WHAT do we do when children expect more out of us than we feel we can give? Do we become irritated, react with anger? Or do we turn to God and patiently listen for thoughtful ways to respond?
Raising children can be a challenge. Ask any parent! But right where the human mind is ready to give in to despair, the divine Mind, or God, can provide a solution that brings a happy smile to child and parent alike.
After dinner I like to curl up in my easy chair with a bowl of ice cream and read the daily newspaper. A while back, it was commonplace for our one- and four-year-olds to grab the newspaper out of my lap or crawl up and plunk themselves in the middle of it. It became quite a juggling act to keep the paper out of little hands and read it. Soon, their little game wasn't so much fun anymore-for me anyway-and I started to lose my temper. One evening, after I said something mean and had both of the children in tears, I decided to rethink my priorities. What was more important, reading the newspaper or ensuring the happiness of my family?
The book of Psalms tells us, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" (133:1) Selfishness causes strife, and unselfishness harmonizes, I knew. Should I forget reading the paper and play with the children? But it wasn't that they lacked for attention. We regularly played and read books together after I finished my paper. It was tempting to blame the children for the problem.
Christian Science has taught me that it does no good to point fingers. The culprit we need to be free of is never another person but a misunderstanding as to the source and nature of all good. God is the one Father-Mother, and we are all, in spiritual fact, His children. If life isn't going smoothly, it's not because God is withholding something good from us. It may be because we aren't sincerely turning to God to find the good we need. In my case, I was looking for peace and solace in the twenty minutes I spent perusing the news and enjoying my ice cream. I wasn't finding it, because I had been looking for rest solely in those twenty minutes I spent alone, rather than trusting God to impart harmony regardless of whether I was alone or not.
I also prayed for a better view of our children. God was the source of their contentment as well as my own. Whatever they needed in order to feel loved and included was coming from God in abundance, and they could not be deprived of it. It was my privilege, as their human parent, to see them as blessed by God's infinite love and care for all. I decided I needed to witness more actively to God's expression of this love through these dear ones. I made a more earnest effort periodically to stop whatever I was doing and sincerely appreciate the good qualities the children so naturally expressed.
I quit thinking of myself so much, and started to think about how we could collectively do a better job of reflecting God's love as a family unit. That's when our four-year-old came up with a solution. She said, "Dad, why don't you lie down on the floor and let us do rollovers while you read the paper?" A perfect compromise, I decided. So I lay on the floor and enjoyed my dessert and paper, while the two did somersaults and flips over my back. Everybody was happy and there was no more contention. As it turned out, this routine lasted a few nights and I was free to return to my easy chair. But the good part is that there was no more conflict. And I learned a lesson in humbly following the will of Love, of God, as opposed to my own want.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, "Self-love is more opaque than a solid body" (p. 242). It's hard to see the good we can do for others when we're absorbed in self. The more we turn away from self to God, the less opportunity selfishness has to cause conflict in a parent/child relationship. The easier it is to find solutions that bless child and parent alike. And the happier our families stay!