Sunday, April 26, 2009

Go straight ahead

Friday evening, twilight. The end of a long day at the end of a tiring week. I'm so exhausted I'm on the brink of tears. My temper tugs at the leash like a powerful dog, and I yank it back time and again. No creative energetic chirpy supermum, I'm just a wrecked woman trying not to shout or weep at her grumpy kids.

I suggest a video while I cook dinner. We walk into the lounge, and there are toys all over the floor. I say that I'll help pick up the toys, then we'll turn on the video. "I'm not helping!" huffs my five year old. She's been spoiling for a fight all afternoon. My temper rears again.

I yank it back, and manage not to yell. I'm about to reason with her - it's her mess, her toys; it's her responsibility to tidy these things; if she's old enough to play with it, she's old enough to put it away*; I'd be helping her, not the other way round...

But, a moment of grace. Unplanned words come out of my mouth: "I'm going to read a book." Surprising even myself, I stalk out of the loungeroom and into my bedroom. I shut the door, flop on the bed and watch the evening shadows dance on the ceiling. Then I grab a book and start to read. All is quiet. A page in, and I hear the sounds of duplo being tossed into the tub; train tracks are being stacked in their box. I hear a five year old showing a three year old where things go, and it sounds like they're working together without squabbling.

A few minutes later, a soft knock on the door. A small voice tells me they've tidied the lounge, and asks if I'll put on the video. Of course I will, and I do. With gratitude.

Sister Ruth says, When you come to a place where you have to go left or right, go straight ahead.** I so rarely find that path. But on Friday evening, at that moment, perhaps I managed it. Neither enforcing nor arguing, I just stepped out and left my kids to it. They could have trashed the loungeroom; they could have turned on the telly themselves; but instead they chose to tidy up, to participate in the running of the house.

Why is this stepping away so difficult? Why do I so quickly yell, argue, try and convince? After all, my children knew what to do. They didn't need me standing over them, bossing them around or trying to persuade them to tidy up; in fact, not only did they not need me, but my presence just aggravated them. Walking away from them, on that day, at that time, was the best thing I could have done. It gave them the space to choose to do a task, and to do it well without castigation or comment. And they excelled themselves.

The gentle road is the hardest to find. O, why is it so difficult to let go, to allow myself to be unnecessary? to step out and find the road ahead?

* Thanks to Bec and Gord for this maxim.
** In Kathleen Norris Dakota (New York: Mariner, 2001 (1993)).


  1. What a moment of grace all round... (thanks again for today... another moment of grace, for me...)

  2. Hi the idea of home,
    I was at rachel's and saw your I stopped by here.
    I found myself agreeing with you and sorta of an exhale in your tone. When I briefy taught pre school, whenever I asked the children to tidy up, I would always announce that I was going to do something else...turn my back so to speak. I guess the children, felt more at ease knowing that I was not going to be watching them or in the confronting mode. Sometimes I think that children get the idea that their teachers/parents have nothing better to do than to be entertained by them.


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