Agency and other things that make me angry

Today I walked past my living room and saw this scene.

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I feel like it is a metaphor for parenting. See that orange towel on the left? I found an old towel, cut it in half, and sewed it together to create a mat where the cat can rest and not shed on the furniture. I laid it out on the chair where she usually sleeps. So what happens? She chooses the other chair, and it makes me crazy. I can pick her up and put her on the towel, but when I walk away she’ll move back.

This whole quarantine, I have tried to do the work to create some productive and meaningful options for my kids. I made charts and lists of ideas. I’ve tried to build in purposeful pursuits and avoid mindless activities that just waste time. I’ve invited and adjusted and renegotiated and tried again. But I have three teenagers, and my kids are like my cat: No thanks, I’ll just do what I want instead. Even though it is dumb. Even though there’s a perfectly good option sitting right there on the chair. It is maddening, not only because it feels like constant rejection and disappointment, but because it happens to be pretty much the only kind of human interaction I’ve experienced for almost 70 days. Add on top of that the energy it takes to just stay safe and healthy and navigate all the varying opinions and politics and ambiguous information, and it has felt a little bit relentless.

I don’t have a cute lesson to tie this up with a bow. I’m just saying that for me, parenting in lockdown is hard and frustrating. I feel powerless to bring about the kinds of results that are in line with my own priorities and values. Maybe it’s only me. I’ve seen a lot of posts about people and families doing amazing things while they’re in lockdown–being resourceful and united and determined. It’s the first time I’ve experienced the feeling less that is supposedly one of the big dangers of social media. Because, metaphorically, I can’t get the stupid cat to sleep on the orange towel I made. It makes me wonder how frustrating it is for Heavenly Father when He presents us with so many opportunities for growth and service and learning, and we say, “No thanks, I’m good,” and we choose stuff that really is not as good for us. And yet, He is patient. He keeps extending invitations and forgives us our mistakes. I’m not there yet. Not even close. I imagine He’s more worried about my anger than He is about how much time my kids are on Playstation. So I’m working on it, but it’s a struggle. And that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. #leastinspirationalpostever

7 comments

  1. I don’t have children at home any more. They are dealing with their own kids, just like you. (I do have a spouse who is kind of like a teenager — watches a lot of tv, slams doors when he goes in and out, thinks meals are instantly prepared when he’s hungry, and truly believes that we have a magical refrigerator and pantry that fill up with his favorite foods. I digress . . . .) I don’t like “down time”. I like to keep busy. Most of my life has been filled with raising six chiIdren of my own and teaching hundreds of teen-agers (yep – middle schoolers). I have found myself coming up with things to do to fill my day. The first six weeks or so it was cleaning, organizing, painting. Then I decided I really needed to use this time to give service so I looked for service projects to do. Since we just ended 18 months of missionary service for our church, I thought about all the things I’d put aside until I had the time so I started working on those projects. All good things. All important things. But I’m still unsettled. Doing “the things” helps fill up the time but doesn’t settle my soul because I don’t know when this Covid-crazy time will end so that I can settle back into what is comfortable. There is no expiration date; only a general time frame. What’s becoming clear to me is I have to be content with “what is” and not with waiting for it to get back to “what it was”. While I’m waiting for life to settle down, I’m giving myself permission to lower my standards to an extent. I don’t have to cook a fabulous meal — just food that fills us. I don’t have to sew like crazy — just enough so that I feel creative. I don’t have to find all my ancestor’s records and documents — just enough to learn a little about them. And if I don’t want to do any of the above, I sit on my patio and nap in the sun.
    As for your cat (and your teenagers)– I’ve had several over the years (both species) and I know this about cats. Cats do whatever they want to do. You can’t force them to comply. They will just ignore you.
    Maybe we need to be more like cats — do some stretching, sit in the sun, play with a ball, get something to drink, cuddle up to someone who loves us and take a nap.

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  2. This. Is. Us.
    No really, it is.
    If you could have been a fly on the wall, you would have seen the cats (teenagers) sleeping on the only places without towels. It is soooo hard. Loves- JODY

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  3. The cat thing might be a matter of texture. But yeah, the kid thing is maddening. As always, thank you for being real.

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  4. Recognizing how you’re feeling is a progress- step. You are understanding how God may feel watching His children work towards exaltation. You cheered when your children took their first baby-steps. That’s what God is doing now.

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