It is a privilege to be annoyed with your kids. That may seem like a strange and backward concept, but lately I’ve been realizing that — strange and backward as it really is — it is very true. Take last night for instance…
Wednesdays are the nights that Marc is at youth all evening. He usually comes home for the first hour the kids are home from school but he wasn’t able to yesterday. So it was me and the kids for the rest of the day.
After a long day of slogging through a paper for my gerontology course, I started my yoga workout five minutes too late. I decided to do the workout on the big carpet by the front door. (Lots of space and way more natural light than doing it in the basement.) But, like I said, I was five minutes too late. And the kids came home. And Luke thought it would be funny to throw his backpack on me while I was doing the locust pose. Then he walked by and accidentally kneed me in the temple. I almost cried it hurt so badly.
The kids relaxed and watched a movie after school and had a good snack, but that stint of television exposure made them g-r-u-m-p-y by supper time. I think I made a snide comment about how we should stop and remind ourselves how ungrateful we are for this food and how annoying it is to be together. (Our prayer every night actually is “For our family and for what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful” precisely because so often we are not thankful for our family and what we receive.)
But, like most stages of life, that grumpy phase passed quickly. After supper we hung around the table and I helped the kids with their homework and before bedtime the kids were all in my bed with their big binders drawing pictures. I had 10 minutes left in a documentary on Alzheimer’s I had been watching for gerontology class, so I thought I would lay on the bed and finish it while they were there. The last five minutes showed a man (who right from the start of his story had me thinking of Marc’s dad) passing away in a hospice. It was very moving and, of course, brought up many memories of the last days with Marc’s dad. But I had to stop watching after a few minutes, not because I was overcome with emotion (though I was getting there), but because the kids were singing “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” at the top of their lungs right next to me.
Now, I wasn’t annoyed at this. In fact, I thought it was quite funny and quite fitting. I’m sure Marc’s dad and the man who was dying on the documentary (who’d been a magician and had hosted a children’s tv show) would appreciate the joyful and boisterous sound of my kids’ voices. But there was such a stark contrast between what I was watching on the screen and what was right next to me in the room!
Earlier that evening, when we were all still a little grumpy, I’d received word that a very good friend’s husband was in hospital. The kids and I stopped and prayed for them and I couldn’t help thinking how difficult the whole situation was for that family. And there was the constrast: while I knew in my head that I was grateful for this evening I was having with my kids (we were all home and healthy), even knowing that this night at home was a gift to me — that things could change and be so different so quickly — just could not make me not be annoyed with the annoying things the kids were doing at the time. I remember being so aware of the disconnection: this moment is SO precious; my kids are being SO annoying!
That disconnect was so strange (so frustrating!) to me… and probably for most of us. We know our time is limited. We try to make the most of things, but life and people and our kids are still frustrating. The little annoyances of life do not go away just because we know that time is short and time is precious. I think maybe they become less serious and more comical. But they are still there. We are still very human as we face our own mortality.
Of course, I want things to be perfect and to never be annoyed with my kids. But, that won’t happen. Instead, I can realize and recognize that a normal day at home — with my kids healthy, hungry, and yes even grumpy — is indeed a privilege. The problems of bickering, complaining, and annoying behaviour are first world parenting problems. There are bigger problems, struggles, losses, and fears that parents face every day. Often it is those bigger moments that make a person realize just how precious each moment is, and just how petty our normal, daily problems are.
So today (and as long as I am lucky enough to live in this “first world”), I choose to remember that I ought to be deeply grateful that my life has these petty annoyances, that life is good and stable enough for me to even notice them. I will remember that it is actually a privilege to be annoyed, and I will hold my kids tighter today because of it.