Sunday mornings are hard, especially after unusually late Saturday nights...
Every one of my children was grumpy, whiny, or just plain out of sorts. They were treating each other badly, feeding off each others' anger or lack of patience.
I was exhausted. I was in pain. I had very little sleep. I also had very little patience upon getting out of bed and that was used up trying to drag five tired children from their warm, comfy beds. I had a house to clean, preparations to make for a gathering that afternoon - and little time to do it after worship and Earthkeeping Team and feeding a horde of ungrateful children lunch.
My children's horrible behavior evoked anger and resentment. Why couldn't they just suck it up so we could all have a good day? Why were they doing this to me? I got up early to make french toast for breakfast and in exchange got grumbling and procrastination. I spoke nicely and kindly and in return received arguments and children throwing things at other children. I was ready to give up.
I felt my blood pressure and stress levels rising by the second.
Finally in the van and on our way to church, I had to sort out a squabble between siblings once again. I'd had enough. I made a declaration that behavior needed to improve or else.
As frustration spilled over into the silence that followed, I realized things needed to change. I needed to change.
Or else? Or else, what? Any "punishment" I could give my kids would end up punishing me more. And then the words of Psalm 51:10 wafted through my mind...
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
I realized quickly that if I wanted attitudes to change, I needed to change mine first. I needed a clean heart with which to carry on my day. I needed empathy and compassion, rather than frustration and self-righteousness. I needed to meet each child where they were - and where they were was in a place of too little sleep.
Too little sleep produces unique symptoms in each child. One reacts in anger and a need for isolation; one in the compulsion to control and manage everyone and everything; another in pushing everyone's buttons; and the list goes on.
So I left one child in the Fellowship Hall to have some alone time to regain his composure and adjust his attitude while the rest of us went to worship. I listened to the kids' needs and did my best to meet them. I cuddled and snuggled. The kids explored sensory bags and wrote on church bulletins. We sang. We prayed. Everyone's attitudes improved, especially mine - how could it not when the Psalm of the day was Psalm 51?