Warning: There's no magic bullet;-)
I felt it creeping over me, a sort of sinister shadow, familiar, yet unwelcome. Even as the words escaped my mouth, I wondered at them. How could I say such things in that tone? It was the shadow—the cranky shadow. Irritability, annoyance, impatience all whined their way into the dialogues of the day. And here I was, fully in the grips of the complaining crankiness I detest.
How did I arrive here? More importantly, how could I find my way out? Try as we might to put them blame elsewhere, Crabby Mommy Syndrome has its root in sin. Those things which make us cranky usually point straight at our disordered attachments. Those attachments are one of four things (many thanks to St. Thomas Aquinas for nailing it all down so astutely): power, pleasure, wealth, or honor.
Every single time, when I put it to the test, Crabby Mommy Syndrome matches up against these vices. I’m irritated beyond words at the clutter and the chaos in the house. I feel like if I have to sweep the same floor one more time, I might break the broom over someone’s head. My sense of power is offended. I want control. And without control, I think I’ll just lash out at someone so I can fleetingly feel like I have power over the situation.
It’s so noisy, there are so many different conversations happening at once, that I’m certain my ears will burst at the assault. I yell for everyone to be quiet, the irony hitting me before the words leave my mouth. Quiet is my creature comfort. I take pleasure in silence. And silence isn’t a bad thing, unless the quest for the comfort it brings leads me to offend love. Apparently, sometimes I want quiet so badly, I’m willing to sin to obtain it.
On an otherwise calm afternoon, three reminders pop up in my inbox for soccer and dance fees just as a child texts to tell me that he’s lost his retainer. I think that wealth is not my vice, but I feel the shadow hovering as I worry about meeting each “request” for money. And then I snap at the next person who comes along and asks for something—anything, it doesn’t matter who or what. Sin lurks in disordered attachments.
Finally, there’s honor. Nothing accelerates Crabby Mommy Syndrome faster than a disrespectful child. When our children are rude to us or when they disobey, it’s easy to forget that they aren’t put into our lives to make us feel good about ourselves. No doubt, they are commanded to honor us. No doubt, they must learn to obey. But they are to do so for their spiritual health, not for the health of our egos. Occasions of disrespect on the part of our children are occasions for us to control our passions and to correct with patience so that both parties grow in virtue. In the face of stinging disrespect, though, it’s easy to fall prey to bitter crankiness.
So, how to remedy Crabby Mommy Syndrome? How to grow in grace and respond with charity when I’m truly ready to tear my hair out in exhausted frustration? Get close to Jesus. Rely on His grace. Stay firmly fixed on His Word. Make haste to confession, receive His forgiveness, and begin again. Get to Mass (alone if I can manage it). Pour out to God himself the struggles of my heart. Tell Him about the hurt and the frustration and the weight of things of the world. Empty it all before the throne of mercy and beg to be filled with Him. It’s not a quick fix. It’s not a magic bullet. It’s not easy. But it is the only light that truly dispels the shadow.