Good is great.

4684 4684_ () 4684 4684 The Best, wrote Voltaire, is the enemy of the good.

Perfectionism, writes Rachel, is the enemy of calming your bad self down.

Dreamland is the enemy of enjoying your life, comparing ruins everything.

Yesterday at Mass, Henry was almost perfect. For as many years as I’ve been dreading Mass with that boy, all these times of dragging him in (“I HATE church,” he has declared during more than one fine display of toddler histrionics), yesterday morning Henry sat quietly and colored and caused nary a disruption.

My first thought was, “he needs to be paying attention, he’s big enough to follow along.”

Just like that, I went from praying he would just sit quietly to achieving that and it not being enough.

At Stations of the Cross Friday night, our three oldest boys were the servers. One boy held the crucifix while his two brothers flanked him with sacred candles. They walked with reverence up and down the aisles, stopping in front of each Station while Father read the prayers. I celebrated by fixating on how my son seated next to me was slouching.

Not that we should be prideful, of course, but it’s also not a bad thing to take a moment and celebrate a victory.

I was reliving these grand moments over breakfast with Paul yesterday. These and other times I have been so quick to focus on how we can do more, do better! It’s not about being the best, but covering all the bases of what I want to accomplish, what we need to be working on.

We have a calm, peace-filled morning getting out the door to school and a little voice points out that we could have had family prayers. We have a pleasant evening and my mind wanders to…something that could have gone different. Better. Whatever.

It’s not always like this, but lately I’ve noticed that my peace is trying so hard to be robbed. It’s good and noble to have high ideals, but not so high that reality is never good enough.

“Dear Lord,” I prayed today, “show me the good. Help me to be inspired, but please don’t let that take away from enjoying these moments. The right now. Today.”

For all the fretting I do about the ways things aren’t perfect, or as good as they could be anyway, I wonder how many times I miss the beautiful moments because I’m so busy thinking about what comes next.

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I lament that my five-year-old son knows words from the teenage lexicon. I wonder if having kids this far apart gives him an unfair disadavantage. And then I look outside to see my five-year-old being coached in the ways of properly shooting an arrow, lovingly trained by his fifteen-year-old brother. And I think, okay. This is good. Enjoy this.

The other night I went on a walk with two friends who are in the same boat as me — dealing with teens and with toddlers, with highschoolers and preschoolers. It’s a unique challenge. We laughed about how crazy it all is, the stuff our children say (the bigs and the littles). We laugh because it’s not always the ideal — not parts of it — and yet it’s more beautiful than we could ever imagine.

Henry came in this afternoon distraught because Augie had accused him of putting a hole in Elliott’s drums.

“I told him I didn’t do it,” wailed Henry, “I told him to SHUUUUUT UPPPPP.” He said these last words with contortive emotion.

“Well first off,” I said taking a deep breath, “we don’t say that. Can you say yes ma’am?”

“Yes ma’am,” he sniffed.

“And now, you tell Elliott the truth. You didn’t do it.”

Elliott overheard our conversation and asked Henry what happened. Henry assured Elliott it wasn’t him.

Elliott took Henry in his arms and asked his little brother to look him in the eyes.

“You didn’t do it,” Elliott asked.

“No!”

“I believe you,” said Elliott, and wrapped Henry into the wingspan of his six-foot-one-inch frame. “I love you buddy.”

**********

Yes we should focus on fixing the hiccups. Yes we need to work on bad behavior and doing good and every good thing. But the minute you find yourself always thinking about What Comes Next and How Are We (Still) Failing, recognize it isn’t from God. Tell the devil to buzz off. And go enjoy your life.

It’s beautiful, isn’t it. 4684″ ,

4684

Comments

  1. Love this! And it’s something I SO need to hear. I always struggle with this issue in my perfectionist, choleric brain. I also have an age disparity, with a grown daughter, two teenage boys and two littles (not quite as little as your two, but definitely in a different place!). Parenting and raising these gifts from God is just plain hard. All the time. But we can do it!!

  2. Mnjsmom says:

    Amen. Thanks for writing from the heart. You have touched my heart many times in the last few weeks.

  3. Allison Kennedy Owen says:

    Thanks for this good reminder, Rach! Last week at a conference, someone gave a definition of SHAME– Should Have Already Mastered Everything. It hit home because I, too, fall prey to perfectionism and too-high ideals.

  4. Aww, the Elliott and Henry moment was beautiful! In fact, I teamed up. Thanks for sharing and you are doing well; very well indeed.

  5. I posted this one to my FB page – so, so good!

  6. Duuuuuude! You have no idea how wonderfully, perfectly timely this is for me RIGHT NOW.
    I may re-read this, like, daily for the rest of my life.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Rachel. It’s so good to not be alone <3

  7. My tired, overwhelmed, pregnant body thanks you, Rachel 🙂
    I don’t feel so bad about sitting down, even though “everything” isn’t finished. What I accomplished today is enough.

  8. I absolutely love this post and can identify with it all-too-well! It’s too flipping easy to have something go well and think, oh, but that could have been done differently. Though we don’t have children of our own, I have been a nanny and teacher for years, and I have caught myself countless times thinking, great they learned that or we got through that challenge, but we’ve still got this one ahead of us. You’re absolutely right! We need to appreciate the blessings, be open to the Holy Spirit nudging us to grow, but not let that dampen our gratitude for what God’s doing in the present that is really quite awesome and miraculous if we stop and think about it.

  9. To quote Ma Ingalls & Mary Poppins, “Enough is as good as a feast”.
    They may be fictional, or semi-fictional, but they were WISE.

  10. I read this as I’m awake at nearly 1 am, obsessing over everything I will never get done in time for company this weekend. Thank you!

  11. Aunt Catherine says:

    This reminds me of how I’ve been trying to cope with a panic attack for the last month, and how I can feel like I’ve gained some ground, gone to a place of peace, only to be reminded that my anxiety disorder is surreal. And when this happens, I just want to scream “Why, Satan? Why did you follow me here, a place of peace?” And then with a quick prayer (sometimes longer), I realize it’s just my anxiety and there’s nothing I can do about it, except for the obvious remedies until more are needed. And you’re right, there’s nothing heaven sent about it.

    I love you, Rachel.

  12. Beautiful post. Thank you.

  13. Loved this post! Thank you for sharing. And yes, it made me tear up a bit there at the end. What special boys you have.

  14. Hi Rachel,

    Love, love, love your post. All of it. Thank you.

  15. I found this great food for thought, experiencing the same kind of family span. Thanks.

  16. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I saw another mommy somewhere recently say, “While you’re trying to raise a good kid, remember that you already have one.” Hope your day is just great Rachel!

  17. That last scene actually brought tears to my eyes. You are blessed.