. It makes sense. Moods are contagious, especially bad ones. I catch the bad mood from them, and then it goes back to them even worse. It's hard to maintain and model the kind of actions and attitude I want to see in them, and the same goes with teaching.
That is why it kind of sucks to be my husband right now. Or more accurately, next week, when I go back to work. I have to be at the top of my game, so to speak, with my middle schoolers all day. I then want to be as "on" as I can be with my own children when I pick them up from preschool (in Ruby's case) and the babysitter's (in Max's and Ben's case) and use up the last of my reserves of niceness, calmness, and flexibility with them. By the time they are in bed, I am running on niceness fumes, and guess who gets to deal with that? My poor hubby, who in turn is not exactly fresh as a daisy himself, since he has a couple of rather trying coworkers at this job site. In my fantasy world (where I am perfect), at the end of days like these I look deeply into my husband's eyes and say, "Thank God for friends like you. I don't know what I'd do without you, my love." Unfortunately, the reality is usually more like, "Did you start the dishwasher yet? No? (grumpy sigh) Okay, I'LL do it. No, it's FINE," while I make it clear through body language, tone of voice, etc. that it is NOT fine. Way back in college the women of Christian fellowship did a book study on C.S. Lewis's book "The Four Loves" and I remember feeling quite convicted at a part in the book where Lewis discusses how we often treat our family worst of all because we feel that they have to love us no matter what, so why make the special effort we make for those who have a more conditional relationship to us (coworkers, friends, etc.)? In reality, we ought to be at our most loving towards those closest to us, and I think back guiltily to the days when Allen and I were dating and then engaged. We just couldn't make enough charming sacrifices for each other. It was nothing for him to get up at the crack of dawn to walk to a Starbucks and then walk to my house, gather a bouquet of flowers along the way, and leave me a little gift on my car before I headed to work. But a few years later it's a bit more of a struggle to wake up to make a bottle for the young offspring at said crack of dawn. And it's the same for me. What a joy it once was to surprise him by cleaning the disgusting kitchen he shared with slovenly roommates. Now I'M the slovenly roommate and can get downright sullen if he looks distastefully at the layer of detritus I've allowed to accumulate on the stove, countertop, etc. "Clean it yourself if you care so much," I think (but don't say, because that would be rude, and does it count if you only think it? Hint: yes, it still counts.)
Well, well, we found out as all couples must that we are both selfish people who really just want things to go our way and easily. What a shocker. These are the trenches that I think most couples must go through at some point, and I have great faith that we are together for Good and for a reason and that God's got this on lockdown. There's nothing as humbling as (1) being married and (2) having children. Teaching middle school runs a close third, and next week I get to return to that. Please pray for me, if you're the praying type. While I do care greatly for the kids I teach and I do enjoy my colleagues and believe that my school is doing its very best and has helped a lot of kids...well, it's just hard to leave this little snuggle pie with someone else, no matter how capable and kind they are. Right now Ben's curled up on me, sleeping peacefully, and in a few days he'll be doing that on someone else. He hasn't smiled yet, and I would really love to be the recipient of that first smile and not the babysitter, wonderfully nice as she is. I've had a nice six weeks with Max, too, getting some one on one time with him as Ruby's been in school. It's hard to say goodbye to them for 10 hours a day to go and work with other people's children. But this seems to be the path God has me on for now, and I must walk it a day at a time and can only do so with the daily allotment of grace and strength He metes out. "His mercies are new every morning," says a verse somewhere (sorry, too lazy to look it up now), and I'll be counting on that, because I know that I am not sufficient for this task.