on bad moods and breaking bread

It started off as a lovely morning. Until.

Isn’t that the way it always goes?

Until the baby smeared yogurt all over his third outfit of the morning. Until the preschooler dawdled away all our free minutes pushing strawberries around his plateUntil one child cried for help getting shoes on the right feet while the other tipped over my tumbler of tea and the dog howled for help and suddenly everyone was wailing and white-hot anger surged through my body, tight and hard and shaking and ugly, and I found myself screaming at the top of my lungs I cannot DO this, God I cannot DO THIS!

And finger-snap fast, the bright sunny morning is brooding and dark. We’re sulking in the car and I’m racing through stop lights and both boys are sad-quiet in the back and all I can think is this is not how I want to live. Yelling at my kids and running late and stress pounding in my temples.

I take a deep breath, two, three. I ask for forgiveness. I promise I love them. I sing a song to cheer the mood.

But all morning long the memory lingers.

I pray as I stroll the baby down sun-dappled streets. I plot ways to ease the morning crunch. I plunk down five dollars at the bakery for the big boy’s favorite loaf of fresh bread.

And then we’re driving home, and he’s full of school day chatter and the baby is babbling smiles and I am overwhelmed with the rush of love and joy and guilt and fear that sweeps over every day of mothering. God, I love them so much and they’re such sweet, small things and I hate my rotten temper and I hope I’m not ruining them.

Rare is the day that comes easy, but how I wrestle with the days that come hard.

At lunch’s end, I pull the loaf of still-warm bread from the paper bag. Something feels sacramental. I tear off a hunk and offer it to the boy I screamed at hours earlier. He grins and accepts. I do, too.

We both chew, quiet and content. I think about Eucharist. Does it help us forgive? Liturgy and sacrament classes swirl in my head; I can’t remember a single connection. But it feels good to slow down and break bread. That much I know.

Before nap time we’re snuggling over a pile of books. As he dives under the covers, he asks if we’re going to do prayers next. I start to say no, that prayers are for bedtime, and then I hear my own words. Of course, I reply. Let’s pray.

He launches into “Our Father…”and I hum along, half paying attention. Until.

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses. As we forgive those who trespass against us.

Bread and forgiveness, I realize. There it is. I swallow back the lump in my throat, kiss his mop of hair as he turns away on the pillow.

What we need daily: bread and forgiveness. That much I know.

22 thoughts on “on bad moods and breaking bread

    1. Oh dear Fr. Allan! I thought of him so many times this weekend as we unpacked books…I came across so many of his liturgy books from when he gave them all away – to his swan song class! Love that man.

  1. I love this so much. Yes, yes and yes. Admitting here that rare is the day that I get through with no regrets. But yes, Bread and forgiveness make the world right. Praise God.

  2. Oh how I remember those days when my three were young. I was convinced that I had “ruined” them. With one of my children grown and two in their teens, I can tell you, they are not ruined. Bread and forgiveness is right…and your children will learn that, right along with you.

    1. Thank you, Stephanie. I do think I am teaching them a lot about forgiveness, for sure! And I do try to make myself take the long view, to remember that surely I’m not scarring them and they won’t remember this in the long run…but isn’t it always so hard in the moment?

    1. I really identify so much with this. I was home taking care of my kids and some mornings I was determined to have a good day and not lose my patience and then a chain of events would end up with me yelling at my kids. It feels so awful… the second after you do it! I remembered that these beautiful little beings are looking up to me. Sometimes, when I paused for just a moment the idea would come to me to “take a break” and I would say, “Daddy’s going to take a little break.” and I would lay down on my bed with the door shut and breathe and pray and breathe and pray. (This was when they were about 9 and 5 and I knew they were safe in the house while I stopped to take a break and change the frustration building up.) And after I calmed down on the mornings when I yelled, I would go to each one and apologize to them for yelling and tell them how much I love them.
      Now they are older, 11 and 7, and I am in a challenging new stage of life where my older one is becoming so independent and doesn’t rely on me and I am battling this rising fear that I won’t always be there to protect him from a bully or from a friend or group of friends that through “peer pressure” push him to do something unsafe. He is a very thoughtful and responsible kid and I have no reason to suspect he’ll do something that is sketchy…but I also remember many sketchy things that I did as a kid. I WANT to be able to say with conviction, “See: God took care of me, so of course God will take care of him.” but I haven’t been successful at instilling this trust deep inside even though I’ve been praying about it. I didn’t really notice that these fears were creeping up on me until they just sort of spilled out of my heart and mind. If you have any prayers around this idea or other prayers you recommend, send them my way. I read your blog about the prayers from Creighton U’s online ministry: good stuff. Thank you for your blog!

      1. Thank you, Stew, for sharing your own story of frustration and forgiveness. I love the idea of more prayers around this idea…will have to think on this some more. (Seems like I have plenty of similar days with which to revist the theme!)

  3. Yes. Exactly. I can’t do this, or I don’t want to do this anymore, or how did I get here? All those hurtful thoughts keeping me from enjoying my life as mom. But those thoughts pass, and once again I am grateful to be on this journey and sharing it with my loving family.

  4. Lovely post. I hate losing my temper and yelling at my kids, I just hate it. The resulting “sad quiet” is just so sad. I am so grateful It happens much less frequently now, and grateful to be able to take a deep breath, tell my children I’m sorry, and ask God for forgiveness. Take another deep breath and start over again.

  5. I love this. I love the honesty of this. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “I had a lovely day until [I started talking to people…you pissed me off…the weather wasn’t what I wanted…work went crazy].”

    It’s hard to let go of the “until,” to not put limits on the loveliness of days. (It’s hard to forgive myself for splitting infinitives too.)

    And the Our Father…it’s such a powerful prayer. I’ll never forget the strength of those words “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” mumbled as I sat in chapel across from a woman, a dear friend, with whom I was having a difficult time. Those words washed over me and, after a period of time, healing took root.

    Grace is an incredible thing.

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