The applesauce might not have really hit the fan, but looking at our kitchen floor, you would have thought it had. Earlier that day I had posted my previous blog on 3 Tips for Finding Joy in Family Life, and I had been thinking of a way to share practical examples of how the three tips can be lived out. Suddenly God had given me a perfect opportunity with a floor covered in applesauce.
It was lunchtime, and I had posted my most recent blog barely an hour early. After posting it, I felt like I had not provided enough examples of what it looked like to practically live out a joy-filled life. I had been tossing the idea around in my head and wasn’t really sure what I should share. I should have known better. I should have known that as I was trying to think of examples, God would give me an opportunity to practice it right then.
Our oldest daughter (5) had just finished eating everything she had initially been given for lunch and was looking through the fridge for more food. She asked for some applesauce, so I grabbed the jar and filled up a bowl for her. After filling the bowl, I turned to carry it to the table. Right as I turned it happened, as if it was slow motion and super-speed all at once. I saw every detail clearly, but could not move quickly enough to stop it. My daughter (5) jumped up and threw her hands up in the air in surprise at the perfect time to smack the bowl of applesauce out of my and all over the kitchen. Before I knew it, I reacted, shouting, “What the heck are you doing?” I hadn’t realized it, but she was trying to entertain her youngest sister (10mon) from across the room with a game of peekaboo. In that moment, God immediately reminded me of my own advice to Pray, Recall My Vocation, and Be Intentional. Yelling at my child for an accident was not the best response. So, I paused and decided to take my own advice.
1) Pray, Pray Pray: I started with a prayer. I asked God to calm my frustrations and help me respond in an appropriate way. I asked him to give me the grace to be honest with my daughter, both with my frustrations and with my own faults. And wouldn’t you know it…God provided.
2) Recall Your Vocation: I then briefly recalled my mission to form my children into saints. I knew that modeling yelling when I was frustrated did not necessarily meet that end. So, I thought about what virtues I did want to foster in them. I wanted them to learn to apologize when they did something wrong, whether on purpose or not, and I wanted them to learn to be patient with others’ mistakes.
3) Be Intentional: Lastly, I took those goals and changed my attitude and response to reflect that purpose. I calmed my voice and apologized for shouting. I explained why I was frustrated and told my daughter that she needed to be more aware of what was going on around her, but I also recognized it was an accident. I praised her for the positive action of trying to entertain her sister. I asked her to apologize and to learn from her mistake. We were even blessed with a short car ride to preschool, just the two of us, shortly after and were able to go into it all in more depth. Looking back, I was glad God helped give me a wakeup call and opportunity to change in the moment.
It is so easy to let our natural frustrations control our response with our kids. I have done it countless times, but we can be better. Our feelings don’t have to define our reactions. Through the grace of God, we can respond in virtue and with more intentionality as we build up a family of saints, and it can be as simple as 3 steps.
Zack Hinger is a husband and father of 3 girls. He worked in parish ministry for over 8 years in all ages of formation from preschool through adulthood. He has a B.A. from the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Theology and Catechetics. His passions are God, his family, and helping others journey towards a closer relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church.