bad attitude changed to gratitude

My Bad Attitude: How I Learned to Give Thanks for Family Challenges

We were headed in opposite directions, my husband to soccer and me to fulfill our weekly adoration hour with the rest of our brood of children. It wasn’t really anything new or extraordinary, single-parenting in adoration.

Admittedly during the adjustment period three years ago when we first began adoring as a family, two pairs of arms and eyes were needed to manage our youngest ones as the clock ticked off sixty minutes, but since then we’ve all learned how to spend an hour in the chapel with (relatively) few interruptions or needs for discipline.

With this in mind, I suppose you could say I was feeling inspired (or maybe just brave) when I decided to follow up our hour of peace and stillness with another hour of quiet reflection and prayer at the home of a fellow parishioner for the parish’s annual rosary crusade (sans Daddy’s assistance).

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Three potty accidents, one wrestling match and half a dozen shushes later, that cliché no good deed goes unpunished seemed a fitting description for my evening.

boys wrestling

When we started giving an hour to our Lord in the adoration chapel, we weren’t altogether surprised that a period of learning would be required. As a family ruled by testosterone, my husband and I realized that the bodies and minds under our care were most often driven by boundless energy (both mental and physical). Adapting to the chapel environment meant adopting a new level of self control.

On this particular evening, seeing as my crew had done a fantastic job during my single-handed hour with them and our Lord, I saw no reason why we couldn’t simply extend our civility and good manners a bit longer.

The rosary event commenced at the same moment that our adoring ended, so we had to dash from one to the other. My older son and daughters dutifully helped get their siblings loaded and secured with no fanfare or balking. I was feeling hopeful.

It’s All Downhill

After a GPS redirect and a slightly nerve wracking turnaround (in the dark) of our 15 passenger van, we arrived only a few minutes late. Slinking our way around the perimeter of the rooms, we found a less conspicuous spot and joined in the second luminous mystery.

However, less than five minutes later I had to request directions of the nearest bathroom for my potty training toddler. Unfortunately, my request came one second too late and it was all downhill from there.

Before the event finished out, my toddler was wearing nothing but a shirt and diaper (having soiled two pairs of back-up pants), my 7 year had shed tears as the result of a body slam, and I hadn’t heard more than three consecutive sentences of the presenter’s discussion points.

Why, I murmured internally, should I bother adding to my plate of tasks if the extra duties are only going to inhibit me from any kind of spiritual gain?

An Attitude Adjustment

Certainly, on this evening I’d already done enough and I was experiencing the peaceful bliss of that hour before the Blessed Sacrament. So, why did I go and spoil it all by stretching beyond our routine?

I was still bemoaning my failure the next morning when I opened my copy of a new book that I’d ordered quite by happenstance. Abandonment to Divine Providence had a wealth of instruction and encouragement to offer, but nothing seemed quite as relevant to my current situation as these words:

All I want is for you to carry on as you are doing and endure what you have to do-
but change your attitude to all these things. And this change is simply to say “I will”
to all that God asks. By this obedience we shall become one with God.

Ruminating on the previous evening’s trials, I easily concluded that my attitude was the biggest problem.

As a mother and perhaps even more so as a home schooler, I’ve often corrected my own children for tackling tasks with a bad attitude. When a daughter balks at having to lead a decade of our morning rosary when she’s tired or a son gripes when asked to rewrite an essay using cursive, I’m quick to point out the need for a better attitude. I see the splinter in their eyes while overlooking the log in mine.

Though I hadn’t felt satisfied, my two teens didn’t share share my negativity. They each participated in the prayers and thoughtfully absorbed the discussion.

And while my potty trainer ended up less than fully dressed, he didn’t end up entirely naked so that wasn’t a totally loss. My other three younger ones may have gotten little benefit from the extra spiritual reflection, but they will undoubtedly benefit from the memories of having been part of our parish’s active life.

Additionally, what would a parish family be without its children? Sure, the adults could have enjoyed the talk without our sideline noises, but perhaps they experienced some greater hope for the future at the sight of a younger generation.

Attitude of Gratitude

Truly, the trouble was mine because I’d spent the night focusing on my personal feelings and expectations. My perspective had been too narrow and self-centered.

Once I opened my eyes and counted the blessings (the teens’ involvement, the toddler’s extra diapers, the little ones’ satisfaction at sharing in parish life, the fellowship we all experienced, and another opportunity to cure my impatience) my attitude transformed into one of gratitude. I could see the numerous ways in which God had been inviting us each to draw closer to Him that evening.

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Lord, help me to correct my attitude when I am struggling to find joy in the every day duties of motherhood. Remind me that there is nothing higher than abandoning myself to Your Will in every moment. Help me to taste the sweetness in surrender and therein draw ever closer to Your Sacred Heart.

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This post original appeared on Seton Magazine.

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