The Art of Gentle Correction

This morning in his homily Father told a story of visiting a friend, a mother of four. She told him about a little guest she’d had earlier that day, a boy who kept saying, “Oh my God!” Finally she pulled him aside asked him if he knew that when he said that God was listening for what he had to say. She asked what it was that he had to say to God. He said, “Nothing,” and she then suggested that perhaps then he shouldn’t say, “Oh my God,” unless he had something to tell God. She explained that God’s name is very powerful and shouldn’t be said lightly. She suggested that maybe he should think of some things to tell God.

I was so impressed. I’d probably have just asked him to stop saying it without taking the time and trouble to teach him something about the sacredness of God’s name and the nature of prayer. What an inspiration.

Then Father added that this mother of four has terminal cancer, is on radiation treatment, is exhausted and in pain. Oh how convicting that was!

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So last week I didn’t get to daily Mass because Thursday was a Holy Day of Obligation so I had to shift my grocery shopping around to accommodate it. But this week I resumed my planned schedule of getting to daily Mass once a week. This morning my sister watched Ben and Bella while I took Anthony and Sophie with me.

It’s funny to think how restful it is to only have two children when a few years ago it would have been fairly high stress. But Sophie was very sweet and cuddled up next to me. (Anthony was snuggled in the sling.) At the consecration she knelt down with just a little prompt and she folded her hands so sweetly.

We sat in the very first pew and at communion Father was very kind and hurried up before I could gather myself and Sophie to jump into line. He gave me communion as I knelt in the pew. What a wonderful treat! (Except of course that I had been halfway up when he came over and so I was only half kneeling with the toe of one shoe caught under the kneeler’s foot. Oh well.

After Mass I took Sophie on a little tour. We stopped and looked at the statue of the Sacred Heart that is in the sanctuary for the month of June. I pointed out to her that a statue isn’t really Jesus, just an image of him that helps us to think of him. Then I pointed to the tabernacle and said that Jesus really is there in the Eucharist. Her eyes gleamed as she took that in. Oh what wonder!

Then we went around and looked at all the Stations of the Cross and at the baptismal font. Then she was ready to go. We stopped and said hello to Mary in the grotto and she joined me in saying a Hail Mary. But she did not want to sing a song. Oh no. That caused tears and consternation.

We went to the grocery store for milk and toothpaste and then she almost fell asleep in the car on the way home. An exciting outing for my little three year-old. Oh she has been having sh a hard time of it. Two has nothing on three for the storms and tempests that rage. Right now she often gets so worked up that she doesn’t know what she wants. Just screams No! No! No! She doesn’t want me to touch her or talk to her or look at her or try to help but she also doesn’t want me to walk away and leave her. I’m stumped. I’ve tried so many tactics: screaming at her, walking away, putting her in her room to give her time to cool down, distracting her. So far distraction seems to be the best bet but it is so hard. I can never predict what will work and the same thing almost never works twice. One day it was a suggestion she walk around by herself outside to cool of. Another day it was imitating her and pretending to slam myself against the door like she was doing. (That made her stop and then eventually laugh.) Another day it was chatting with Bella and drawing her into the conversation. Another time it was a You Tube video. But when I try a previously successful tactic it tends to just enrage her more.

I would love to find a gentle way that worked consistently to soothe her out of her rages. I’m at a loss. Mother Mary, pray for us.

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