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Life with a Smile: Unexpected moments of grace keep Mom sane

By Kate Snyder

Contributing writer

Church tends to be a stressful experience for me. My kids can charitably be described as “active” (less charitably as “bonkers”) and sitting still is a challenge for them. Sitting still without fighting with each other is a bigger challenge still. And sitting still without fighting and without talking is borderline impossible. This makes going to church tricky.

On a recent Sunday, we were having a rough go. My two big kids were shuffling and fidgeting and poking each other with increasing ferocity and my son had insisted we sit near the front of the (big) sanctuary so I was acutely aware that we were teetering on the brink of making a scene. My blood pressure was up and I could actually feel the tears of frustration forming — why does this have to be so danged hard?

Then the organist played my favorite communion hymn. And just like that, in the midst of the singing, I was better. Equilibrium restored, smile renewed. I actually felt the change come over me, and once I was better, my kids were better, too.

I think we only survive parenthood through moments of grace like that. I’ve really been noticing those moments lately — perhaps because I’ve been stressed and overwhelmed, so they stand out.

One Saturday, I took the kids to an outdoor festival on a blistering hot end-of-summer-not-yet-fall day. It was a huge tactical error and we were all immediately hot, sweaty, and exhausted. I bought the kids ice cream and their cups immediately turned into flowing rivers of melted goo, resulting in three cranky, sticky children.

I was covered in ice cream and feeling extremely tense when the wind suddenly shifted. The clouds blew across the sun, dampening the heat, the trees swished into a soothing chorus and just like that, it was a beautiful fall afternoon. We were still sticky, but that breeze wafted over my soul and I could breathe again. Moments of grace.

A particularly difficult bedtime. Battles over tooth-brushing and pajamas. Confrontations over stuffed animals and disagreements over what book to read. A failed attempt at yoga because it’s really hard to stay focused and Zen when a five-year-old boy is lying on your feet singing atonally and kicking you in the shins.

I’m wondering if it’s morally forgivable to drug my children into sleep when my youngest finally hits the wall and passes out in my lap with her baby doll clutched to her chest.

And just like that, my heart is full. Moments of grace.

I’ll be honest — I don’t always find grace when I need it. Sadly, there’s no cosmic vending machine discharging peace and calm on demand.

I lose my temper and roll my eyes and get into ridiculous, doomed arguments with the aspiring lawyers in my house. You can’t predict when you’ll find a moment of grace. You can only give thanks when it arrives.