• Lisa Popcak

When my oldest daughter was about seven, our family was walking along a beach while on vacation when we spotted the cutest little crab. It was about the size of a small red potato, My daughter very gently picked it up to check it out and nestled it in the palm of her hand. For the first minute or so everything went well, but then the little crab sensed that it was no longer in a familiar environment and latched on to my daughters palm with its claw.

Even though it was a small crab, that pinch was fierce! My daughter yelped at the initial pinch and we all gathered around to help. But the more we tried to pull the crab off her hand the more tightly it held on to her skin and the worse the pain got As we all began to panic a bit, a local to the area came over and - taking my daughter’s hand on hers - gently poured a glass of ocean water over her hand forming a little pool of water in her palm. The moment the crab felt safe in a familiar environment, it released its grip on my daughter’s hand and it scuttled back into the ocean.

That crab had a lot in common with my kids; all kids, really. When my kids are in their element and feeling good they behave well and our days go smoothly and we enjoy each other. But when they feel off kilter for some reason they get, well... crabby.

So I try to always remember that when a child feels rightly-ordered, they act rightly-ordered. Now, of course I can’t make their lives perfectly serene all the time - nor would it be healthy for them if I did - but I can remember to keep certain things in mind so that I’m optimizing my child’s ability to feel right and be their best selves.

Has my child had enough sleep? If they haven’t I”ll ask myself what can I do to create a calmer atmosphere, get some quiet time with them, or even a nap. It’s not the time to run a thousand errands or expect them to learn a new skill or chore.

Has my child eaten protein in the last 3 hours? Children burn fuel quickly and they need small, protein-packed snacks every few hours to feel good. So I try to keep nutritious snacks in my house, car, and purse. If my child starts to get cranky, we have a snack and wait about 15 minutes to see if an attack of the “hangrys” is the cause.

Is my child going into an unfamiliar situation? Visiting a relative my child rarely sees, going to a new activity, dealing with a move, or good ol' fashioned holiday upheaval can really stress kids out. In those situations, I take time to prep my child ahead in advance. We talk about what the situation will be like, how they should behave, what comfort items they might need or which quiet (read: non-electronic) things they can bring to keep them from being board in adult situations. Most importantly, we always talk about how to quietly and respectfully get my attention if they are feeling in need of help.

Am I remembering that my child is unique? Each of my children has a different personality and unique needs. I keep that in mind when assessing which situations they will do well in and which situations might cause them to reactively misbehave so I can help us avoid those pitfalls.

It has amazed me over the years how many tantrums and instances of poor behavior we’ve managed to avoid by keeping these things in mind. Of course when unacceptable behavior does occur despite prior planning, corrections, apologies, and make-ups are required. But again these are always more easily and genuinely achieved when the child is restored to a feeling of right-orderedness, just like the crab in the ocean water.

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  • Lisa Popcak

Updated: Jul 24, 2018

These were the tearful words of “M”- a mom of four school age kids who called my show More2Life not long ago. She was feeling isolated, overwhelmed and purposeless. She described wearing herself out with the daily tasks of housekeeping, chauffeuring, and cooking but had little to no connection with the people for whom she did these tasks. In desperation she wanted to run to something that would fill her emptiness - perhaps work outside the home, but she wasn’t sure. Her words broke my heart and resonated with me at the same time

Every mom I know has experienced doubtful, discouraging words like these from time to time: “Maybe I’m not made for this.” There seems to be many triggers for thoughts like these: moments of awful sleep deprivation, times when we’re drowning under piles of laundry, being overwhelmed by work life balance, dealing with that child whose behaviors we’re having trouble coping with... we’ve all had moments where we question if we can do this whole mom thing; if we were “made for this”.

I assure you, you are absolutely made for this. When God graced you with a child, however that child came into your life, He made you to be your child's mom. But even with that truth in mind, we can still struggle in our thinking.

Very recently, I was being tormented by discouraging thoughts. I’ve been having trouble recovering from a recent surgery that came at the same time as many, many unusually demanding things were going on in the lives of my family. In physical pain and overwhelmed by all I had to do, I cried out to God. It’s good to be super-honest with Him and bring to Him all our feelings and questionings. If you’re struggling, I really encourage you to start there with God. Pour out your heart to Him; make room for Him to intervene.

The next day at Mass the words of John 15:16 leapt out at me: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit - fruit that will last.”

While those words were originally spoken to Jesus’s first followers to let them know who they were created to be and what their purpose was, they are meant for us moms today as well. I was reminded in hearing those words that God had made and appointed me to be my children’s mom, just as He has appointed you to be yours. He doesn’t require us to do it alone, however. God wants us to lean on Him so that our children will be His fruit that will last for eternity.

These words reminded me that my job is to bear fruit that will last. Now, unless you have some kind of miracle house/job, your tasks are probably like mine. I wash the floor, clean the bathroom, fold the laundry, handle my emails, etc. and IT DOESN’T LAST. What does last, what remains in my heart and the hearts of my family is the moments of connection we make - the cookies we bake together, the stories we read allowed, the games we play, the conversations, prayers, memories we make as a family. Those are the moments that feed our souls and bring moments of God’s love and grace into our lives. It’s also those moments that redeem the daily chores. Keeping a tidy home, providing my family with clean clothes, making meals for us to enjoy all become rewarding when they create a place to enjoy together instead of just chores that drain me.

Similarly, when “M” called that day, she talked about the wonderful vacation she had with her family. They had played together, walked on the beach, went for bike rides, and ate ice cream. It made her feel like the mom she always wanted to be. But she lamented that she was too tired at the end of the day to make time for things like that at home. It is those relationship moments that elevate what we do from drudgery to rewarding, meaningful acts of love and connection. Yet “M” and most moms rarely give ourselves permission to prioritize them. Instead we deplete ourselves with tasks from our never ending “to do list” and get frustrated when we haven’t had any time to do anything fun or meaningful with our spouses or kids.

So let’s try a new approach. Let’s try putting moments of connection at the top of our daily “to do list”. Sounds crazy?! How will we ever get anything done?! But think about this: will you feel more or less able to take on the day if you’ve spent a few minutes snuggling with your kids before you have to get everyone dressed and moving for the day? Will you be more or less patient with your kids at homework time if you’ve first paused after school and had a snack together and caught up on all the highs and lows of the day? Will your kids be more or less likely to drive you crazy with interruptions while your trying to get caught up on work emails, if before you looked at the screen, you played a hand of UNO or took a walk with them? Let’s try lifting our burdens to God and putting the relationships that will bear lasting fruit first.

After all, we were made for this!

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