I made some choices today that resulted in many tears and great unhappiness.
As I reflected midday at the causes of the tears, I thought tonight's post was going to be about instincts. About how I failed to follow my maternal instincts and thus to prevent tears where they could have been avoided.
As I thought more, I decided the post needed to be about insecurities. About my inclination to compare my sons to the other children at church, to wonder what I am doing wrong that they still suffer such distress when left in the nursery. To think that I am failing because I am unable to keep them quietly entertained during church.
But I'm coming at this from another angle. Tonight it's about happiness.
Let me back up a week and remember a conversation I had with a dear family friend. She brought gifts for the boys, and they both latched onto a certain scooter toy that was given to one of them; it resulted in a great deal of fighting and unhappiness. She was upset that she had not given them the same items and so prevented this unhappiness. I stood by my position that it is good for them to learn to share and that they do not need to have two of each toy. I told her, "My first priority is not their happiness."
I needed to remind myself of that today.
Scene one: the church nursery. Titus is upset that I am leaving. There are loving and capable care-takers, and one in particular who has connected well with Titus in the past. He tells me, "Go, we've got this." I leave Titus crying. I have a nagging suspicion that this is an unhappiness from which he will not be easily distracted. However, I choose to place a priority on hearing the word of God applied to my life. True to my suspicions, I learn later that Titus did cry for a very long time and much worse than I had anticipated. I feel heartbroken. He is calm when I pick him up, but looks worn, as we all feel after a long, hard cry. I worry that my selfishness sacrificed his happiness.
Scene two: the car. I offer to take a friend home after church, and also offer to make a quick stop she needs before heading home. I realize that the delay of this stop combined with the length of time it takes to get to her home and back will inevitably result in the boys falling asleep in the car. This means they won't nap at home later, which will leave them more worn and me without an afternoon respite. I choose to do it anyway. They do, in fact, sleep in the car, and are crying and screaming as I attempt to stumble-walk them from the car to the house. They flop onto the floor but are too hungry to be eased back into napping. Much crying occurs over the dinner table. This is unhappiness that I could have prevented.
Their happiness is important to me. But it is not the most important goal. Sometimes their character development takes priority (as in the case of learning to share the toy). Sometimes my own spiritual needs take priority (as in the case of leaving Titus in the nursery). Sometimes a valued relationship takes priority (in the case of giving a friend a ride).
Will there be tears? Yes.
Will I wonder if I am making the right choice? Yes.
Will my boys learn that their happiness is not the only thing that matters? Maybe, someday.
I need to remember this for myself, as well: my happiness is not the most important goal either.
"Therefore, we do not lose heart. Thought outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Cor 4:16-18