There is a line in one of our favorite songs, One by U2, that goes “Will it make it easier on you now? You got someone to blame.”
I recently read the following in a wonderful book, “How to Raise Good Catholic Children” by Mary Reed Newland, in a section called “Encourage your child to offer up his sufferings”:
Many times parents will turn to scolding the “naughty chair” or the “bad table” in an effort to ease the pain and insult of a child who comes to grief through his own carelessness. In the process, they feed little desires for vengeance; they give him no recourse but senseless, continuing rebellion against anything and everything that crosses him…
Living in a fallen world, our children are bound to be hurt, both physically and spiritually. We will save them years of wasted opportunities if we teach them that along with everything else, pain is a part of their prayer.
It’s so easy for me to find a culprit for any small thing that goes wrong. But I can appreciate how unproductive it is, and I am praying for the magnanimity to set the right example for my children. Yesterday we had a test.
We have been saving money for several years to start our oldest son in violin lessons this January. He is sensitive and temperamental, but anticipating his first lesson has brought him extraordinary confidence and joy. We finally found the right music school for the right price and went to some lengths to get the violin for his Epiphany gift and Suzuki materials in time for his first lesson. We celebrated at dinner on the eve of his first lesson and also at breakfast yesterday morning, the day of his first lesson. I made special arrangements with teachers to get the kids out of school early so that we could get to the music lesson on time. His sisters were delighted to be his cheerleaders. All 5 of us (me and 4 kids) arrived 20 minutes early for his 3:30 appointed to give him space to transition and to set up his instrument. The allotted time came and went. No teacher. Ten minutes later I asked if she was running late, and nobody had heard from her. Twenty minutes later, after we had been sweating it out in a dimly lit corridor for nearly an hour, his maestra strolled up for her four o’clock lesson. The director had forgotten to inform the teacher that she had a new 3:30 student. They offered fairly genuine apologies and assured us that he’d start next week instead. They left. I started crying, and my son hid under the chair in the hallway and cried too, convinced that they were all bad guys who had been tricking him all along. Those of you with delicate children can appreciate the significance of this. We lost him, I thought, maybe for the rest of the spring. Or they lost him, and I wanted them to know it.
An everyday disappointment, and a golden opportunity to place blame. I was ready to let the insults fly as we drove home in rush hour traffic. Until my son started talking about beating up all the people at the music school. Red flag. So I gathered myself and tried to talk my children (myself) through it: “I’m so sorry for the disappointment. We’re all disappointed because we have been looking forward to this for a long time. But it was a mistake. Mistakes happen, we all make them. We’ll get to start next week instead and everything will be alright.” I didn’t have any glorious “offer it up” homily to give, but I felt a little better already after dealing with what felt at the time like an epic disaster in a more sober and charitable way. Blaming wouldn’t have made it easier.
And when I spent 4 hours last night getting our post-Christmas house ready for the cleaning lady and she didn’t show up at all today, I tried to be magnanimous but ended up calling my husband at work with a mouthful of ugly thoughts.
Two steps forward, one step back : )