When your parenting needs some work

Golden brown leaves carpet the back garden. The birds returned today, hundreds of them, flapping at leaf-less branches and pecking at the empty bird feeder. I don’t know what sent them down from the forest, but their song keeps me company while I sit writing in my pajamas. A few minutes later, a black crow swoops in and with his caw, he frightens some of the songbirds away.

I’ve discovered this unpleasant fact about myself. I am the crow. Having recovered from my stomach bug, I found myself snapping at the kids first thing in the morning. Swooping in and giving commands. Frightening the songbirds away. I wrote Monday about showing gentleness to ourselves, accepting things as they come, receiving grace. And by Tuesday morning, I’d forgotten all about it and sent the children off with a rebuke and a threat of punishment. Apparently, my spirit of gentleness needs some work.

I read a few books a while back, on parenting with grace. Can I tell you?  It doesn’t jive with my natural skill set. I’m a little more inclined to take the hard-line approach. My way or hell to pay. I already know what kind of child this produces, an outwardly compliant but inwardly contemptuous one. I don’t want to raise children with a heart of contempt, so every so often I take stock and I read a book and I try to soften, soften, soften my response. It lasts a few days or until one of the children makes the other one cry. My parenting is so in need of grace, and I wish I extended it as often as I receive it.

I haven’t worn gentleness the way I should. In a world of sarcasm, and f— you’s, and hard women, gentleness is a quality we rate about as highly as self-control. And we’ve seen what reality tv has done with that one–Jersey Shore or Real Housewives, anyone? But, I know gentleness is a fruit of the very Spirit I claim lives inside me. Too often, my inner crow gnaws away at the good fruit, leaving behind only a rotting core. I don’t know that reading another book will fix it. Only prayer and the conscious decision to let the fruit grow, let the songbirds sing, and resist the urge to let my inner Jersey girl out.

How do you cultivate a spirit of gentleness? Is it something you consciously think about or does it come naturally to you?