I felt the end of my rope just fly out of my hands. I heard screaming and crying, then a crash as something hit the wall, then something grabbed my leg and wouldn't let go. Somehow I wrestled free of whatever had attached itself to my leg, and I ran like crazy.
I knew I was mere seconds away from a total mommy meltdown, so I made a mad dash for my office and quickly locked the door behind me. It took a few moments before I could form a coherent thought in my head again, but by that time, I'd been found. Now there was pounding on the door and more crying. My ears were buzzing and I could swear I heard a ticking sound like a timer counting down... 10...9...8...7...6... soon my head would explode.
I said nothing. I made not one sound. I hoped that if I was quiet enough, maybe the creatures out there would give up and go away. Maybe they'd think I wasn't really in here.
(knock, knock, scream) “Mooooooommyyy!”
With no water or food, I know I can't stay in here forever, but I think I can tough it out for several hours. Surely I can outlast them. As long as the door holds out. I close my eyes, take some deep breaths, and then I lose the fight with my tear ducts. I plop down in a watery heap and grab a tissue for my runny nose.
“I quit! I'm done! Lord, I don't care what anyone tries to tell me, there is no way – NO WAY – that any of this is holy. As a matter of fact, what's going through my mind right now is decidedly un-holy. Got that? UN-holy! Those little people out there have just pushed me off the cliff. There I go... down... down... down... splat. Come to think of it, I'm not even sure they are little people. I think they might be animals because they constantly spill their food on the floor (and then pick it up and eat it), they chew on books and toys, their room right now is a groundhog's heaven, and every single one of them has peed on the carpet at some point. Oh, and from down here it sounds like a herd of elephants upstairs. And let's not forget the poop, Lord. The poop just never ends around here.”
I'm tired. I'm hungry. I have a headache. And honestly, I'm not even sure I like those little people/animals right now. I want to hear what quiet sounds like. I want to hear myself think. I want a nap. Can I just lay down right here and take a nap?
“Lord, they're not going away. But I just can't go out there right now. I'm spent. I don't want to be touched anymore today. I've been grabbed and poked and yanked and clung to way too much and I am touched-out. Patience seems like the elusive ice cream man around here. I can hear him down the street, but he never shows up at my house. I just don't want to deal with them – I want to hide.”
(sniffle, sniffle, whimper) “Mooommaa, where are you?”
Ouch – that hurt. Great – once again, I win the lousy mother of the year award. Criminey.
“Lord, how exactly does this serve You or please You? How exactly is any of this holy and worthwhile again? I'm not even doing a very good job at it today. But I want to... yes, I really do want to. The little people/animals really are precious to me and even when I don't like them I love them and I want to do right by them. Please help me.”
And then, amid my tears my heart is reminded of something. “Cultivate your own garden... do not desire to be what you are not, but rather, desire to be exactly what you are. It is in your present situation that God wishes you to act.”
I've been reading a lot of St. Francis de Sales lately and in this moment, God uses his gentle direction to lift my downcast face and nudge me up off the floor. “Each one loves according to his taste; few love according to their duty or the taste of our Lord.”
Desire to be exactly what I am... Love according to my duty, not my preference... It is in my present situation that God wishes me to act. What am I, and what is my duty? Today I'm a mother, and right now my duty is to those little people. Some of the particulars of my duty involve much cleaning of various and sundry messes and poop. The bulk of my frustration is not so much the normal trials of caring for children as it is my reluctance to devote myself entirely to my duty without wishing I was doing something else, somewhere else.
“Quite certainly nothing so much hinders us from reaching perfection in our own vocation as longing for another.” For me the road to intimacy with Jesus, the road to greater holiness, stronger faith, deeper love, and true happiness – yes, happiness – lies outside my office door where the crying little people are. He wants me to be obedient in doing what He has put in front of me today, right now (including the pee and the poop). “Know that God wants nothing else of you for the present but that. Don't waste time, therefore, in doing anything else.”
“Okay, I hear You. I un-quit. I'm sorry. Please give me strength to serve You in this moment in Your rather annoying crying-child disguise. No really, Lord...I love You and I love them. Help me live my vocation well today.”
Just as I'm blowing my nose and gathering my courage, the oldest one knocks on the door. “Mommy? Can you please open the door and let me in?”
“Just give me a minute, honey” I say.
“But Mommy, I really have to go to the bathroom bad! Please let me in!”
Mommy's time-out is over – if I don't open the door soon there'll be more pee on the carpet.