What if My Attitude Shapes Reality?

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(Warning: This is going to be an uncomfortable read.)

One of my blog friends started a series yesterday on “the practices of mothering.” Sarah’s blog, Emerging Mummy, is one of the must-reads of every day, no matter how busy. Sarah breathes serenity through her words, exudes a faith that I can only hope someday to emulate in my own life and circumstances.

But when I set out to skim her blog on my reader Monday afternoon, it was as if God was prying the blinders off my eyes, holding my head still and making me look head-on at something I didn’t want to acknowledge.

“The words I scatter so carelessly around me can take root in the hearts and minds of us all, giving a narrative deep in the core about ourselves, the God we love, each other and our world,”

she wrote, and I felt a deep shot in my gut. What do I say to my children? The umpteenth glass of spilled milk, the stepping on the books on the floor even though there’s plenty of room to walk on either side, the dumping copious amounts of water on the floor…what do I say in those times, which come a dozen or two times every day? How am I teaching my children to view the world…and more importantly, themselves?

“I’m not a big fan of complaining about my tinies, of talking about them like they are a gigantic pain in the neck… I never want to make them feel like an inconvenience, like they exhaust me or that I don’t take great joy in being their mother.”

Oh. My. Word. That’s me. Is that what my children think?

Immediately I started listing the tickle wars, the giggles, the kisses and swinging and turning upside down, the book reading and playground-visiting and construction-truck-watching and dessert-making. I tried to tell myself that the good outweighs the bad. But it doesn’t matter. I’ve recognized something in myself that I don’t like.

I have to be honest, I argued. If I pretend like the bad stuff doesn’t happen, I’m sugar-coating the truth, telling only half the story. If I really want to be of use to other mothers, I need to be real. And besides, I’m not being true to myself if I’m all happy-happy.

But then it occurred to me: if attitude changes everything, might it change, not just my vision of reality—but reality itself?

Criticism and negativity form a vicious circle: the more you complain about something, the more you find to complain about. Isn’t that exactly what I’ve been fighting with lately? What if, by choosing not to highlight the bad, but the good, I teach myself to see the world through a more life-giving lens? Isn’t it possible that if I focus on the good, I’ll be better able to recognize it? Is it possible that if I chill out about the mountains of irritations and focus on what’s good and beautiful and holy about my children, that not only will I see the good more clearly, but so will they? And if they see the good in themselves more clearly, are they not more likely to act accordingly?

Holy cow. Hello, Philippians 4.

5 thoughts on “What if My Attitude Shapes Reality?

  1. It’s a tough balance. I am a very honest person, and I find that when I try to pretend that everything is peaches and cream on a day where I am feeling really down, I just get more resentful and angry. I try to be honest when I am having a rough day, or feeling tired or angry or whatever, but I also never want my kids to get the impression that they are a pain, because their needs and feelings are just as valid as mine. I’ve found the more I acknowledge and care for their needs and feelings, the more likely they are to understand mine. I don’t blame them, or complain or rant about them, but I am honest about lifes crazy adventures. I talked more about the tension in these posts.
    http://ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com/2010/09/how-bad-is-it-really.html
    http://ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com/2010/09/mommy-guilt-and-taking-care-of-myself.html

  2. This one spoke to me very much. I often fear that what I say will make my kids think they’re an inconvenience. Especially because one of the intense times I’m with them every day is dinner time, after work/school and you know, trying to get dinner ready. Another time last night, KT, my 3yo, stood inside an open drawer, and naturally, it broke right off the rail. And my gut instinct was to yell, “KT, NOOOOO! GET DOWN! NO!” Crack. And it sent her right to tears. You could hear how bad she felt, and how dejected. 😦 I know it’s okay, I comforted her and Daddy fixed the drawer, and all was well, but those little moments.

    Thanks for the attitude check.

  3. Wow, talk about being hit over the head with a hammer. My thoughts and attitudes have been mirroring yours – especially this past week. I am struggling with my son pushing buttons and temper tantrums and dealing with my own negative attitude. I have been getting frustrated with his behavior and tantrums I find myself yelling and taling to him in a rough, impatient manner all the time and then feeling guilty like I’m the worst mother in the world. The last thing I want to do is cause him to have a negative impression of himself, me or life in general.

  4. Carol–Yes, exactly. Christian (for all other readers, this is not my husband Christian 😉 ), the difficulty is knowing when anger is reasonable, and when it is just the result of a bad attitude!

    FWIW, things have been steadily improving all week. Sometimes you just have to get hit in the head. We’re still spilling milk, and I had glass embedded in my foot after Nicholas broke a glass in the kitchen, but I could release the anger when the moment was past. And that’s a big gift.

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